Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior Lifestyle Writer
When her age mates are still pondering what to do in life, Pauline Mapisa already has a full plate, in fact, a spilling one for her age. Most of her peers have just graduated from University and others have been looking for employment, not concerned about business ideas.
The 25-year-old wedding stylist is miles ahead, pulling a load that might appear too heavy for her age. But she is up to the task and has been involved in about 400 weddings so far. Hers is a trade of cakes, gowns, candles, flowers and all that glitters to make weddings colourful.
She now decorates close to 100 weddings per year, shopping for ornaments, silverware, glassware artifacts and wedding dresses from South Africa, China and Turkey.
She bakes cakes for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and corporate functions. Mapisa is living proof that with passion and determination everything is possible. She has mega plans for the future with mind and heart set on the greatest possible achievement.
Starting off with baking cakes to sell at St Francis of Asisi High School in Chivhu, Mapisa has grown into a household name in as far as weddings and celebrations are concerned.
“My mother taught me how to bake. She was not in it for business but, seeing how good her delicacies were, I carried them to school. My friends enjoyed the confectioneries and it inspired me to take a leaf from my mother to bake for my friends. That is how the business slowly began,” she said.
Through the small business, Mapisa was earning enough to cover most of her needs at the age of 14.
She continued learning from her mother and following established people in the trade. Today she competes with those who paid thousands to be taught at culinary schools.
After successfully building her brand in cakes Mapisa then turned to wedding decor. Imagine not hiring a wedding planner for your wedding but rather choosing to do it on your own. “My first encounter with decor was at church as part of a team that did all decorations. I was good at it.
“I however started doing it professionally in 2014, decorating my wedding. I asked my husband to trust me with funds instead of hiring someone else, and he took a chance on me; in the end everything turned out great,” she said.
An exquisite wedding decor turned her into a star among her peers and family. Word spread that she was good at it, and in no time she was decorating for others under her company Wedding Gallery.
Asked what was her price range, Mapisa said her lowest charge for decorating a wedding is US$700 with the highest charge going up to USD$4000.
“My charges depend on what one needs for their wedding for example someone can hire from tents, chairs and everything else needed for their decor while other would hire you to decorate a venue that already has chairs, tables and other essentials,” she said.
Some may consider her charges a bit much but Mapisa is adamant on the fairness of her pricing.
“To get your dream wedding decoration, the exquisite, classy and trendy decor costs a lot of money. I go shopping basing on my client’s vision, going to as far as China and it costs money.
“There are some of our competitors who charge way less but they usually don’t stay long in the game because they won’t be considering that the expensive material they use decorating would need replacements and top-up,” she said.
Also to justify her charges, Mapisa said she employs five people to work for two days on a single event’s decor.
Since she started out in decor, many trends have changed. She keeps on learning through reading magazines, watching television shows on decorations and observing what colleagues in the industry, be it local or international, are doing.
“In 2014 it was more about colour but now it’s more about using white with a touch of another colour. Now decor is more about flowers bringing out the colour theme,” said Mapisa.
Her favourite trending colours are gold and burgundy. “It’s subtle especially when the flowers are burgundy and the chairs are gold but at the end of the day it’s all about what my clients want and I doing my best to bring it to life,” she said.
Mapisa is booked at least four months in advance to decorate a wedding. This is to give her enough time to shop and gather around all resources needed to give her client’s dream event.
“My process starts with meeting my clients, listening to want they want and working around their idea to produce a sample table then improve from there.
“There are however some brides who come with no clue of what they want so I have to help them choose colours, choose the best designs and colours for their bridesmaids that will match with the decor,” she said.
The major operational challenge Mapisa faces is loss of material to people who take away some of her ornaments and artifacts as souvenir.
“Most people who steal decor items are women. I remember at one time I decorated a wedding in Waterfalls and this woman who was actually driving a Mercedes Benz stole our table number. I was later informed by a young girl who saw her,” she said.
Starting out adopting her brothers’ bedroom as a showroom for her decor, to hiring offices and recently to move to a bigger office space with an equally bigger showroom in Eastlea, Mapisa’s journey has been interesting.
In tough times her family and friends especially her husband and mother have stood by her, supporting her to realise her dream.
“God has been faithful; what I do is beyond my age,” she said.
She is now determined to own a wedding venue, a one stop shop for everything needed in hosting a perfect wedding.
“The venue will bring out my company’s name, Wedding Gallery. It will have showrooms for cakes, decor, and wedding dresses among other things — thus a gallery because galleries offer everything,” said Mapisa.
The determination that has seen her hosting over 400 weddings pushes her in pursuing her dreams.