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An Interview with Michel Tshuma

An Interview with Michel Tshuma

Michel Tshuma – An African Young Entrepreneur Making A Change & Taking Matters In Her Own Hands

Michel Tshuma was interviewed by the Founder of BizSkills Academy, Norman Musegimana; on the 6th of March, 2021.

“Thank you so much for joining us, Michel. Today I’m very excited to welcome Michel Tshuma from Zimbabwe. She’s a fantastic young lady. Student at the University of Zimbabwe and it’s been interesting and amazing to watch her, her journey, joining BizSkills Academy, being one of the people who are very active on the platform, making sure that she participates in all of the competitions we have on the platform. Winning – I think we warned she should not be winning anymore cos she wants to win everything.

So, I was surprised a few weeks ago when I heard from Michel and she told me she was launching her products and I was like, ‘wait a moment, you are launching your product?’ And she was like ‘yes, I have been working on something and it’s ready to go’.

So, Michel is very hardworking, very very driven, and if I can describe her as probably one of the youngest penitential leaders that we have on the continent today, probably time will prove me right.

So, where should I start? I think one of the things that I want to bring out from you or I want viewers who are watching us know is… Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Probably which country are you located in, where were you born, what are some of the interesting things that you have probably come across as you have been growing up and in the past couple of years?”

NORMAN

“Okay, so, I was born in Bulawayo, that is the second-largest city in Zimbabwe. So, currently, I am a student. But before, I have done diamond cutting and polishing so, I have a diploma in that. But then I, later on, realized it wasn’t really what I am up for so I decided to change programs that’s when I applied to the University of Zimbabwe to do Biomedical Science”.

MICHEL

“And if you don’t mind, can you tell us why you had to switch programs and why you had to do – maybe you opted for the medical science program?”

NORMAN

“Ok, so, well, all the mechanisms of how the human body parents have always been of interest to me. So, biomedical sciences, they really give a fantastic insight into how a person is made up as well as how they can co-relate to everything surrounding them. So, therefore, it really is my hope that with this knowledge and skills that I’m getting from Biomedical science, I can be able to one day have a research facility, but even do much better things”.

MICHEL

“Fantastic. So, if someone wanted to like – someone has never met you, they’re just seeing you probably on this call or maybe listening to a podcast about your reading a blog about you. I want to know some of the things that you would want them to kind of take away from who you are as a person, not as an entrepreneur.

So, one of the things that I want to note that I like to know, probably as a person also is what scares you as a person? Like what are some of the things that really scare you?”

NORMAN

“I would say death. I’m scared of death”.

MICHEL

“Only?”

NORMAN

“Yeah, I think so”.

MICHEL

“Why is that the only thing that scares you?”

NORMAN

“Because with death you don’t know when is the last moment, you’re in this world. When your loved ones will be gone, it just happens any moment, it’s not predictable”.

MICHEL

“Does that probably influence you as a person, some of the things you choose to do because when you know probably death is the only thing that we all go through as human beings and it’s inevitable and unpredictable? Does it mean that you want to do your best today to make sure that when that day comes that you have done your best?”

NORMAN

“I want to do my best to make sure that even if tomorrow I am to wake dead, I’ll know that at least I have tried my best to do something”.

MICHEL

“So, and on the same subject of trying to know you better, what do you believe is your strongest quality as a person?”

NORMAN

“Well, I believe my strongest quality is determination. I am always determined to finish that which I set out to do. If I say I’m going to do this, I have to make sure that I am determined to focus on that only and finish it”.

MICHEL

“Lovely, that’s fantastic. And so, if someone has never met you, they’ve just heard that you’re scared about death, that you are very determined, but they still want to know you, to know more about you as a person. How will you describe yourself to this new person in just a few words?”

NORMAN

“I will describe myself as someone who’s enthusiastic, adventurous, also curious, creative, ambitious, and passion-driven”.

MICHEL

(Chuckles) “All the good things. Some of those ones we share, some of those ones I have a bit of them”.

NORMAN

“Okay, that’s good to know”.

MICHEL

“Yeah, those are very fantastic qualities and some of us had the opportunity to chat with you, to see a bit how you relate with other people on the platform. I think I have seen a bit of that. I can witness it; like, I can stand and say ‘yes’, I know some of these qualities I have experienced, witnessed them myself even if I am yet to meet you.

