The Voice: Giving Creativity a Chance
Most entrepreneurs in the fashion industry are often identified by a passion for design that is apparent at a very young age. Some however are seemingly "late bloomers" whose talent comes ablaze after having ventured into many other trades. What remains true, is the fact that creative expression is diverse and fashion entrepreneurs are not born the same. The Voice is one brand whose owner attests to this truth. Born with a natural flair for the creative, its founder Vimbai did not instantly recognize that she was a fashion entrepreneur at heart. After an illustrious career in the accounting field, the once “little” creative voice became bigger and louder, until it evolved into a fashion brand of its own.
The Voice is an emerging fashion enterprise in Zimbabwe, specializing in corporate and school wear. Anchored by a core team of five people, The Voice does its own production, marketing, and distribution of units. The Voice is a female-headed company, founded by Vimbai Mahiya. Different from the story of many fashion-preneurs, Vimbayi did not decide to start her company somewhere along a fashion career journey. The designer actually had a career in banking and finance, where her only avenue to creative expression was through corporate events. Vimbai holds a diploma in Banking and Finance, BSc Honors in Applied Accounting and is a member of the professional accounting body (ACCA) with over a decade of experience in the banking and accounting field. Vimbayi began to take interest in business matters and was convinced she wanted to start her own company. At this point, she wasn’t sure about which field of business she wanted to venture into. In her journey in banking, she worked for the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ), and later the diversified group, TN Financial Holdings which then gave her the opportunity to head a Greenfield Project of the Clothing Manufacturing. Heading the Greenfield Project was the turning point in her career as it heightened her creative senses. Vimbayi reached a ‘Eureka’ moment where for the first time her career resonated with her passion. Almost suddenly, an enthusiasm to explore her inner creative voice inspired her to leave her longtime career in pursuit her calling in fashion. Venturing into an industry that was dominated by a few yet big names, and plagued by cheap clothes imports was not an easy task, but she took the risk anyways. Despite the fragmentation in Zimbabwe’s fashion industry, Vimbai founded The Voice with the belief that she would find her market space through consistency, hard work and good quality.
Vimbais' accounting knowledge was instrumental in the sustainability of her enterprise. In the quest to acquire markert share, The Voice remained headstrong in the face of economic hardships and it continues being a symbol of quality. Today the company boasts of a clientele of corporate brands and schools which it supplies with regular orders throughout the year. As the firm fills the gap of quality corporate and school wear, the firm has mantained steady growth proving itself to be a force to reckon with within its segment of the fashion industry.
Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic
Although the firm has recorded many successes it was not immune from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the call of the shutdown, operations for The Voice were disturbed and many of their contracts with both schools and corporate clients were subsequently cancelled. As a small enterprise, The Voice felt this dent in having to fund its salaries and overheads despite low production. This crisis proved to be an incubator for innovation and the Voice had to quickly shift into the production of PPE. The firm took advantage of its already existing client base and responded by producing branded corporate masks.
With the reopening of schools for exam classes, the firm got an opportunity to supply masks to its clients of the school portfolio. So far, The Voice has produced over 8,000 masks for commercial purposes. It has also donated 100 masks for goodwill and given its clients a back to school discount promotion as part of its corporate social responsibility act. As the economy is slowly opening up, The Voice has already started engaging its clients for bigger orders in anticipation of scaled up operations for the coming years. Going forward, the business has made commitments to be more versatile in order to quickly respond to market changes instead of waiting for the "new normal" as it found itself initially thinking. Its marketing has taken an online approach embracing the virtual environment, versus its previous sales call visits. As an emerging enterprise in a very volatile environment, The Voice has shown a lot of resilience and drive for sustainability. Standing the test of harsh economic times, The Voice embodies the strength that prevails through consistency, perserverance and hard work. It is a testament to the fact that it matters not where and how you start, when you put on the necessary work, your creative voice will thrive!