Renowned Mzuzu florist and owner of Valley View Landscapers and Cleaning Services Jean Trinidade who also works as an administrator at Alliance One, on purpose-driven multi-tasking, using her God-given talents to make money and giving 100% in everything she does. Interview by ALBERT SHARRA.
Tell me a bit about yourself…
I am Jean Trindade and I work at Alliance One in Mzuzu as an administrator. I also own a business called Valley View Landscapers and Cleaning Services, in which I work with 27 people. We provide home and office cleaning services and also deal in flower arrangements. As a florist, I source and arrange flowers for weddings, bridal showers and other formal functions. I was born in May 1957 at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. We were a family of seven, four girls and three boys and am the second born. My father was an accountant and later manager of Times Bookshop. He later worked for Springbok Transport as an accountant. My mother was a housekeeper at Mount Soche Hotel. She passed on in 1975 at the very young age of 39 in a head-on car collision and my father 14 year later in 1989. When my mother passed on, I was only 16 and the last born was three years old, which made life very difficult for us. We were at an age were we most needed a motherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guidance and care. I had to grow up and take care of my siblings the way a mother would. Living without her taught us to be interdependent and to work as a team. We drew closer to each other and tried to gather enough courage to overcome the pain.
What memories do you have of growing up?
We were a united family and we grew up as church going children. Most of all I enjoyed midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I did my primary education at Dharap Intergrated School where I was selected to Chichiri Secondary School. This was a very exciting experience because in those days it was not easy to be selected, especially if you had an English name. Although this was so, I opted to go to Our Lady of Wisdom Secondary School. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to continue my education so I worked in a dress boutique called BURDS. This was a very expensive shop catering for the top class ladies and I was in the design and tailoring department which I was very proud of because my talent in dress making was taking shape. After work, I attended evening secretarial classes at Aziz Secretarial Institute where I performed very well with distinctions.
Did you have big dreams as a child?
No, not exactly but I was blessed with talents. My mother was a dressmaker and used to tailor all our clothes but I was the difficult one because I was very fussy with how my clothes were made. I remember once my mother told me to start making my own clothes and I did. At the age of twelve I was able to design and tailor my own dresses and all my elders started asking me to make their outfits. I say I am gifted because I was good with anything to do with needle work. I could knit, crochet and embroider and loved every bit of it. I also loved gardening and housekeeping and did a lot of work in my parentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ garden.
How did your parents and people around you mould you into what you are today?
I had a lot of encouragement from my parents and people around me. When I was doing my evening secretarial studies, I had to take a bus from Limbe to C.I. and walk from C.I. to Moneymen Club now known as National Bank Training Centre, where we lived. It was tough going because I had to walk at night on my own getting home at 9 pm. I continued because of the encouragement my family gave me. I believe I am what I am today because of them. I never forget my uncle saying, even if you meet a lion, remember that it too is afraid of you. He often reminded us th eperseverance always wins a crown of success and I believed him.
After doing your secretarial studies and dress-making, you ventured into being a florist. What happened?
Being a florist has been a hobby and I thought of making use of that hobby. I have never had any training but given the opportunity I would to further my knowledge in this line. I am creative and because of things I liked doing when I was young, I grew interested in home dÃƒÂ©cor which has also led me into doing event decorations, wedding and others. I have equipment and various designs to work out different arrangments. Depending on the size of the order, I either order raw materials from Lilongwe or pick flowers from my gardern. I am constantly advertising our services to grow the business and so far we have had great response from people in Mzuzu.
What does an average workday involve for you?
I start the day with instructions for daily chores at home, and when I sign off from work, I check the daily activities of my business, which is being run by my two daughters and sister in-law. They have worked with me for a very long time and the knowledge I have imparted in them is what they use for the day to day operations of the business. This means I am running two careers at once, which is not easy, but manageable.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Human resource is the biggest challenge that I face. So far I have now managed to come up with a team that is easy to work with so I make sure I motivate them in different ways and recognise their hard work. I have to make sure that I understand each individual and create an environment in which team spirit thrives. Running this business has given me leadership qualities. It has also taught me to be tolerant, which is very important when you work with people. As a florist, my life is full of interactions with others and I live to impress. This has helped build my thinking capacity.
What is it that you do when you get some Ã¢â‚¬Ëœalone timeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢?
I enjoy sipping coffee while watching my favourite programmes on the home channel on d.s.t.v.
What have you learnt from lifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s journey?
Nothing comes to you on a silver platter. You have to tackle the encounters you meet as they come along. Things wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always go perfectly and you might get discouraged along the way but you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to give up. You have to pick yourself up and keep going in order to win the race that is life.
What is your life philosophy? What are your guiding principles?
Work hard and be dedicated to achieving 100 percent in everything you do.
What things can you not do without?
I love my garden and cannot do without my regular attention to it. Being a florist, I love flowers. I also love planning for new designs for my staff.
I am sure you have a fan club, a group of people that believe you can do anything and keep you going. How do they inspire you and who are they?
My husband Henry, and children are my greatest fan club. They are an inspiration and encourage me to fight on when things are down.
What is your take on key challenges facing Malawian women?
Capital requirement challenges. There is always something to venture into but financial limitations can be a hindrance to achieve what you can. However, in light of this, I think women should never give up but persevere in everything they want to do. Understand what you want to do and do it with passion.
Who inspires you?
I am blessed with a family full of inspiration. The ideas that come up keep me on my toes and my brain in action.
Any future ambitions, dreams yet to be achieved?
My future ambition is to succeed in the flower business and the biggest is to invest in flower, fruit and vegetable growing. Then maybe think of a small food processing plant.
Could you please tell us of your immediate family? How many children do you have? What are their names and ages?
I have five children, a son and four daughters. Cheryl, Michael, Marrieanne, Diana and Roweena. They are adults and I am not sure if they want their ages revealed. I am also blessed with one grandson and seven grand daughters. They are just so fantastic.
How do you manage to balance family and work?
I have an understanding, independent husband and my children are all out of home. With my last born daughter Roweena being in college at the Malawi Polytechnic, doing her fourth year in business Information systems, makes balancing work and family a lot easier.
What role has your family played in helping you reach greater heights?
They are an encouragement to me when they are home and help out in the day-to-day running of everything whether house chores or the business.
What are your weaknesses and how do you work on improving these or how do you make them work to your advantage?
I believe that I strive to be a perfectionist in my work and sometimes find myself doing a job for a client for almost nothing just to prove that people should choose quality and not quantity. This sometimes is good for business as long as there are no losses incurred. I convince my clients that perfection is the answer and that half measures donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work. This does work because most of my clients come back for my service and agree to the price and therefore gain confidence in my services and therefore I maintain my clientele base.