So, and that’s very remarkable. And so, one of the other things I’d want to know is how did you end up in BizSkills because we were running Facebook maybe promotional campaigns and you could have chosen many more other programs or other things to do. Why did you choose BizSkills and how did you end up in BizSkills Academy?”

NORMAN

“So, well, to be honest, I remember someone WhatsApp me and asks me, ‘are you business-minded?’ So, I was like, what kind of a question is that? So, I didn’t know. Who is this? Who’s this asking? And then they were like, is someone just out of the blue? So, I just said, well, because curious obviously so I said, yes, I am. And they said, OK, so you just have to give me your email details and then we’ll take it from there. So, I can’t remember who it was. It just happened, so I guess that’s how I just got signed up.

MICHEL

“So, it was not even on the radar, right?”

NORMAN

“Yes”.

MICHEL

“And what has been your- how would you describe your experience up to today?”

NORMAN

“Well, I’ve gained a lot of insights into the process of developing a business idea and the things that need to be taken into consideration, like market research, discovering your potential customers, etc. and this is, of course, a different experience and a change from that which I do for my program”.

MICHEL

“And I think those are some of the concerns we have in some of the things that we have really wanted, help people to kind of understand from a different public dimension. And what I usually say when I’m talking to people is that one of the things that that I know for a fact is that everybody sees everybody, they have an idea and they think this idea is a potential one-million-dollar idea.

But it’s very difficult to get an idea from your head and start working on it. So that’s why you see that our programs focus more on that space so you can help people to connect with who they are as a people, what they believe in, some of the things that they enjoy doing. And this way, maybe they can get the courage to be able to start to make that first step.

Can you probably – now that you are talking about the business ideas and how to start? Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing from an entrepreneurship perspective?”

NORMAN

“Well, I’m developing Herbal yogurt. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment”.

MICHEL

“And why herbal yogurt? Because you are a medical science student, right?”

NORMAN

“Yeah. So, I have a keen interest in herbal products. So, Jean-Paul on this platform in BizSkills. So, when I told him that’s what I am interested in herbal products. He was the one who suggested I try making herbal yogurt. So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do and so far, it’s been going well”.

MICHEL

“So, what you are saying is that you met someone on the platform who has a background in food science, and then you had a chat and then you told him what you are interested in doing and then he supported you to make it happen?”

NORMAN

“Yes, he did”.

MICHEL

“And what made trust that Jean-Paul is the right person to help you do it because he’s from Uganda, right?”

NORMAN

“Yes, he’s from Uganda”

MICHEL

“Yeah. So, and you are from Zimbabwe. That’s from East-South Africa”.

NORMAN

“Yeah, because he gave me how to try to make the yogurt. So, I said ok, let me experiment on this and see if it works, and surprisingly, it worked out on my first trial and so I was really thrilled and excited so I decided to go for it”.

MICHEL

“So, it’s usually difficult for people to believe that once I make something happen, that I can also manage to get a client for my product or my service. Can you take us a little bit through that process of making sure that you have successfully developed your herbal yogurt going an extra mile in trying to find that first client that the first person who can pay for this yogurt?”

NORMAN

“Well, to be honest, I am not yet finished with developing herbal yogurt cos there are so many things to consider. But When I was still doing this, I said to myself, why can’t I be selling the normal yogurt I can make and start making a profit from it. So, I decided – ok, let me first give some samples to people to try out to see if they like it and they can also tell me what can I do to make it more pleasant enough for them to buy. And so, yeah, I did that and last week someone said they want 5 liters. So, that’s when I decided to buy the packaging and start taking orders for delivery”.

MICHEL

“So, you have already sold 5 liters of your yogurt?”

NORMAN

“Yes. Actually, 2 liters will be going on Monday. I will be delivering another”.

MICHEL

“To the same client or this is a new client”.

NORMAN

“New client. And yeah, most people are beginning to order and I have to get the supply for milk. And then I can fulfill the orders”.

MICHEL

“That’s very very nice to hear. That’s lovely. And so What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome to develop a product and to have that first person or the second person who’s willing to pay for your product”.

NORMAN

“The challenge is firstly is finding the milk. Finding a supplier was quite difficult but thankfully I managed to find one. Also because we were on lockdown, it was difficult for me to make orders. But since the restriction has been lifted, now is better. So, I can move about and get supplies to make the yogurt.

Also, at first, people were skeptical about trying my yogurt. They were like, you make this at home? How do you make this, How are we sure we should try this? So, it was quite difficult to convince people to try out the product. But as time will have it, they begin to lean in on the idea and now people are beginning to order”.

