This month our Fempreneur of the Month is none other than Bridget Mudota, a warm, smiling personality who loves to pass on her knowledge to others. Let’s let her tell us her story in her own words
- How would your friends describe you?
My friends and those close to me call me “Bubbling B” after the popular Zimbabwe’s popular radio DJ Bridget Gavanga. Most of them swear by the moon that they have never seen me angry, they have always known me to be a happy, outgoing person.
- Tell us more about your childhood and professional qualifications.
I grew up in Chiredzi, the lowveld sugarcane town where my mom was a nurse at Chiredzi General Hospital and my father a businessman at Renco Mine. I did part of my primary education in Chiredzi town. From grade 5 to 7 l was send to Bondolfi Mission and from there Gokomere High School in Masvingo up to form 4. I went to Moleli High School for advanced level. From there l went to Harare Polytechnic College to do a Mass Communication Diploma majoring in Print Journalism. I was honoured to be in the same class with Honourable Supa Mandiwanzira. I worked as an Information Officer with the then Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications for five years till 2000. From that time l was studying and adding to my qualifications and working in various capacities for both Government and Private sector organisations in Public Relations, Communications or Marketing roles. I have worked for Afdis, NSSA, Anti Corruption Commission and lastly for the Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe. Three years ago, I voluntarily resigned from my last job with no plan B in mind.
- When did you start doing jewellery?
The jewellery project started by accident. As indicated earlier l did not have plan B when l left my last job to the surprise of my family, friends and myself too. As l was at home, I used to go to church on Sunday and interact with various people including one lady, a Mrs Luwizhi, who was unknowingly going to lead me to my plan B. She invited me to her place for jewellery training, but l always evaded her after church, knowing she would ask me that same question, “When are you coming for jewellery training?” In fact, inside of me l was sulking thinking why is this lady inviting me to do such a menial project which l had always assorted with witch craft, poverty and done mostly by old grannies in rural areas! How wrong l was. I thought with my MBA from UZ’s Graduate School of Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Management from South Africa Institute of Marketing Management ( IMM), a Bachelors Degree in English and Communication Studies, a Diploma in Public Relations and another Diploma in Mass Communication, jewellery was obviously out of the list of my plan B choices.
However, to make peace with her and not to appear rude to a church colleague, l agreed and enrolled for jewellery training class. It was one day on a Saturday. They were six of us. After training l got so excited and first thing on Monday morning was at the bead shop waiting to buy supplies. I would then augment my training knowledge with YouTube videos, and by the end of the week, PLAN B HAD FALLEN FROM HEAVEN AND I GLADLY EMBRACED IT!
- What made you decide to do it?
I decided to do jewellery because it allowed me to bring out the creativity in me, to notice the creativity of other jewellers on newspaper stories and pictures, magazines, public walking about doing their thing. I must admit soon after training l ceased to watch “news” on tv. Instead, l watched the jewellery pieces worn by players in the news…the news readers, people in the news etc.
- Describe your jewellery and the materials you use.
My jewellery is a fusion of modern and ethnic styles. I have been reading a lot about changing trends and tastes in the international markets. That the market is now so focused on preserving the environment and prefer materials that are degradable in terms of many things, clothing, cutlery, jewellery etc included. I am trying to move more towards using materials like leather, wood, fabric etc
- Who buys your jewellery?
My jewellery appeals mostly to the mature, professional who understands the importance of accessorising outfits and looking good to match their various roles at work, at home and in society.
Once in a while, we do pieces for males and children but that is not our target market.
- How do you get your customers to notice your jewellery?
Since lockdown in March 2020 and well before that, i have always participated at weekend exhibitions mostly held by INGA CREATIVES, thanks to Coach Mazvita Sabondo, the brains behind the INGA project. I have also attended other exhibitions and workshops where we network with others and get referrals for our jewellery. I have also managed to have some few pharmacies stock my product. This is an ongoing project. I would want to approach several boutiques in Harare and other towns to be distributors of my products.
During lockdown, l also enrolled for a digital marketing course with Tofara on line…a great course indeed. I would recommend every person to do it. I managed to revamp the Facebook page for BridgetTheJeweller after the training and also to improve the posts in terms of product picture quality and presentation.
I have been priviledged to make business related presentations to INGA CREATIVE members, starting with one Whattsap group and now the number of groups has risen to three. We are given the opportunity to market our projects to others in that platform.
I have also been invited by the Ministry of Women Affairs to exhibit my products at various events like agricultural shows, official opening ceremonies, especially when done by the First Lady.
- Have you ever exported some of your work?
My first order was to the United Kingdom. A friend saw my products on my Whattsap status and ordered various pieces worth USD100. I was so excited and have exported to other countries through colleagues here who show pictures of my products to their family and friends in the diaspora.
At times, I call myself the mobile advertiser. I always wear my pieces and carry with me posters, business cards, notebook and samples each time l leave the house. I always come across people complImenting my pieces and some place orders there and then.
- If yes, how did you do it, if not what were the challenges?
There are still challenges even in the method i use to export products. We have to look for someone going to the order destination country and the customer has to have a relative who pays up this side. The exports l have done to date are not for large orders. It is my wish to do so in the coming year.
My challenge is also that l do not yet have the capacity to honour very large orders.
- What are your future plans for this business?
The future plan is to improve the course and have a School of Jewellery offering certificates and Diplomas, here in Zimbabwe we do not yet have that.
Another plan is to open a jewellery shop initially in Harare and then expand later.
We are also mulling the idea of supplying jewellery materials. There are very few players in this industry at the moment in Zimbabwe.
- How would you encourage a young woman looking to start a jewellery business?
I get very excited when l train women, both young and old. I enjoy receiving messages full of joy when tell me, “mom l have made my first sell and l am so excited to have to make my own money this way!” The jewellery course is an empowering course. I always form a group of those l train and are willing to be added in. This is where we encourage each other ans share knowledge on markets, exhibition strategies, product pricing, product packaging, taking product pictures, product display, developing a business plan, among other business related topics.
Starting a jewellery business is very easy, with USD30, one can hit the ground running. What is needed is to have an open mind, to have a quest for knowledge, to identify a mentor, and to make Youtube your go-to- place for everything.
One also needs to make nice, neat pieces. The jewellery art is in the finishing. How does one finish up a product determines their success at selling the product to the next customer.
One has to have an outgoing character, a liking for people in general, because people make your business succeed.
- How can customers get in touch with you?
Customers can get in touch with us on the following numbers:
■ +263 712264523
■ +263 782 730 007 ( Business Whattsap)