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"There's no point complaining without doing anything" - Interview with Rudo Nyangulu
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
October 06, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Rudo Nyangulu

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Rudo NyanguluRudo Nyangulu is a lawyer and photographer who has a passion for business and development. Having faced difficulties as an entrepreneur and spoken with other Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who were facing the same challenges Rudo founded Stimulus, a networking hub whose primary objective is to create an environment where entrepreneurs are able to establish and grow their business effectively. Rudo is also the founder of the art of Being Humane, a not for profit organisation that seeks to utilise the creative skills of volunteers to tell the stories of marginalised persons and communities and deliver sustainable solutions for their development.

Why did you start Stimulus?
I moved back to Zimbabwe in December last year and when you relocate the first place you start is to find people you know. So I looked up every person I grew up with that still lived in Zimbabwe. Barring two, all of them, were all either employed and actively pursuing an entrepreneurial pursuit, or they had set up shop were in business and doing their thing. They were struggling. Some of them because they didn-t know how to run a business, some of them because they knew they didn-t have the know-how but could not afford to outsource certain elements of their business. Some of them didn-t have the network or didn-t know anybody so they couldn-t get appointments to pitch their business to anyone. Some just had no money, there was no way to get money, and things weren-t working. I sat there and thought 'this is crazy!- There were so many great ideas and skills being wasted. We need solutions. Listen

That-s when I decided to do something about it. I-m a big believer in being the change you want to see in the world. There-s no point in complaining without doing anything. We-re sitting here going we need sanctions to be lifted so that we can get foreign investors to come and build our country. And I-m thinking no, we-ve got amazing intellectual capital in this country. Our people invent things, design things, create things every day, why not enable and empower them to grow and become formidable businesses? They will grow the economy. So that was the beginnings of Stimulus.

What has the response to Stimulus been like?
We-ve had over 100 people attend the meetings during the first month, and we-ve managed to talk TN Bank into giving us an account. They-re updating their banking system, and they couldn-t create a new product, but what they have done is create a savings type account that can work, you know with the card and everything else and have your company on it. They-re also working with us to create a new product for their new banking system that will be an SME banking solution. And everyone who opens an account now, all their stuff will be automatically migrated. There-s also a free invoicing system, which PHP business systems launched at our main event in September. It allows you to do invoicing, quotations receipting email clients etc and that-s a free service for anyone.

I expected organic growth, and the response to Stimulus has been wonderful. People are doing business in Stimulus, they-re giving each other work, and referring each other. And there are people all over the world who want Stimulus to come to their city, and comment on events. Now we-re working really hard on building Stimulus online, which will allow people who are not in Zimbabwe to interact. We-re looking at podcasts and webcasts, videos and downloads, and planning a roll out process.

So from your work with Stimulus what would you say are the biggest problems facing start-ups in Zimbabwe?
Money, training and mindset. The mindset is that because they don-t know anyone or have the money it-s hard. But in the corporate world you have people asking how do we make money by giving the little person our money? Or if a project is going to raise 20 million why should we give you two million? It-s simple things like time is money, and respecting the other person-s time. People need to think differently about how they approach business. If you don-t respect your skill and your trade, what you-re doing and your product, if you don-t respect it, nobody else will. Fighting that poverty mindset of 2008 is probably the hardest thing.

Do you think the government has done SME-s a disfavour by talking about on the one hand, indigenisation and nationalisation resources, and on the other hand, and this has the bigger voice talking about encouraging foreign direct investment?
I think those are two conflicting messages. Neither of those deal with SMEs that start their own indigenous businesses and have intellectual capital or intellectual property and are doing something. None of any of that has anything to do with developing organic homegrown businesses. I think that-s where the failing is. It-s betraying the cause that the whole programme of indigenisation is set out for. Because the point is to empower local people.

Tell me about the art of being humane?
The art of being humane started in 2010 as a blog that told stories and tried to be meaningful. The idea behind it being the use of photography and just speaking in general as a way to share stories that matter. It grew from when I went to the St Giles annual dinner last month. They were trying to raise $15 000 to buy an incinerator for medical waste so they could hopefully make some money. But I was disappointed because they only raised $4 000. Not many individual people in that room were moved enough to give something. So my friend Diana and I decided to do something about St Giles and I suggested turning the art of being humane blog into an organisation that supports people and other organisations that help the general public. We are working with St Giles, a charity called Helping Hands based in the UK that helps disabled orphans, the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust, and a charity in Malawi that deals with women dying in childbirth because of lack of blood.

Visit the fact sheet

Audio File

  • Starting Stimulus
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 26sec
    Date: October 06, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.31MB

  • Empower local people
    Language: English
    Duration: 33sec
    Date: October 06, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 520KB

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