Wayne Chiridza, Showbiz Reporter
FORMER Miss Zimbabwe Lorraine Maphala-Phiri says her transition from being a beauty queen to a successful entrepreneur has been worthwhile for her and she owes it all to her mentor, Sipho Mazibuko.
Reflecting on her business ventures, the former Miss Summer Strides paid homage to her modelling mentor, Mazibuko, who runs Strides Modelling Academy for not only giving her guidance in modelling, but also empowering her with life and business skills.
Taking to her social media pages this week, Lorraine said: “In 2002 when I was crowned Miss Summer Strides, my then mentor and owner of the pageant took me with her on one of her business trips to South Africa and she said ‘girlie, you won’t buy shoes and bags for yourself with that prize money, but you’ll order bags and shoes for resale’.
“That’s when the entrepreneurial seed was planted and I never looked back, talk about passing on the baton.”
She said she took Mazibuko’s advice but sadly, things did not go according to plan as most of her business ventures flopped likely due to the fact that she was still young and had no proper knowledge on how to run a business.
“Since 2002, I’ve tried and failed in so many business ventures mostly because I didn’t have the financial literacy nor the know-how to run a structured business,” the beauty recounted.
Her first business venture, a clothing line she launched using her fame as Miss Summer Strides, Lorraine said, was successful in its infancy, but later folded.
“I once started my own clothing line (Maphala Fashions 14) and it did well when I launched. But because I had no knowledge of how to promote it, the sales went down and I later gave up on it
as it was not going the way I wanted it to,” she said.
“I was only 17 years old then and didn’t know how to separate business money from my personal money so I ended up using the profits.”
Three years later, the beauty was to be crowned Miss Zimbabwe and the entrepreneur in her was awakened. During her travels locally, she noticed that there was something missing, there was no place in Zimbabwe where one could buy authentic human hair and with her entrepreneurship mind, she saw an opportunity. At that time, most people used to purchase human hair online or from other countries.
Two years later in 2007, she came up with the idea of Real Hair by Lorraine.
“As someone who was in the beauty industry, I’d always been obsessed with beauty and hair and noticed that there was no place where people could buy real human hair. I decided to fill the gap and launched my business,” said the soft spoken beauty.
The business sadly failed again as she once again used her profits for her upkeep and failed to invest in the business.
“This business ran for two years, but because I still had no knowledge of running a business, as and when I’d make money, I’d use it for my stuff and even buy my mother stuff. So I didn’t invest in the business which made it fail,” she said.
After this setback, her husband Sonny Phiri offered her a job at his Nissi Finance company in 2009. She accepted the offer and as fate would have it, this is where she learnt how to run a business. While working, she still had the zeal to make her Real Hair business a success.
She decided to sell her car to get funds to restart her business.
“I still wanted my business to go on and so I sold my car and bought stock for my business. At first, I’d borrow my husband’s car and sell products from the boot,” she explained.
A year later, Lorraine had raised enough funds to restart the hair business. She rented space at a boutique in Bulawayo and since then, business has been thriving.
She has since opened a shop at Zonk’Izizwe shopping complex which she has named Real hair by Lorraine Studio. It is a hair studio which specialises in weaving, braiding, ethnic hair as well as human hair supplies. The studio also has a nail bar and recently, she added a barber section.
The business, Lorraine said, though thriving, has not really been doing well due to the economic situation in Zimbabwe.
She, however, thanked the people of Bulawayo and some from as far as Harare and South Africa who visit the studio when they are in town, for supporting her.
“My business has been doing well, but I can’t say everything is going well due to the current situation in Zimbabwe. The support from the people of Bulawayo is what’s keeping my business running and I’d like to thank them.
“I’ve come far and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far, but still, it is work in progress. Sipho Mazibuko, thank you for passing on the baton, may God bless you and all that which concerns you,” said a grateful Lorraine.
So successful and influential is Lorraine that she has been invited to several business forums and workshops to inspire other women. Recently, she was at the Academy for Women Entrepreneurship where she shared her story and also learnt from others.
“The Academy for Women Entrepreneurship is a six-month programme which has been helping and teaching me the pros and cons of running businesses. It has other women who are entrepreneurs and we share our knowledge and collaborate in other fields,” she said.
Despite the hardships, Lorraine said it has been a great journey and she is glad she did not give up. She also thanked her husband for pushing her and giving her a shoulder to lean on. – @waynecas.