Can you tell me about yourself and your position at your company?
I am Tapiwa Admire Kundoro, I am the founder and CEO of Vaka Building Materials and Hardware. I am married to Thandi and father to a 6-year-old boy called Tawona. Iam also a pastor in the United Kingdom in Norwich where I live.
What is Vaka and what do you do as a company?
Vaka is an online hardware and building materials supplier. We are a one stop building materials supplier for Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora. Instead of customers spending the whole day going to 20 different building suppliers they can just contact Vaka in the comfort of their office or home and get all their materials. We offer customers convenience of buying all their building materials in one place.
What pushed you to start Vaka?
Having lived in the United Kingdom for five years there was one common theme among many Zimbabweans in the diaspora and that was trying to build back home but having difficulties with family members. Many people had sent money home to Zimbabwe to procure building materials, but this was getting misdirected by family and friends. I saw an opportunity to set up a service to support Zimbabweans in the diaspora build back home and the business.
How has been your journey in the business world and what are the challenges you have faced?
Setting up Vaka was difficult as most suppliers did not want to work with us for five years until finally, we got Willdale and Zimtile on board and other companies began to join as well. I was told by many people that it would not work as customers want to see what they buy, but we have turned a lot of customers around and now have a working relationship of trust. We now have churches, NGO’s and corporate clients in Zimbabwe on our books this includes companies like CBZ, NMB, CFU and many more. I guess on the other hand remote management is a challenge managing a team in Zimbabwe and negotiating with partners and suppliers remotely but with IT this is better now.
How is your business enduring in this harsh economic environment?
It’s a tough time for businesses we continue to be innovative and Zimbabweans continue to build even in the middle of economic difficulties. So as long as they are building to be build Vaka will continue to push on.
How are you hedging your business against inflation?
Most of the time we have to pay for products in advance and keep stock as product prices continue to change on a monthly basis. Having stock helps us t ensure that our profits are in products that don’t depreciate in the value.
Did this lockdown period affect your business in any way and how?
Yes, we had to shut down some elements of our business and its difficult with a workforce of 14 people to pay at the end of month. The biggest challenge is that most clients still want building materials. At the end of day its important to choose safety of people over profits.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
Two specific areas I have seen that we will be focusing on. Firstly, partnering with mortgage providers to sell mortgages to the diaspora and increasing the flow of foreign currency into the country. Secondly partnering with local authorities and land developers to sell directly to the diaspora to increase the flow of foreign currency into the country. Vaka will be a household name.
Can you tell me about yourself?
I grew up in Glen Norah and I am a product of Zuvarabuda Primary School and Glen Norah 2 High. I come from a hardworking family and we have been in the construction industry forthe past 40 years.
I graduated from Oasis of Grace Bible College in Zimbabwe in 1998. Got a BA (Hons)Informal and Community Education from Canterbury Christ Church University 2006, master’s in business administration (Norwich Business School)
How has it been for you in the business world?
It’s been good I have developed a lot of important networks all over world as we continue to grow the Vaka brand. I continue to learn a lot from different players.
What motivated you to join the business world?
Having previously managed the family business, sold my mother’s stuff at the flea market on Rezende street I have always been passionate about business and when I did my MBA, I finally decided it was time and all this came from my Entrepreneurship class at Business School.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced before and after you established your business?
Access is a challenge in business this is in terms of getting a sit at the right table to even get your ideas across. Most successful business have worked with finance partners and investors to grow and this continues to be a challenge for most black run hardware shops and building materials suppliers. With the little profits we make we continue to plough back in the growth of the business.
As a businessman, I’m sure you have noticed the economic challenges the country is facing. How do you see it?
Sometimes it feels like we take two steps forward and three steps backward due to prices continuously going up. It’s important that everyone pulls together to ensure that there is stability of pricing. There needs to be more support for start-ups in the country.
Where do you think the thinktanks are missing it?
Think tanks need to work in partnership with companies and organisations on the ground. I do not think we have enough for the construction sector.
What do you think should be done to deal with the situation?
I think important to promote networking and getting people together and brainstorm. The construction industry is isolated, and the silo mentality is not helping us to move forward. This includes embracing the use of technology to better ourselves as an industry.
Considering the high rate of unemployment in the country, what can you say to those who have been dreaming of starting your kind of business especially the youth?
Don’t be afraid to start something just because someone is doing it there is always space in the market. Look for mentors to challenge you and don’t always think you have to do it alone.Talk to friends and family. Above all seek the grace of God it makes things possible.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I want to play my part in rebuilding Zimbabwe and moving back to Zimbabwe to be part ofthat especially in the construction industry. I want to the bungee jump at the Victoria Falls in the next five years. As Vaka we want to continue to grow to ensure that we remain relevant in our field.
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