Happiness Mchomvu, Coordinator, Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme – Tanzania
Words of Wisdom: “We should never give up, we have a lot of challenges in Africa, but there are a lot of opportunities. We should grab them. We need to get information to grab those opportunities. African women always persevere.“
Expertise – Micro-Business
1. What makes a successful business
2. Where to get support to build your business
3. Opportunities and obstacles in Tanzania
How to be flexible both personally and professionally to meet the demands and achieve your dreams.
Happiness Mchomvu, Coordinator, Women Entrepreneurship Development – Tanzania
From acquiring a degree in food processing to have a huge significant impact on the entrepreneurial landscape of Tanzania. Happiness has trained over 300 trainers and over 9,800 entrepreneurs on food processing and entrepreneurship skills (96% which were women).
She, along with others, created the only food processors association in the country – TAFOPA, the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce (TWCC) and the Association of Food Processors known as Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme (WED).
In 2011 Happiness received an international award for her contribution to the economic development of women in Tanzania by the International Alliance for Women (TIAW).
Happiness Mchomvu, Coordinator, Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme – Tanzania
Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly edited for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the video version www.wisdomexchangetv.com. We welcome comments on the Wisdom Exchange TV website.
You have trained over 300 trainers, who in-turn have trained 9,800 people, 96% being women. Fifty percent of them have gone on to hire an additional 6000 Tanzanians, all in food processing industry.
What characteristics do these successful entrepreneurial women poses?
They have managed to be successful because of encouragement and follow-up. These women also:
- Seek information
- They don’t give up
- Pursue their goals
- Ensure what they produce is good quality
- Follow-up on commitments
What skills are be needed for an Entrepreneur in food processing to ensure they create a sustainable business?
- Produce a good quality product
- Package the product so it’s appealing to the customers’ eye
- Bring the product to market
- Know the market that will value the product and who will buy it.
Are there some tips you can provide that would help people to package their product to sell?
- Packaging needs to be appealing
- Durable packaging – It cant leak
- Label should be seen by the customer
- Visually appealing
- The price to market is very important. It must be is well positioned.
- The expire date needs to put on packaging
- The manufacture date
Are there specific colours of packaging you would recommend that would increase the appeal to the customer?
It is difficult, because different people are drawn to different colours. It is personal choice.
Africans like bright colours, and tend to be more drawn to them.
Based on your statistics, fifty percent of people are not successful in food processing. Why do entrepreneurs not succeed?
- They lack the skills of entrepreneurship
- Sometimes they don’t have the character to build a business
- Did not receive encouragement
- They may not be supported by family
- May not get enough financing
- Some people give up. Sometimes women attend training just to be outside the home, to connect with other women. Their intention of really pursuing a career in food processing never really existed.
Was the training free?
When we started this program it was suppose to be free. But when you give something for free, particularly when you are developing a business skill, the participants often tend to have less value for it.
When we started the program, we were told not to charge a fee, but we charged a small one. Then as we evolved, we started to increase the fee. The more people paid, the more people went on to create successful business. They definitely valued their time and the fee.
In several of the interviews I have conducted, there has been a definite emphasis on food processing because it can reduce waste and increase revenues. You mentioned that there can be challenges if you are a small or mid-size company, for example you mentioned bread baking industry. As a lot of women started producing bread, the bigger organizations would come in to consolidate.
In another case you mentioned that you were in the textile business for the National Textile Corporation. You said it started well, however, with an increase of second hand clothing being donated and imported from external sources into Tanzania, it had a negative impact on business and reduced the textile industry in Tanzania, ultimately costing jobs.
How does a small food processor or a manufacture of textiles continue to be competitive when large organizations or donations saturate the market?
Entrepreneurs will survive.
Those who give up easy will never make it as an entrepreneur regardless of who comes into the market.
Bakers of bread were doing very well, but when the large organizations came in they had to change. Perhaps they went from bread making to peanut butter making. Those who receive challenges move on to other products.
Think about diversification.
Would you recommend people diversify so they are not as vulnerable?
No, we actually discourage women from diversifying. Most of these people are small or micro-entrepreneurs and they have small amount of resources such as capital. If the entrepreneur spreads her money into several businesses she will not concentrate on the one area and limit growth.
Better to focus on one thing and make it grow.
If an entrepreneurial woman fails she will look somewhere else for an opportunity. She has to do something and bring money to the family. She doesn’t want to wait for the man to bring money home.
Does your organization train women on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and processing anything so they can transfer skills?
Our program started in food processing, but it has moved to other industries such as natural fibers. We also focus on sock making, handy crafts, textile designing and carpentry. So if you fail in one area, you can pursue others. We have experts in different fields to assist in development.
What would it take to get these small organizations to grow? What needs to happen externally or for them personally to become national or international?
Apart from having entrepreneurial spirit, they need:
- Financial support
- Policy support – help growth of enterprises
- Family support – women need support from husbands. The women that have managed to grow got support from their husbands. The relationship matters inside the home.
When they fail in business it is because:
- Policies in the country were not supportive to them.