MICHEL

“Congratulations! That’s fantastic and to be honest, that’s the hardest part because I find that it’s very difficult for people to start but the moment you start and you see how this can actually be, even transform people’s lives, how people can say oh your yogurt is quite different from others, this way I am expecting this now, I am actually enjoying it, it is cost-effective. You start getting more energy and more motivation to do more.

So, if you look at the process of gathering an idea and being able to commercialize it. So you get an idea, you develop a product, you set up a price for the product, you check if the price will probably help you recover all your costs, and now you’ve got clients who are willing to pay what you want them to pay. What do you think is your next step from where you are”.

NORMAN

“Well, I wish I can find a proper place to be able to meet others for as many clients that I can accommodate is what I wish my next step to be”.

MICHEL

“Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. We were talking  I think about two days ago and I was asking if you have a website, if you have a Facebook page. Have you done anything from that perspective?”

NORMAN

“Well, I have only managed to open a Facebook page and it’s called M&J Yoghurt”.

MICHEL

“Fantastic. So, it’s live right now?”

NORMAN

“Yes. No, no, it’s not live yet but if someone checks it out, they can find it on Facebook”.

MICHEL

“Ok. And so, when, I remembered we were also talking about the challenges in getting organic milk or natural milk, I can remember how you described it. Whole Milk”.

NORMAN

“Whole Milk”.

MICHEL

“Yes, can you also tell us why was that a challenge in a country that we know has a lot of great farmers, and also why is it difficult to really get access to whole milk?”

NORMAN

“Okay, first is the connections. You need to know where the farmers are and how to get to them. So, apparently, it is illegal to sell whole milk here in Zimbabwe. It’s pasteurized milk. And At times when you are buying from the store, sometimes the water content may be too high so, it’s under quality.

At first, the milk I got, the quality really didn’t come out nice. As I browsed through to find if there are any more suppliers for milk near my area, I managed to find one and I contacted them, person. I made an order and I managed to go collect the milk”.

MICHEL

“That’s lovely. Challenges all the time. But I think you are also great at navigating them and trying to see how you can actually succeed despite what is happening. How are you able to get the money to invest in the process of making your product?”  

NORMAN

“Well, I used the $10 from one of the competitions that I won in BizSkills”.

MICHEL

“You are kidding me, no stop”.

NORMAN

“I am serious”.

MICHEL

(Chuckles). “Oh, la la. So, you are (chuckles). Michel that’s fantastic. So, I think that’s the entrepreneur spirit, right? That’s fantastic. So, what would you have done if you had not won that competition that we run every week?”

NORMAN

“Well, I would have booked $10 to start this first order. I will definitely still be found $10 and started the product then see how it goes. Well, for most of the things when I was still doing my experiments and trials, I just used some ingredients from the kitchen at home and I try to compromise cos I didn’t have milk and I tried to use powdered milk to see how to make yogurt since I have the process”.

MICHEL

“And do you have the people who have supported you in this journey that probably you want to thank and appreciate or mention?

NORMAN

“Yes, firstly, of course, Jean-Paul, he has been very helpful, and of great assistance, and also my family, and friends. They’ve also been very helpful”.

MICHEL

“That’s fantastic. Without the families it’s very difficult to start because you have to answer so many questions”.

NORMAN

“Yeah, that’s true”.

MICHEL

“And if there is any person who is very very young and I think you’re also very very young and who have all these ideas and who are wondering what should I do, how can I start, where do I need to start from. If they are watching, listening, or reading about you what kind of advice would you give these people?”

NORMAN

“Well, they should not be scared to try new things. They should keep pushing, and despite the circumstances that they may find themselves in, they should try to compromise and see if they can always find a way to make things work”.  

MICHEL

“Lovely, and there’s another question I have for you that I have forgotten. And it’s – if there is something that you advise us to change in BizSkills or to improve, what will that be?”

NORMAN

“So far, I like everything about BizSkills and despite the fact that some of the courses had problems, they were sorted out. So, I don’t think I have any problem”.

MICHEL

“No critique?”

NORMAN

“No”.

MICHEL

“Try to find one, at least one because that’s the only way we can improve. Otherwise, right now I will go and sleep and relax and say oh Michel has said everything works perfectly”.

NORMAN

“Yeah, everything works perfectly except, well, ok, maybe the way the certificates appear. Yeah, if maybe the certificate may seem more authentic. Like if I want to print it, how will someone know it’s authentic?”

