Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
Every girl dreams of becoming a fashionista, walking on the red carpet while dressed in the fanciest outfit.
Rarely do these dreams come true.
For Rumbidzai Chigova, the years she spent browsing through fashion magazines, praying that one day she would own a fashion house did not go to waste.
While she might not have reached the pinnacle of her greatest wish yet, but she is not far off the mark.
She is the brains behind Designer Closet, an upmarket boutique that specialises in bridal wear, evening wear and different apparels for discerning men and women.
“Fashion is in my blood. I love dressing up and looking good,” she revealed in an interview recently.
However, because of her disadvantaged background, her love for chic and glamorous outfits could not go beyond marvelling at the magazines, since her widowed mother could not afford such luxuries.
“I did not despair. I knew that one day I would be able to buy or even sell some of the outfits that I used to marvel at in magazines,” she recalled.
Soon after finishing her secondary education level, she enrolled for a secretarial course and attained a diploma in Business Administration before joining a financial institution.
Rumbi still maintained her passion for fashion, which had become more elaborate through her chic but modest dressing.
Now that she could now afford to buy some of the outfits she used to marvel at, Rumbi always looked put-together and dressed perfectly, earning respect and admiration from peers.
“During weekends I would cross into SA and Botswana to buy clothes for resale to my workmates and friends, who were impressed by my selection of clothes.”
As fate would have it, in 2011, she woke up one day jobless after she was retrenched from the financial institution where she had been working.
Because she was already supplementing her salary by selling clothes, Rumbi decided to use part of her retrenchment package to boost her business.
That decision marked the beginning of her journey towards the fulfilment of her long cherished dream of becoming an entrepreneur in fashion.
“It was risky, but I realised that it was my only opportunity of turning my dream into a reality,” she enthused.
She got encouragement from family and friends who would buy different clothing items, barely a few months after opening.
Buoyed by the sales and growing killer sense of fashion, Rumbi made her maiden trip to China.
The decision to venture into bridal wear was not part of her bigger plan, but was spurred by incessant inquiries from people who had seen her bridal regalia at her wedding and wanted to know where she bought it from.
“I also realised that I would be able to grow my clientele if I focused on bridal, evening wear and clothing for red carpet events. Ordinary clothes were being sold everywhere anyway, so this was one area which I knew I was going to do well,” she added.
Because of the ever-changing fashion trends especially in red carpet events, Rumbi now has to travel around the globe to get the latest trending outfits.
Her business frequently takes her to Asia, Middle East and Europe where she sources some of the merchandise. When she is not travelling, Rumbi spends most of her time watching fashion shows on television, going through fashion magazines and networking with friends getting insight into trending apparel.
Rumbi, who takes pride in what she does, says there is nothing as satisfying as getting good feedback from customers after dressing them well on their special occasion.
“Apart from networking and advertising, you also have to rely on referrals from people whom you have done business with,” she said.
Like any other business, running such a business has not been without challenges, with defaulting clients being the major one that has been threatening to cripple her operations.
“Some people hire bridal wear on credit promising to settle soon after the wedding but they become evasive. As a result you suffer serious financial losses when the business should be growing,” she said.
She also bemoaned high customs duty taxes charged for imported goods, making the business difficult to sustain.
However, despite the challenges, Rumbi has plans to grow her brand and is already working on opening another branch soon.
A firm believer in women economic empowerment, Rumbi called on women to explore opportunities within their midst’s rather than be hindered by financial limitations.
“Women should first build their goals around their visions and dreams. Once they have mapped their destiny they can look for capital, and no matter how little, it will give them a good start,” she said.