Ruth Butaumocho : Gender profile
Growing up in a family of business people, Mrs Blessing Mashangwa had no intentions of venturing into business. She yearned for an office job in a big corporate where she would spend hours in a swivel chair, attending important boardroom meetings. However, that was not to be. Faced with an option of becoming a loafer or sell a few cosmetics to make ends meet soon after graduating with a degree in Business studies, she chose the latter.The decision, taken as a survival strategy then, spawned an idea that has since created a business legacy for Mrs Mashangwa and her family.
Mrs Mashangwa co-owns Oceans Collection Perfumes with her husband, Mr Hupenyu Mashangwa.
“I never planned to venture into business. I was destined for office work, but I guess God had other plans,” revealed Mrs Mashangwa in an interview recently.
From a mere idea that the two mooted whilst still dating more than a decade ago, Oceans Collection Perfumes has become household brand in Zimbabwe specialising in generic perfumes and a coterie of complementary beauty products.
Headquartered in Harare, Oceans Collection Perfumes now has distribution branches in nearly every town in Zimbabwe, creating networking marketing opportunities for thousands of men and across social strata.
Together with her husband, they have managed to create a product that has found its way in varied households, from the ordinary person to discerning executives.
Oceans Collection Perfumes has also become a source of livelihood for thousands of people across Zimbabwe, spawning a new breed of network marketing entrepreneurs.
“We ventured into cosmetics by accident.”
Whilst studying for her degree in South Africa, Mrs Mashangwa, born Blessing Muzvongi, would bring into the country a few Avon products for resale as a pastime activity.
With time, her business clientele grew, and when she graduated from university, she increased her orders to cater for her discerning, but growing clientele.
By then, she was dating her soon to be husband, Hupenyu, whom she met at a cell group church meeting at Celebration Church.
“It was while we were brainstorming about different business ideas with Hupenyu that we decided to venture into the manufacturing and distribution of generic perfumes.
“That decision was born out of the realization that there were many people who were eager to buy perfumes, but they could not afford original household brands,” she said.
With encouragement from friends and family, especially her mother, Mrs Mashangwa with her fiancé produced their first consignment of 300 perfume bottles of different fragrances.
Already hypnotised by the transformative magic that perfumes give to people, especially to the femme fatale keen on upping their stakes in fashion, Mrs Mashangwa was upbeat about her decision.
She had been proved to be a doyenne in cosmetics during her brief but fruitful stint, buying Avon products for resale to peers and friends.
Already alive to the dictates of the market she was venturing into, Mrs Mashangwa took her first consignment to her traditional customers, who were working for different financial institutions particularly banks, and in no time, the products were finished.
Buoyed by the sales of the product which had been named “Oceans”, Mr Mashangwa’s nickname from his heydays at Hartzell High, Mrs Mashangwa realized that the stage had been set and there was no turning back.
Pleased about the debut distribution of the perfumes, she put an advert in the paper, and more than 30 women interested in distributing the product responded.
The first inaugural meeting that Mrs Mashangwa and the group held, gave birth to the “Women Arise” network that now boasts of thousands of women and men who distribute the Oceans products nationally.
Looking back, Mrs Mashangwa concedes that the terrain has not been smooth, but the couple’s vision of the business kept them on their toes.
“Over the years, we have lost thousands of our products to bogus people masquerading as genuine distributors. It has not been easy, but we remain optimistic about the future,” said the soft spoken Mrs Mashangwa.
While she might not yet have reached the levels of internationally renowned perfume connoisseurs like Estée Lauder, or the late fashion guru Coco Chanel, Mrs Mashangwa’s grounding in cosmetics, especially in fragrances, is terra firma.
Despite the business empire that she and her husband have created, Mrs Mashangwa has remained a humble and unassuming woman, who is heavily in charity work.
Four years ago, she founded the Tabitha Foundation, which has been actively involved in alleviating suffering of disadvantaged individuals and families in different communities.
And it is the stark difference of her upbringing and the levels of poverty that she comes across that affirmed her decision to give time and resources to assist the disadvantaged.
“I am saddened by the levels of sufferings I come across when I move around hence our decision to support the Foundation and other notable initiatives moulded around the same vision,” highlighted Mrs Mashangwa.
A mother to four children, including an adopted one, Mrs Mashangwa believes in the power of transforming communities by empowering them with business ideas, mentoring and rallying behind the less privileged.