MICHEL

“Whoa, ok, that one is very easy actually. If you go into your account, you can copy the link to your unique certificates. So, anyone who is not subscribed to the platform can take that certificate and put it in a browser and they’ll see that you have actually done the course. Those certificates are hosted on our platform.

So, if someone says you’ve not done these courses, you can prove them wrong or right by showing them that link. So that one is a good one. So, is there anything that maybe you would have wished that I asked you or you wanted to share but I haven’t asked you?”

NORMAN

“Maybe, where do I see this business idea going in the future? Well, I hope that I can be able to grow and I can formally register it. And have a range of products for yogurt and also, I want to be able to use it as a trial for health methods and also people who are diabetic, who are vegans also promote the price for obesity”.

MICHEL

“Fantastic, I think those are very very good plans. They have this thing of saying when to start. That once you start, the other things will follow. The other biggest challenge young entrepreneurs have is to find a buyer who is willing to pay the price that they are selling their products at.

So, you’ve already solved two of the main problems that you are supposed to kinda come across. Now I think that as we move forward cos, I have looked at your profile on the platform and you have done an amazing job when it comes to courses. I think you’ve finished all the courses, right?”

NORMAN

“Yeah”.

MICHEL

“Yeah, so that’s really brilliant. I think you are one of the few people who have done it so fast and so my hope is that we can have you in the pitch competition and that we can have you in the incubation program. So that you can continue to see how we can support your journey and probably help you grow faster and probably better and quality and high-level guidance.

Another thing that I probably want you to do is to identify if there are any women entrepreneurship programs in Zimbabwe that you can tap into to probably may get access to finance, probably enroll for mentorship then you can as well look for women empowerment program.

You can also look for youth empowerment programs because you are still young and try to see if you can get additional support that is local from Zimbabwe but as far as entrepreneurship and commercializing the products is required, we’d be here to help as far as you want to validate some of the assumptions that you have about the product in the market, we’ll help to guide you in that journey.

The last thing I want to know is in which year of University are you? Are you almost finishing?”

NORMAN

“No, I’m still in the first year in the first semester”.

MICHEL

“What? First-year and you are starting a business?”

NORMAN

“Yes”.

MICHEL

“Don’t joke around. Do you?”

NORMAN

“I’m serious”

MICHEL

“Oh, that’s fantastic. So, thank you so much for joining us. I am pretty excited to have the opportunity to chat with you. To have the opportunity to be part of your journey. It’s always an honor when you try to do a project and then you really find people who are willing to follow the advice. To follow the guidance, to go through some of these programs, and make use of them.

When we started BizSkills, my goal has always been how can we create 10,000 entrepreneurs in Africa, in the next 5 years. If we can come up with a system or a way of creating 10,000 entrepreneurs in the next 5 years, we can easily create 100,000 entrepreneurs in 5 years. Because we would have developed a system, a way that works, that we believe that really does the job that we want it to.

So, when I hear of someone like you, when I see what you have been able to do from January 20th up till now. It’s kind of a source of fuel, a source of energy, a source of motivation for me now to sit down and probably put up a new course. I can guarantee that in the coming week you’re going to see a new course. When I hear good stuff, I also want to accelerate the pace of this good story.

So, if you’ve been following this conversation, I’ve been chatting with Michel Tshuma. Michel is a first-year medical student at the University of Zimbabwe. Personally, I’ll like to thank her to take the opportunity to join our program, to trust that we can be able to guide her in this journey, and from my own perspective.

I can tell you that I have really been amazed by how great this young lady is, and how determined she is. So, if you’re in Zimbabwe, look for M&J Yoghurt. It will be coming to you soon. You can go on Facebook. She has a Facebook page that is up and running and from wherever you are in the world, if you’re interested in supporting young people in Africa, we can assure you that we are creating these people.

If you are looking to support them from a financial perspective, an advisory perspective, insight perspective, people like Michel are many, and if you really want to get in touch with her, we have her phone number, we have her email.

When she gives us the right to that, we can surely share them with you if you are willing to support her. So, thank you so much, Michel, it’s been an honor to be part of the journey, and I hope that you allow us to continue to be part of this journey”.

NORMAN

“Thank you”.

MICHEL

“Have a wonderful evening”.

NORMAN

“Thanks, have a good day”.

MICHEL

“Okay, bye”.

NORMAN

You can watch the interview here.

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