Forty-year-old Rosemary Chakacha is a teacher by profession and managing director of The Hill Group of Schools. She also holds a qualification in social work and business administration, is starting law with the Legal Institute and is a mother to three children.
Recognizing the need for quality school programs in the high-density suburb of Hatcliffe, in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Rose decided to create educational programs similar to the ones run by private schools in the city’s northern suburbs and make them available for children in public schools. The venture was a feat.
“I am a qualified teacher,” Rose told The Weight She Carries. “I trained at Morgan Zintec College and have five years of teaching experience. What I did not have experience [in] was how to run a business.”
Starting out posed a heap of challenges, and Rose wondered how she would convince parents to sign their children up for her programs. She also needed to ensure she hired the right team who would understand her vision.
“My biggest fear was within myself: fear of failure, doubting myself,” she said. “When I started, I had to ask for kids from neighbours and friends, so no one was paying fees. [That meant] finance to run the business was mainly from me. I had to [use] my salary from where I was teaching to pay my teachers and running costs.”
What other start-up challenges did you have?
The parents of private school students tend to be extremely committed to having a say in their child’s education. There is need to constantly reassure them that their in safe hands.
With the COVID-19 epidemic, no face to face lessons were another challenge. Explaining to parents how to make use of online lessons was difficult. The issue of affording data for Zoom lessons [was a hurdle], so we ended up just [using] WhatsApp platforms.
What keeps you going on the tough days?
I pacify myself by saying, ‘You win some and the other times you learn.’ Just like you can’t win every game, you need to face tough days and learn from them. Then you can try to avoid making the same mistakes and let yourself move on to what’s next.
I reach out to my family and friends, but mostly I reach out to other women business owners. I ask for their advice and guidance. I engage in brainstorming with them, seeking creative solutions for sticky issues. The collaboration that I get to engage in with my peers and mentors is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a business owner.
I also give myself a pat on the back. Entrepreneurship is hard. I take time to look at the road I have already travelled.
What do you consider to be some keys to your success?
- Honesty – I am honest [with] my clients on what I can and cannot provide. I don’t promise too much or try to make my service what it is not. I am not scared of telling a client that this I cannot do.
- My staff – I encourage free-thinking in the team, listen to thoughts and feelings from members and adding new challenges at the right time. The staff, if happy, provides a good service and goes the extra mile at times.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue their passion?
Give yourself grace. Oftentimes we are so busy trying to meet the physical and mental demands of [being] a strong woman, whether it may be meeting deadlines, being on time for meetings, taking care of the home, taking care of children and husband, trying to make room for a personal life, etc. We have a habit of deserting ourselves. Give yourself grace when you have not met an expectation. For example, it is okay if you showed up late for one meeting. Relax and continue to be present and move forward with your day.
Don’t change your personal narrative on your road to success and remember that everyone around you is dreaming too—so embrace your personal path!
How do you balance being a business woman and politician?
As a businesswoman and politician, you feel like there are never enough hours in the day. If not every day, [most] days you’re desperate to find a way to balance both roles. I make sure I set aside specific time for [each role]. Time that is solely devoted to either politics, my business or myself. Each deserves undivided attention at some point.
Delegating is key in achieving balance. For example, I employed a full-time principal who can cover some of my responsibilities. By the way, it’s very difficult as a woman to be in politics. I have to do more to prove my worth both in the political and business world.