By Lynn Grala
Just eight years ago, along with three million other Zimbabweans, today’s high-flying yet humble entrepreneur, Mose Kutadzaushe, fled his motherland in desperate search of a financial oasis. Disillusioned by the hopeless economic situation of Zimbabwe and by medical insurance companies that defaulted on payments to hospitals, leaving his sick father and many other patients stranded in a pitiful condition, he was driven to action.
His financial oasis, South Africa, did not offer him the immediate comfort he had been anticipating. Mose Kutadzaushe tells how, besides cold calling contact people on websites, he walked 7 kilometres to the nearest Internet café in Johannesburg to send off job applications, then log off, sit outside and wait to log on again to check if perhaps some company had hopefully responded, and then head home, only to return the next day. This went on for three long, hard months.
‘The job search phase in South Africa will always remain a crucial period in my life,’ says Mose. ‘I was a chartered accountant who had passed Level 2 of the CFA examination and yet I could not find an employer who was willing to sponsor me for a work permit.’
And then one day, it finally happened. He managed to land employment at Deloitte Consulting after his critical skills work permit was approved by the Department of Home Affairs.
‘This episode taught me two critical lessons: first, failure is a reality of life that we all experience but can overcome with time and perseverance; second, and more importantly, being unemployed is very painful – it diminishes self-confidence and makes one doubt one’s self-worth.’
Employment meant Mose could provide for himself and his family and, most importantly, he could afford his dad’s dialysis. However, supporting his family alone was not enough for him. His challenge was now greater; the dream was bigger. He wanted to make a difference in his entire community and began searching for a way he could become more relevant.
With the top in mind
Mose still has vividly painted memories of deep conversations with his uncle about his career as early as when he was in primary school, aged 12 years old or younger.
‘My mother’s brother was one of the first black partners, if not the first, at Deloitte in Zimbabwe. Because of him, I grew up aspiring to be nothing else but a chartered accountant. As time passed, my resolve only strengthened,’ says Mose.
Academically, Mose is known to be a top performer. He received various awards during his five years of articles he pursued straight out of high school and is said to one of the most solid recruits Deloitte Zimbabwe has made in the past decade. The then CEO of Deloitte Central Africa, Tawanda Gumbo, took a keen interest in Mose and soon became his most influential mentor.
Crucial lessons Mose learnt during article years: ‘Of note, I learnt a lot about leadership from watching Hugh Wright, a partner in the Deloitte Harare office. He was always well prepared – he spent time with me planning the week and making sure that we always had an eye on the big picture, near term and long term. When I walked out of his office on Monday morning I knew exactly what was expected of me and when it was expected. He took me under his wing and staffed me on some of his most important assignments. I knew he trusted me and he consistently showed appreciation for any work I handed to him.’
Labouring by day at Deloitte Harare and buried in books at night, Mose successfully managed to complete his BCom degree through Unisa. His studying towards the CFA Charter while also taking on his CTA examinations proved to be a tough challenge.
With phenomenal results that placed him in the national top 10 candidates in Zimbabwe in 2008, Mose achieved his dream of becoming a chartered accountant. With his go-getter spirit, he lost not time and immediately sat for examinations to convert his CA qualification to a CA(SA) qualification and soon landed a secondment to work at the Deloitte Philadelphia office for a three-month stint.
When he returned from Philadelphia at the height of the economic crisis in 2008, inflation was soaring, imports were drying up, and shortages abounded; his family couldn’t even afford to pay for his father’s treatment using Zimbabwean currency. Mose handed in his resignation to Deloitte Harare and with ambitious hopes set sail for South Africa.
Excited about toilet paper
Greatly inspired by the spirit of microenterprise that existed in Zimbabwe, he returned from South Africa in 2009. This time he was armed with new connections and additional business knowledge and an avid eagerness to be part of rebuilding his country’s economy.
Mose quickly realised that one of the leading challenges that needed to be surmounted in Zimbabwe was the declining capacity utilisation in the manufacturing industry. ‘I sat down and made a list of very defensible products that would be somewhat insulated from prolonged severe economic downturns.’
Based on the list that he came up with, toilet paper was a clear winner. ‘It was an underpenetrated product in terms of local manufacturing in Zimbabwe and it was a necessity that all households would need to carry. With this knowledge, I read up on the manufacturing process, the available suppliers of the relevant machinery and production inputs, as well as the things that would be required to build a successful brand from scratch’, he says.
‘At this time, I did not have any personal savings, but I found the toilet paper idea to be very exciting. I reached out to as many people as I could think of and sold the idea of starting a toilet paper manufacturing company with the view of raising money to build the company. I also hired competent sales, production and administrative staff to support my mother, who I had earmarked as the CEO. The company started as a small manufacturing concern that was consistently cash-strapped. Through this experience I learned how to manage a business which has very limited resources.’
With patience and hard work, in 2010 Mose teamed up with three friends and founded Supreme Brands that has cumulatively generated over R70 million worth of revenue and has created employment for 77 employees. Today it supplies all leading retailers in Zimbabwe and occupies more than 80% of the nationwide toilet paper shelf space in some retailers.
‘Although this can be seen as an economic contribution to the country, in my mind, this is also the greatest social contribution that I have made to my society. My employees can take their children to school, buy property, and most importantly, avoid the emotional torment of being unemployed,’ he stresses.
‘I am currently in the process of introducing Zimbabwe’s only locally manufactured baby diapers under Supreme Brand’s Maruva® brand name. I have been investing in Zimbabwe when many of my fellow citizens have been turning away, and I will continue to do so. The economics of the country and industry are compelling if one gets the branding and distribution right. I intend to leverage my wide distribution network to introduce multiple non-perishable “necessities” into the market. I am particularly drawn to the sanitary industry given this is where our current expertise lies. In the long term, I intend to grow the company into a regional conglomerate that operates in the SADC region.’
Directing from the side
With his mother CEO of Supreme Brand, today Mose manages as a non-executive director. Through Supreme Brand’s great successes, Mose applied and was accepted by Stanford Business School where he completed his MBA in 2013, also opening up a vast array of possibilities. Thereafter he realised his dream of working for Goldman Sachs in the United States. Employed as a senior associate in the investment division, he thrived on the three-year fast-paced and exhilarating career.
In May 2016, Mose started in his new role at Investec as an investment specialist and is excited to be using his finance and operational experience on the African continent once again. ‘I plan to spend the rest of my career investing in Africa, and becoming a credible asset manager who helps to connect providers of capital with talented entrepreneurs that need assistance scaling their businesses,’ he says.
‘Knowing that over 90% of Zimbabweans are classified as unemployed is a sad reality that continues to hit me hard. To the extent possible, I hope to play my part in my country’s and continent’s development by becoming a business leader who provides employment through forming and supporting scalable business ventures.’
And we truly believe he will!
This article was originally published in ASA magazine.