When doors didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t open up for Lumbani Makhaza, she didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give up. Being young and hardworking she decided to enter into entrepreneurship while working as an administrator at Share World Open University. The 24-year-old shares her achievements, goals and dreams to our reporter, Mwereti Kanjo.
When and where were you born?
I was born on 31st May 1987 at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. Currently, I am working at Share World Open University as the administrator.
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in Chilobwe, Blantyre, mostly me and my older sister Tikhala. Growing up as a child was fun. I had a very humble beginning. We had to use our imagination a lot to keep ourselves entertained, we played a lot of sports. We travelled a lot, which was always fun.
Life got really tough when my mom passed away in 2001. Growing up a teenager without a mom is one of the hardest things any child could go through, but my dad, and sister did a good job of raising me. And having to go through the adjustment of a new family was an emotional challenge.
What is your education background?
I have a masterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s degree in information technology from the University of East London, and graduated in November of 2009. The previous year I graduated with a BachelorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s degree in applied business computing at Sunderland University through London school of commerce.
I did my primary school at Chimwankhunda and Soche SDA primary schools. I did my secondary school at Our Lady of Wisdom Secondary School.
Your career background?
I worked as a receptionist assistant for six months at Share World after my form four.
When I was in England, I worked in retail for five years. I actually had two jobs that I juggled plus university.
I consider these jobs as part of my career, even though they were not IT related.Ã‚Â This is all because I learnt a lot.
When I came back to Malawi in Nov 2009, I had two plans. Plan A was that I would work for a maximum of one year (just to get some experience) in my field of work full time. Then I was going to open a business and do something I was really passionate about.
Plan B was if my business for some reason didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t succeed, I would go back to working full time. I was interested to work with IT driven organisations like banks, mobile network companies. But I was always told that I was overqualified and under experienced. This motivated me to start my own business sooner than I had planned.
You work as an IT consultant administrator for Share World primary, secondary and university? How did you get this post?
I was always skeptical about working at Share World because my father, Prof Makhaza, is the founding chairman for the Share World group of companies. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want people to think I got the job because I had connections in high places.
Is there anything you did to prove that you got the position on merit?
Yes, I designed a student records system for them and vamped up their website and that was sort of my application letter, and I got the job! They were willing to take a chance on me, based on my qualifications and my work.
What does your job involve?
I act as the link between the school and Share World corporate office. This means handling and presenting school improvement budgets, make sure there are enough learning resources, purchase of additional learning materials and toys, look into staff grievances. etc.
At the university, I am the IT consultant. I handle and manage their HR/payroll system. I am also their web master, responsible for keeping the website up to date. I also developed the online student site where students can log in and get their exam results and current assignments. I help manage the IT labs as well. We are currently working on online resource centre.
IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it a challenge supervising people older than you?
The biggest challenge for me is actually time management.Ã‚Â Every member of my team at Moral Elite is an expert in their fields of work. For example, the teachers. I never interfere with their teaching methods because these are mature people who have a lot of experience and know what they are doing, so I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to babysit them or supervise them a lot. But on other issues like disciplinary matters, I have to sit someone down and have a word with them, despite their age or mine. At the end of the day, we are there for one purpose and as long as I am not disrespectful, then itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ok. I am actually a very easy person to work with. If I reach a point of telling someone off it means, they have really crossed a line. I like giving people the benefit of the doubt.
What are some of the challenges that you face and how do you deal with them?
Lack of resources is my biggest challenge. Because am always envisioning how I want (the primary and secondary) school to look, where I want the standards to be, but I have to work within a certain budget, and within certain resource restrictions so I find that a challenge.
The other challenge would probably be peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s misconceptions that I got the job because of my dad, so they have this attitude that am spoilt and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what am doing when the truth is that I earned my masterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s degree, and nothing has ever been handed to me on a silver platter. I have to work my way to the top just like everyone else. Like I said, I started out at Share World as a receptionist assistant.
You have a business, what is it and what does it involve?
There are two, one is called Violet and Rose gift company, named after my late grandmother Violet and my late mom Rose. My aim is to do unique and creative gifts that would be hard to find anywhere else. I am a fan of giving, but I want my gift to always make someone go wow!
So, I do personalised greetings cards, mugs and plates, fridge magnets, unique invitation cards and programmes, picture books for all occasions and guest books, personalised bags, cake boxes, bookmarks and key holders.
The second one is LuluÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Creative Works and Designs, which does picture framing, portraits and poster framing, and personalised wall clocks.
What challenges do you face in your business?
I find that people are not open to new ideas. They always want to stick to what they know, while as my business is all about unique creations and gifts, which is hard for other people to adapt to. I also do most of the gift company products myself, from design to printing to finishing touches, and it can be very tiring and demanding.
How do you juggle yourself between your business and career?
It hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been easy, especially time management wise. But at the end of the day, I have to reach a point where I have to accept that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only so much one can do. I usually spend the mornings at the primary and secondary school, and my afternoons are shared between Share World University and my business.
I usually work till late, and weekends especially if I have an order to fill. But I have a very good support system. Most of my family and friends help with advertising and getting customers for my business and encouragement and guidance for my career.
Where do you get your inspiration?
God gives me the desire to be the best.
Who is Lumbani to you?
HmmmÃ¢â‚¬Â¦my closest friends will tell you I am reserved and yet chatty. I am ambitious. I am open minded, friendly, I love to laugh and I try to make others smile as much as I can. I am creative and have a good imagination. I am God fearing, I love to eat cake with ice cream, I give everyone the same respect whether they are road sweepers or CEOs. I stand up for the ones I love, and am a loyal friend. I always try to look for the positive in every situation.
Do you think you have achieved it all in life? What are your plans?
Not at all!Ã‚Â I wish I could, I want to do so much more. Career wise, I want to get a PhD. I want to be the best at what I do.
Business wise, I would love it if every time someone thought of getting a present, Violet & Rose gift company would pop into their head. I want my businesses to be a household name. I have so many business ideas that I need to put into action, and I pray God gives me long life and abundant blessings to carry them out.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to read, I love to travel, see new places. I love to cook, even though I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it often enough. I love hanging out with my family and friends, appreciate nature and I love watching movies, and I am always imagining, day dreaming of gift ideas, business plans.
Are you married?
I am not married yet.
What is your advice to young girls?
Trust in the Lord always. People will let you down, God will never disappoint. If u put God first, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never regret it and things will go well for you always have a dream, and hold on to it. When one day youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re down and out of luck, remember that dream, and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll know that your situation is just a pit stop to the destination, not the destination itself.