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Mwanza: I have to put my foot down

Mwanza (KM), the founder and managing director of Cake Fairy and Designs, shared her journey to success on the platform In Conversation with Trevor hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN)

Bulawayo-based entrepreneur Kathy Mwanza says at times she has to put her foot down when dealing with clients, who still believe that women are not capable of running businesses.

Mwanza (KM), the founder and managing director of Cake Fairy and Designs, shared her journey to success on the platform In Conversation with Trevor hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN)

Below are excerpts from the interview

TN: Mwanza all the way from Bulawayo welcome to In Conversation with Trevor.

KM: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. It is a pleasure for us to have you here all the way from KoBulawayo, Kontuthu ziyathunqa.

TN: What a pleasure Kathy. You did something which I think is a lesson for a lot of people.

You worked for First Mutual Life in 2010 to 2018 and then you decided ‘no I don't want to do this anymore.’ I'm going to leave my insurance job and start a business.

Talk to me about that decision?

KM: It's never easy, you know, coming from corporate or when you are in corporate you are so comfortable you have got a company car, you have got school fees. you have got medical aid.

You are basically comfortable and you are thinking of starting a new venture where you are basically on your own.

It took quite some time for me, but it's not like I woke up and I was like I want to open a business, definitely that's not how it happened.

TN: How did it happen?

KM: I had just had my baby. She’s eight now, right.

TN: So that's how old your business is now?

KM: I was so fascinated with making her first birthday cake.

I was like since I'm on maternity leave let me just learn how, cause I could bake from my background food and nutrition studies at school.

I could bake a cake, but to make it look nice, so I just said let me enrol for a class and learn how to just make it perfect and perfect the cake and I did that because I just wanted to make a cake for my daughter.

I actually enjoyed the class and even the teacher was like, ‘you know what, you have got something.’

TN: Where was this? It was in Bulawayo, which school is this?

KM: It wasn't even at school. It was this gentleman called (Hamsh Kaj), he makes cakes for a living.

So he used to have these crush courses.  So I went for that and he was like, ‘you know you have got something, you must take this seriously.’

I was like no ‘I just want to make a cake for my baby and I did make the cake.’

It was beautiful and the people, who ate the cake were like ‘who made this cake?’

I was like ‘I made the cake,’ and because I was under the community of work, you know everyone would then be like ‘my daughter has a birthday please make me a cake.’

Initially I would do it for free ,you know, because it's a hobby it's not really something big.

TN: You got a job?

KM: I have got a job. I'm happy with my job, but all of a sudden people started referring each other to me.  So like my phone wouldn't stop buzzing; ‘I want to order a cake, I heard you make cakes and I sat down and I was like, ‘okay something's happening here, something is happening.

The money, you know, the money was good and I was like okay I'm giving like 10% of my time to this thing and I'm making this much money.

Yeah so if I give it 100% I'm sure I would grow this thing to be bigger.

That’s how Cake Fairy was born, not because it's something that I didn’t go looking for, but it found me.

But I always say it was God's time because I was around 30 at that time and I had always been that person who's always like ‘God what's my purpose.

You know there are people who can sing, people who can dance and people who are good at whatever they do what is my purpose and I only got that.

TN: Has that question been answered? What’s your purpose?

KM: My purpose well first and foremost my purpose is to touch lives. My purpose is to help other people you know so like now I employ about 106 people.

That's my purpose because I know that I have got so many families that are surviving because of me so for me that's where I got my answer.

TN: So you spent some time at First Mutual Life 2010 to 2018 as an assistant regional manager and the question I'm asking you is ‘what were the key learnings from that job? What did you learn, what were the takeaway lessons?

KM: Mainly I focused on client relations. When I was with First Mutual Health I learned how to handle first and foremost difficult and tough customers.

I think that grounded me to an extent that even in my business now when I have challenges with customers I'm able to address them.

I also learned a lot of leadership skills because I had a very military kind of boss.

TN: Right, did that help you having a military kind of boss.

