Zambia has about 97 percent of businesses in the micro small and medium enterprises and of these, women account for 47 percent. We can all agree that women-owned businesses are powerful pillars in the community.
Guest Bio: Grace Phiri is a woman Agri Entrepreneur and owner of Diwavema Enterprises. She is married, has four children and four grandchildren. Career wise she started as a secretary at Zambia National Broadcasting Services, then joined Manifold investment bank where she worked as a secretary. There after she joined her church where she worked as women’s day coordinator for 8 years, she worked with women in the rural areas and urban circles and that is where she learned to work and contribute to the community.
Women have been starting businesses at a higher rate now as compared to some years back when business was considered for men. What was your motivation for starting up the agri-business?
Grace: The thing that motivated me was contributing to my community, I was trained in the PROFIT+ program as a farm advisor and I used the passion for working in the community to train about 200 farmers. I trained the farmers to use new technologies in farming and later on provided them with farming implements, as a community agro dealer.
The sting of gender inequality affects women everywhere, not just in developing countries and that’s just one of the challenges women face. Have you encountered any barriers as a woman business owner?
Grace: “As a woman I have encountered many challenges in doing business in my community, the most significant being men failing to approach me for help with consultancy because they feel intimidated.”
Empowering women in Zambia has been held up as an answer to a number of problems, starting with alleviating poverty and impacting economic growth. How has the business contributed or changed the lives of your family or how has it helped?
Grace: Most people always forget that when you help a woman you have actually helped the entire family. The woman always has the family at heart, whatever they have or make is channelled to their family, women will work hard in their businesses to help them meet the daily needs of their families. “Currently my family is doing fine because I have the money and the capacity to do a lot of things without asking from my husband or other relatives.”
Have you gotten support from your family members with the business, most especially your husband?
Grace: Yes, I have gotten support from my family members. I am who I am because my husband supports me in all the things that I do especially with consultancy part of my business. He has contributed a lot to help the business move to where it is today.
Over the years, what lessons have you learnt with regards running a business? From the lessons what would you do differently?
Grace: The greatest lesson I have is the need to have knowledge and understanding of the business you are going into as it most assuredly guarantees you success. It is very important to plan for your business, have a vision and goals you want to reach. Before you start a business you must acquire all the knowledge you can get. In my case if I could do anything differently, it would be to go through mentorship with SME Accounting Services Limited in Financial Management at the start of my business.
“We are not saying women are better or that women starting more businesses means the economic hardships will disappear. Women just do things differently in the world of business and different should be welcomed.”
What makes a woman owned business different?
Grace: Normally when a woman owns a business, the business is there for the family and it is so transparent. Every family member is allowed to participate in the business and benefit from it. Furthermore, whatever is realised from the business is channeled to the business. Whilst those owned by men are not very transparent and not all the monies from the business are channeled to the family.
Guest Advise: If businesses are to be beneficial to families’ women should understand and be clear of what business they want to venture into. The women should also acquire necessary skills in business to help the business grow. Women should also start small and grow their business bit to bit.
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