Wezi Mzumara grew up in a family of farmers which essentially exposed her to the art of farming.
When she moved back to Malawi in 2011, she found that her parents had planted five cocoa trees for her.
“This was very exciting for me at the time because I knew the prospects of value addition of cocoa would be chocolate and who doesn’t love chocolate!
“Since then we have gradually been increasing the size of the plantation and have now cultivated over two hectares of cocoa trees,” she said.
The cocoa is grown in the Nkhata Bay highlands where the climate is perfect for cocoa.
Wezi is a publicist, event manager, accessories designer, cocoa farmer, chocolate maker and chocolatier in training.
She runs her own bespoke accessories line, Kwanza Designs, an accessories brand that creates pieces that are a modern twist of traditional Zulu/Ngoni jewellery.
She also runs Kwanza Cocoa, a cocoa farm based in Nkhata Bay which produces its own chocolate.
Wezi said: “I started Kwanza Cocoa because I have always been someone who thinks outside the box. I also love chocolate, so I decided to specialise in something I am both passionate about and love. Besides that, cocoa is also generally a very exciting crop to work with, as it has multiple by-products.”
She explains that her favourite thing about being a business owner is the freedom and ability to be creative in her craft, which enables her to produce unique products.
“Kwanza means ‘first fruit of the harvest’ and most of the things I do are new business concepts in Malawi, which also introduce a new way of doing things.
“The beauty about making chocolate is that I can use all my skills in the chocolate making process, especially when I combine local ingredients such as kambuzi, mangos, strawberries, oranges and baobab [malambe]. This is fun because some of these flavours are not accessible globally and I get to experiment with them,” she said.
Kwanza Cocoa produces chocolates on small scale and also offers private chocolate tastings.
It also produces cocoa products that are grown and crafted in Malawi.
On top of that, the cocoa and chocolate brand has an operational team made up of 60 percent women.
“It is important for me to promote women, especially in Malawi. So I made sure to employ and train women to work in this field which will not only promote Malawi’s economy, but equip them with necessary tools to be financially stable and independent,” she said.
Wezi’s chocolates are craft chocolates which are different from commercial chocolates as the process is artisanal.
She explained that the method she has adopted is hands on because she always wants to ensure an authentic final product.
Her business also contributes and gives back to the community.
At the cocoa farm, they offer women in the area 10 cocoa seedlings to plant and harvest.
They also provide the women with adequate training on how to grow and look after their cocoa.
However, as any business, Wezi admits she has faced some challenges, particularly in the fact that cocoa farming is a new industry, with her essentially being the first to do it in the country.
The entrepreneur said: “The biggest challenge has been going into an industry that no one has established in Malawi, where cocoa has been generally neglected as a whole. But with the support of the Cross Atlantic Chocolate Collective which has members from Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, US, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania and Ivory Coast, it hasn’t been as lonely as I thought it would be.
“Despite that, if you’re committed to making your business a success, you will always find a way to achieve this. And I did just that. They say when one door closes another one will open. If you have a positive mind-set anything is possible.”
She added that her favourite thing to do, especially when it comes to making chocolate, is pushing boundaries.
“I think growing any business is tough and scaling up is even harder, but by thinking outside the box, I know I will always succeed,” said the farmer.
Looking back at her life and where she is right now, Wezi said she is particularly proud of the fact that she runs a farm, moreover the only cocoa farm in Malawi, which seemingly is not simple at all.
She said there are a lot of projects and ideas that are still a working progress, but being able to make chocolate from tree to bar is definitely a great achievement she is very proud of.
Wezi has a degree in media, culture and communications.
She was born in Ethiopia and grew up in the UK. She has three siblings and lots of nieces and nephews who now call her Aunty Chocolate.
The business person also founded Kwanza PR, a creative agency working in the areas of public relations, events production and management.
She is also the co-founder of the award winning Mzuzu Fashion Week—Malawi’s only fashion week— which has been running for the last six years.
She said: “Kwanza Designs was created as avenue for me to express my love for accessories and beaded African jewellery. I started beading after my late grandmother taught me. She used to make beaded nets so I would play around with those and then started creating my own pieces to wear.”
Her advice to young girls is to be realistic about their goals and to never give up, even when things seem impossible or unachievable.
“There was a time when I wanted to switch from doing General Certificate of Secondary Education History to Art. I called my father and confided in him and he taught me a very good lesson on perseverance.
“I kept the subject and in the end when I got my results, my top grade was in history. So, no matter how hard things might get, keep pushing and never give up,” she said.
During her free time, Wezi enjoys going to the lake whenever she gets the chance.