Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter

WHEN Bulawayo vendor Richard Dzimire (23) of Bulawayo’s Killarney suburb tweeted “I got a job”, he got 20 000 likes and additional followers on his handle @lemugangg.

After first going on Twitter six years ago, little did he know that the micro blogging site would later in life turn into a useful platform to market his products.

Unlike his peers on Twitter who simply derive fun from just amassing a huge following, Dzimire believes the numbers are a key component in terms of business growth.

Dzimire, a shop till operator-turned street fruit vendor, has captured the Bulawayo market through Twitter.

Now, Zimbabweans as far as Harare and overseas are supporting his business financially. Unlike a majority of his colleagues in street vending, Dzimire gets most of his customers from Twitter.

He said it took a lot of courage for him to venture into the streets of Bulawayo for the purposes of selling bananas in a push cart “I use Twitter to market my bananas and the good thing about social media is that if you have good content people will definitely like that so that is what inspired me into resorting to marketing my products on that platform. My product gets a lot of viewers and audience and when I started my business last year that is how I managed to get a lot of customers,” he said.

“I remember when I posted a tweet saying, ‘I got a job,’ I received tremendous support from my followers and that post got me 20 000 likes and a lot of people started to buy my bananas. Some would come to me saying ‘oh you are the guy we saw on Twitter who posted bananas we want to support your business.”

Dzimire, a former Milton High School pupil, said despite poor performance at school he saw an opportunity in the streets and it is changing his life. “I was not academically gifted so I decided to venture into the streets so that I could see the reality of life. Social media is a very important tool and it is quite advantageous in that it catalyses your credibility and popularity, particularly in this cut-throat fruit vending industry,” he said.

“I come from a neighbourhood where most of my peers have excelled academically, but somehow they are doing nothing and spend most of the time loafing around and complaining of unemployment. As youths, I believe we should be creative and shun the culture of mourning over the economy, which in any case is unhelpful.” 

Dzimire believes an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. 

“A lot of youths, including some people who have actually surpassed that age are doing nothing and that is what stimulated me into doing something because I was seeing myself going the same route. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to resort to selling bananas in the streets, but I had to take that bold decision after losing my job,” he said.

Dzimire has turned corner Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street and 8th Avenue into his “permanent base”.

Although he spends most of the time selling his merchandise at the spot, Dzimire is also mobile and some of his customers contact him via Twitter and he walks to their workplaces to deliver the bananas.

Dzimire, who has been in the business of selling bananas since March last year, said his Twitter audience has been supportive and offering encouraging words and financial support.

Some of his followers are Zimbabweans based overseas.

“My followers on Twitter give me positive feedback as they wish me success and encourage me to work even harder. That really is motivation. I also get a lot of financial support, particularly from people outside the country and as I speak someone is funding my driving school lessons,” he said.

He said another well-wisher recently sent him money to restock after his wares were confiscated by municipal police. “I remember last year when municipal police confiscated my stock, I posted on Twitter and someone sent me a message offering to give me money to restock. Others are actually offering to fund my business to that it expands and this is how effective Twitter is working in terms of marketing my business,” he said. “I am also working branding my bananas and already someone from the UK has offered to give me money to venture into that. I was to have branded stickers for my bananas as part of my marketing strategy to grow my business.”

He hopes to open a shop one day to sell fruits.

Dzimire said at first, he never looked at vending as business venture. The realisation only came when he was selling and Twitter has turned the job into a profitable one.

“If it wasn’t for cat and mouse games with municipal police, I would be far because there are some times that you get your merchandise worth about $500 being confiscated by police three times a day. On average I make an average of between $150 and $200 per day as profit. I have no transport cost because I cycle to my work. I hire pushcarts for $10 for the whole day,” he said.

But how did he end up with such an overwhelming number of followers on Twitter?

He said he wanted to be a radio presenter and he felt for him to succeed in that regard he required a big audience.

Dzimire said he started by following a lot of people and they followed him too. 

He unfollowed those not following him back and he is still aiming for more followers.

Dzimire hopes one day, his business will grow into a huge empire and people will remember him as a once Twitter vendor.

“Having 10 000 followers on Twitter was not an easy task. In fact, I actually joined Twitter in 2014 when I was doing Form One and got associated with it in my teenage years and have grown to love it so much such that I spend a lot of time on this social media platform,” he said.

“I get overwhelming responses from my followers and they are quite supportive and offering encouraging words and some even support my business from as far as Harare. I also promote my business on Instagram and WhatsApp. If you are a patient person Twitter grows to know you, meaning people get to know you by what you post. The more I post about my business, the more people get to know more about me and as I build my business, hopefully when I open my shop people will be able to identify me through my tweets.” 

Born in a family of four on October 31 in 1997 in Kwekwe, all of Dzimire’s siblings are based in the UK. — @mashnets