- Families, particularly their husbands, did not support them.
For example, in food processing, you have to apply to different standards within Tanzania or to the country you want to send your product to. All enterprises in our program have to do testing to see if they quality and the standards meet the requirements.
That cost a lot. If they do not receive the support they wont have the money to do the testing. We have provided the testing for free so this will help them get through the first three years. After that they will pay for testing services.
If the government doesn’t support local food processing it is very difficult for these entrepreneurs to survive. They need assistance at the beginning.
The premises have a lot of regulations from government and authorities that seed the growth of food processing. If regulations are not supportive to growth of enterprises, especially micro-enterprises, then it kills them.
What does the individual need to do to be successful? Do you think small enterprises in Tanzania want to grow their businesses, or is it enough for them just to feed their family and to meet status quo?
Yes, and no.
Most entrepreneurs want to make money.
You don’t grow by spreading your money horizontally, but vertically.
Most of our entrepreneurs like spreading their money horizontally. They don’t think they will perform well if they put all their money in one basket.
Our institutions, which deal with business development services, need to invest in the growth of enterprises by giving them training. Those entrepreneurs also need to be open to having training.
Many of the entrepreneurs who will come for training look like they are receiving the information, but they all don’t apply the information.
You are now moving from focusing on food processing to Natural Fibers. Where do you see the opportunity for entrepreneurs in this area of expertise?
In Tanzania and in most African countries, we have plenty of opportunities; it is just that we don’t see them.
We have a lot of natural resources in our countries. It is just a matter of extracting those natural resources, creating product and selling them to the right market.
If people evaluate our natural fibers, there are plenty of products they can produce.
Some of the natural fibers Tanzania has are:
- Bamboo – all over Tanzania
- Palm trees – make something out of palm leaves
- Coconut – use the fibers and the coconut
- Grass – make product out of that. We have strong grass, and in some cases as strong as steel.
You make products such as table, chairs, cars and even airplanes. Boeing is using natural fibers to makes parts of aircraft.
You manage several independent trainers, how do you make sure that your trainers are training at a high caliber?
The trainers we have in food processing, we train them to become trainers. They take four to five weeks of training so they know what they are suppose to impact. They are trained by us to use certain materials and procedures and they impart them to entrepreneurs.
It is easier to have a systematic way to train. We need this because food processing needs to done to specifications and we need high caliber training to ensure those specifications are met.
Once they are trained, we then follow the trainers and assess and support them. We watch for consistency.
We also follow-up with the entrepreneurs to see if what they are learning they are actually practicing.
The Entrepreneurs evaluate the trainers daily, weekly and after the course. This is very important part of the process. Some trainers are dropped if they don’t perform to our specifications.
What do you feel has been the most significant impact you have made in your career to date?
Specifically, I’m proud I have created women entrepreneurs.
I have shared my knowledge with women entrepreneurs, and they have accepted that knowledge and have been able to grow. To see these women make money, and some of who are now millionaires. I’m glad to see women who started with nothing and now drive nice cars.
I know they appreciate me my contribution.
What does success mean to you?
Is seeing people change their lives. Being part of that process where they have made their lives better because of my input.
What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
To get women to grow. I don’t like to see women doing the same thing that they have been doing for 10 years.
Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of yourself discovered when you push the edge of your comfort zone). What is something that you are uncomfortable doing, but you need to continue to do, in order to make you as successful as you are?
I am from a big family. Some of my family doesn’t really like to talk we like to do. As a result I studied engineering, which focuses more on doing more than talking. It was difficult for me to train, because I need to do a lot more talking.
You have been working here for 20 years, have you ever implemented a project or initiative that didn’t work? Could you tell us why it didn’t work and what you would do differently now?
When we started this program we brought together women in food processing, but it was difficult for them to get packaging materials locally in small quantities i.e. Two, three, ten bottles.
We weren’t focused on providing packaging materials, but we realized if we didn’t focus on it, we really haven’t moved the objective forward – bringing products to market.
This activity of providing package material for entrepreneurs was outside the scope of our project, now it takes most of our time.
The micro entrepreneurs really depend on us now to help provide or be a conduit to obtaining small quantities of packaging.
If there is one thing you would do differently in pursuit of your success, what would that be?
I think I would have worked as an entrepreneur. Through this process I discovered that I’m a good marketer.
I realize I’m more of a doer, then just talking about doing it. I do have an entrepreneurial spirit.
What would be next for you?
Start a business.
I have a nursery school now; I would like to give it more time.
I would also like to use natural fibers and create a business.
If you can give leadership lessons to others what advice would you give?
- To guide people to do better.
Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old daughter?
As a woman, the sky is the limit. Work hard and pursue what ideas come to your mind.
Q. What do you wish you were told at that age?
There is plenty of love in this world. There are people that will guide and lead you through, so you should never give up.
Words of Wisdom for African women
“We should never give up, we have a lot of challenges in Africa, but there are a lot of opportunities. We should grab them. We need to get information to grab those opportunities. African women always persevere.”
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