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Mafuke breaks construction industry myth

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One of the last places genderised societies expect to find women is in the construction industry. There is a myth that women are not suitable to work in this industry and worse still, to become entrepreneurs in this male-dominated type of business.

Miriam Mafuke (41) has broken the women-cannot-do-it-in-the-construction-industry myth by forming a company that specialises in roof tiles. She is now the managing director of her own firm, Enitake Construction, in Graniteside at the corner of Boshoff and Calton roads. The script of her life is more intriguing than the fact that she is now calling the shots in a world that was a no-go area for women.

“It is a long story. When I look at my life, it is like a series of stories,” said the soft-spoken mother of three.

The story of her life is testimony to perseverance, intelligence and belief, especially when one takes into cognisance the fact that she rose from the obscurity of being a housemaid to become the managing director of her own company.

“From 1988 to 1991 I worked as a housemaid in many homes. I grew up in my mother’s family and I only relocated to my father’s family in Mhondoro at school-going age. My father’s relatives promised to pay school fees for me, but nothing materialised and I was forced to work as a housemaid,” she said.

The school fees setback did not deter her.
She enrolled for a course in dressmaking as a part-time student and at the same time she set out to complete her “O” Levels.

After completing “O” Level, she did a diploma in marketing and this marked the turning point in her life.

In 1993 she went to the Employment Exchange Bureau and she got a job as a sales representative and that became the milestone for her subsequent success.

“Being a sales representative sharpened my business skills. I learned how to smell opportunities, how to plan and how to network. But most of all how to identify and satisfy customer needs.”

What prompted her to do her own thing was the slow response by companies she worked for to customers’ orders.

“Sometimes companies that I worked for delayed in supplying customers and I would look for the supplies elsewhere and I got commission for my efforts. It was then that I thought seriously of going it alone,” she recalled.

“I then freelanced as a middleperson, supplying customers with building materials. I teamed up with one of our church members, a Mr Wiscot, since I did not have enough capital. One day he just gave me all the money realised from a big sale I had made and he advised me to be fully independent,” she reminisced.

Since her knowledge of the construction industry and customer needs in that market segment had been sharpened by the hardware shops she had worked for, she teamed up with a guy who had expertise in roof tile making.

“I gave the guy some shares in my company and we had a thriving business in Lenana Park (popularly known as the Nyamachoma area). But like everybody else we lost almost everything during the 2008 depression period and we had to close shop.”

The economic depression, coupled with problems in their business relationship with the partner, forced her to stop production for a while.

“I resumed in 2009 and relocated here (corner Boshoff and Calton in Graniteside). We had to sell one of our family cars to resume business. Now the business is picking up again and I am happy that some of our customers were able to track us to this place. They know the quality of products and services we offer,” Mafuke said with a smile.

She says her major asset is the ability to understand customers and their needs.

“Because we know the financial constraints people who want to build houses face, we allow them easy payment arrangement for our roof tiles and other products so that they do not stop construction,” she explained.

Mafuke’s vision is to become one of the major suppliers of building materials with branches all over the country.

A mother of three boys, she says her husband, Campion Mafuke, who works for a local mobile network company, is very supportive of her efforts.

As a parting shot, she advised women to persevere and to balance business with family life.

“If you are married and you have brilliant ideas, you should be able to persuade your husband to understand and accept your vision.”

Feedback: kmudzingwa@newsday.co.zw or sms 0772 916 979

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