KM: It helped me a lot; discipline, accountability and timekeeping.

You know when you go through it you feel like this person is harassing me, but then later on you then realise I learned this, I learned to keep time. I learned to be disciplined.

I learned to keep records. I learned and all that time God was preparing me for my business. So it was I always say Mr Chani is one of the people, who made me.

TN: Wow! I hope he is watching and listening to what you are saying. So Kathy, are you a military type leader yourself?

KM: Not really sometimes. When you know there are situations that call for it, yes, but I have learned how to put my foot down.

Being a female also you do have those instances where you feel okay my voice is not being heard because I'm short and I'm a woman.

TN: Does that happen a lot?

KM: It happens a lot of times.

TN: Talk to me about that?

KM: Well now I'm always on defence mode and I know how to handle it, but you get funny comments like but ‘it's you are a woman or we can't expect this or is there no man, who can come and have this conversation with us you know.’

TN: About your company? How do you deal with that?

KM: Well, most of the times I always just say well unfortunately this is the person that you have to speak to and this is the person, who makes the decisions.

TN: How do they react most of the time?

KM: They will be like oh really, people actually didn't even think that I'm the boss. I see it will be like you are probably the boss' assistant.

I think people also have realised that I have a strong character so they get that I'm really now on defence mode most of the time.

TN: And you then became vice president of the Insurance Institute?

KM: Yes.

TN: What was your experience in that space?

KM: Well it was you know the institution was something that brought all the insurance companies together, so mainly for me I learned to network.

Above everything, it was networking and realising also that you can learn from other people in the same field.

It wasn't difficult to lead the team because at that time I think the president was (Charles Nlele),  who also was someone, who was mentoring us so it was a very good experience.

TN: And then one of your initial jobs was the Optical Centre where you were a practice manager from 2007 to 2010. What was it like working in that space and what lessons did you walk away with?

KM: So that was like my job that I did. Let me take you back a bit.

So I had my first daughter when I was 19 and I had just been enrolled in University and I had to make a decision to either be a full-time student or a part-time student and because I had to take care of my daughter I then became a part-time student.

So I went to school in the evening. I was a parallel student and that's the time that I worked at the Optical Centre and I was quite happy, but you know you always have something that says ‘I can be better than this’.

I can do this. That’s where I then started having a need to grow and  be better because I had reached my peak although I had started from a lower level.

I went up to the highest level in the practice. That’s  as high as I could get.

TN: You say you had your first daughter at 18 /19. How many kids do you have now?

KM: Two girls.

TN: You married?

KM: No.

TN: You didn't settle down?

KM: I was married.

TN:  What happened, talk to me about that.

KM: When I had my first daughter, I was 19 just going into university and you know how it is culturally you are taken to the family of the guy.

So that was my first marriage where I was taken there when I was young.

He was 10 years older than me and it didn't work for obvious reasons. I was young and I really didn't know what I wanted, but because culturally you are taken there whether you want to get married or you don't want we don't ask you questions.

I was pregnant yes and he said okay yes I'm responsible I'm going to take her as my wife, but along the line I realised I was way too ambitious for this guy, no pun intended, yeah.

And then the second child, I then got married again after 10 years to my ex-husband now. We didn't work out because  of the business.

Before the business we were fine and then when I opened my own business that's when we started having problems.

TN: What kind of problems?

KM: Like I said, I remember the cakes they just came out of nowhere and this I saw I had a vision, like I can grow this thing.

I can make it bigger than what it is and looking around me I didn't have a story of someone who started a cake business successfully to an extent that when I wanted to quit my job my dad said like I think Kathy that's the most stupid decision. 

My partner didn't believe in that vision, but I said to him I want to do this, will you support me and he was like yes well, okay find a shop," but I didn't have money at that time.

He was the guy who had the money and well enough money to open a business, you know.

And then I found a shop I'm so excited and then I'm like okay so these are the rentals and then he's like ‘on second thoughts no you're not ready to open a business.’

“In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor.  

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