WITH a sewing machine that was quickly gathering dust in her small tailor shop, doom was written all over Ms Grace Shamhu (52)’s face.
The mushrooming of second-hand clothes dealers compounded her woes.
The year was 2018, and hope of a better fortune was fast fading for Ms Shamhu.
As if that was not enough when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020 Ms Shamhu thought her world had crumbled.
However, amid the despair, there was a silver lining for Ms Shamhu’s business.
She has struck gold, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agony is gone as Ms Shamhu managed to strike an export deal for her tailor-made face masks.
Her face masks are now being exported to Ireland, thanks to a deal that was facilitated by her friend’s Diaspora-based daughter.
“Covid-19 brought with it opportunities that I never imagined. There were job losses as Covid-19 took its toll on industries and Small Medium Enterprises (SME). However, mine was a different ball game.
“For us in this line of business, working from home was not a new phenomenon. At one time, I contemplated selling my sewing machine, but God had something in store for me. Boom, I struck the face mask export deal to Ireland,” said Ms Shamhu.
Ms Shamhu was contacted by her friend’s daughter after the latter had seen a WhatsApp advert that the former was sewing face masks and supplying boutiques in Mutare.
She made an initial order of 250 masks which Ms Shamhu charged her US$250.
“At first I thought it was a joke, but she paid me before dispatching the order. As I was still recovering from this shock, I received more orders from her. I am still supplying local boutiques, but I charge them half the price that I charge the export market.
“My shop is now busy these days. You cannot believe it that I almost threw in the towel in 2018,” she said.
Ms Shamhu also said her masks were in demand and would do anything possible to protect her new ‘gold’ mine.
In North Ireland, the wearing of face masks is still mandatory in public places.
“I am making hay while the sun is still shining. I have an order that is ready for export. I utilised the digital platforms that were at my disposal that time and got more than what I had bargained. It is suffice to say that in this time and age, digital platforms should be fully exploited,” she said.
Ms Shamhu’s friend, Ms Belinda Nyagomo said her colleague had over the years been struggling to put food on the table for her children and grandchildren before the pandemic.
“Ms Shamhu was struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic. In-fact, she had turned to vending. She had erected a small vending stall outside her shop, but the national lockdown put her out of that line of business. The face mask export deal came as a surprise to her,” said Ms Nyagomo.
In an interview, Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) president, Ms Benita Goneso said it was common knowledge that informal traders should utilise the available digital platforms, and to convert them into markets like what Ms Shamhu did, otherwise, they would not be able to adjust to the new normal and continue to feel the heat of the Covid-19’s devastating economic effects.
“Informal traders across the country should learn to adapt to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, and have developed marketplaces on social networks like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. If you sell your goods to the right market, you will definitely move mountains like what Ms Shamhu did,” she said.
“There is need for all informal traders to embrace digital platforms regardless of their location especially during this Covid-19 pandemic era. Take Ms Shamhu for instance, she stays in the peri-urban area of Odzi, and through digital platforms, she connected with a client in Ireland who has become her regular client. Her life has changed for the better,” added Ms Goneso.