Eunice Dlamini is a vibrant woman of high integrity. She grew up as the last born in a family of six and rose from a vegetable vendor to a widely celebrated businesswoman. She recently spoke to The Weight She Carries about how she rose to success.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a nurse tutor by profession, development worker by design and businesswoman by choice. I am multitalented and very versatile. I have been a strong believer in Christ since the age of 12 years. I hold a BSc in nursing from Unisa (University of South Africa) and executive master’s in business from NUST (National University of Science and Technology).
I am married to Mtonzima Dlamini and blessed with two beautiful children, Mnqobi and Mqoqi.
What inspired you to pursue those ventures?
I was born [to] an industrious woman who was not educated but was business-minded. She sold everything ranging from vegetables to clothing. She was God-fearing, fearless and a hard worker. She pushed and motivated us to do things, even those that are impossible. She encouraged us and proved to us that with Christ, all things are possible. She made money out of all her efforts. We were watching as children and noticed Mom made money out of everything she sold.
My father was a chef. He worked for a Greek family in town. My mother assisted my father at his workplace; hence she was a great cook too like my dad. We learnt to cook good food from home. I was a spoiled brat; I did not do much cooking at home. I am self-taught.
Cooking at home and the industriousness of my mother inspired me to venture into business. My inspiration also came from my jobs. My jobs involved a lot of travelling locally, regionally and internationally. I enjoyed travelling, booking in hotels and conducting conferencing in my travels. I started wishing to own a hotel from there.
In 2005 I worked for Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) whose core business was capacity development. We were involved in capacitating communities to be self-sufficient and empowered. Through the empowerment programme, communities changed from being poor to [having] better livelihoods.
One day as we were [coming] from work with brother colleague Nicholas Nyathi, he asked me about my life after SNV as NGO contracts can end. He opened my eyes and I told him I wanted to do events. He said to me, “What are you waiting for?” I felt provoked.
I started by designing an activity plan of what I wanted to do. I loved conferencing and cooking scrumptious menus; hence my business has to do with catering and hosting people.
In 2006 we were paid in foreign currency and we used to change the money in Botswana. Each time I travelled to Botswana, I started collecting my catering equipment at the same time, praying for the project. [By the end of] 2006, I had collected a lot of equipment; it was full in my storeroom.
In 2007 one of our nieces Medellin Dube turned 21. I offered to plan, coordinate and implement the party for 100 people. I ensured I had all the equipment for the function ranging from tables, chairs and also catering equipment. I did the decoration and table setup for 100 guests. I also did a two-course meal for the day.
On that very day, I got a client who immediately engaged me for her wedding on the 14th of April 2007 for 500 guests. It sounded like a joke and it was a tall order indeed. I organized myself, prepared for the wedding and successfully did the function in April. This was the beginning of my journey in event management. I distributed cards and flyers on the day. After the wedding I got many enquiries and I got another client.
What were your fears when you were starting out?
Failing to meet client’s expectations, like providing a great menu on time.
Initially, I was not yet clear [on] how to juggle around picking staff and dropping them and picking equipment and still making it [on] time.
Costing was a challenge. The country was going through hyperinflation. Costing was not easy at all.
I was still employed. I feared losing my job as my organization expected us not to have extra programs outside of our work.
What was your experience?
I had minimal experience. My exposure in travelling and staying in hotels shaped my business. Whatever set up I saw in hotels, I would emulate. Whatever menu was prepared in the hotel, I would go home to try it.
I also learnt a variety of menus when I got married. I had time to experiment [with] menus and see what [came] out of the experiments.
What were your challenges?
Some of my biggest challenges before were balancing work and business. As my business was growing, it meant my time for rest was compromised. I worked Saturday and Sunday doing events. Monday, I was at my NGO job doing hard work and travelling long distances.
How did you overcome the challenges?
I told myself hard work is the way to go. I worked extra hard to manage my events and also do my job well.
The issue of pricing was difficult due to inflation. [To overcome that], I changed my pricing to foreign currency to [offset] the inflation.
What keeps you going on tough days?
Prayer is my number one strength. I pray, give myself time to worship, sing gospel songs, read the Bible…especially the book of Psalms and console myself that it shall pass.
It’s comforting. I even released an album on church music due to some of my challenges that I faced on the way. This helped me overcome.
What are the keys to success?
- [Being] rooted in God and praying
- Hard work
- Providing quality service
- Customer care
- Great network
- Applying business principles like costing adhering to the laws of business, i.e. paying ZIMRA (taxes), licensing, etc.
- Work with staff as a team and praise them where due
- A greater part of the money belongs to the business; [do not] abuse business money
What is your advice for women who want to pursue their passion?
- Hard work pays
- Be honest and be yourself
- Don’t compete; do what you know best [and] have passion for what you do.
- Don’t disappoint clients; they are our queens and kings
- Education is key to back you up in your business
Some of Dlamini’s accolades include:
- 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year (Megafest Business Awards)
- 2013 Businesswoman of the Year (Megafest Business Awards)
- 2013 Businesswoman of the Year national second runner-up (Megafest Business Awards)
- 2014 Businesswoman of the Year (Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce or ZNCC)
- 2015 Businesswoman of the Year (Megafest Business Awards)
- 2016 Most Consistent Leader (Megafest Business Awards)
- 2016 Service Excellence (Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe or CCAZ)
- 2017 Service excellence (CCAZ)
- 2018 Lifetime Achievement (Megafest Business Awards)
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