Joyce Evercie Banda: Entrepreneurship for survival and empowerment

While most people depend on their jobs to sustain themselves, Joyce Evercie Banda decided she would follow her heart in entrepreneurship.

Banda, 39, is the founder and director of Wijays Enterprises—a soap and detergents producer; Corporate Partnerships—a company that offers office cleaning, landscaping and interior designing. She also grows herbs and vegetables.

Wijays made the top 11 finalists out of 200 applicants in the 2019 Growth Accelerator Challenge. It won a $40 000 (about K29.5 million) grant.

The challenge was pioneered by Growth Africa and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on sustainable development.

“When I was young, my father used to splash us with money when he was happy. I used to buy bananas and make zitumbuwa [banana fritters],” she says.

She sold the merchandise at a football pitch on weekends from the age of eight and in Standard Three.

Sometimes she bought groundnuts to fry and gave the money to her mother for safe keeping.

“That spirit of financial independence grew on me. Even in school, I wouldn’t bother my parents much for money,” she adds.

Apart from that, she says her mother did a lot of enterprising.

Her mother travelled across cities doing businesses such as Kaunjika, cosmetics and any hot business at the time.

Joyce adds that doing business stemmed from self -motivation.

She runs Wijays from a production plant at Kanengo Industrial Area with a standard machine that produces detergents.

The process of making organic and herbal soaps, however, is hand-made alongside her team.

Her business acumen might have appeared as a child’s play, but today, she has 288 workers.

Wijays produces dish wash liquid, toilet cleaners, multipurpose cleaners and soaps from aloe Vera, rosemary and lavender.

“My background has nothing to do with the soaps and detergents production. I’m an administrator by profession,” she says.

After primary school in Ndirande, Blantyre, where she was born and raised, she went St Anthony Henry Secondary School in Thyolo.

She then did a secretarial course at Mzuzu Technical College. She then worked with the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) in Mzuzu as a secretary while running a poultry farm and a shop.

Joyce then worked for the National Aids Commission (NAC) in Lilongwe. The whole time she thought of upgrading her education and finding other sources of income.

“Getting out of my father’s house without a degree was not the end of my passion or career. I told myself that I would work hard to get the qualifications I wanted,” she says.

Her education has a lot of gaps as she had to educate herself.

As she worked, she put herself through to a Bachelor’s degree in Business management and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

“I knew education was important not only for my work but, businesses,” she adds.

While in Lilongwe, she quit her job and started running a restaurant at City Centre which she says succeeded at the beginning, but later crumbled.

“We would have more customers one day and a handful three or four days later. I began to make losses and couldn’t sustain it,” said Joyce.

She says she did not supervise her restaurant enough.

Reeling from the backlash of the restaurant business, Joyce started looking for a way to start another business and Corporate Partnerships came to mind.

She established Corporate Partners and offered cleaning services to government, private institutions and hotels.

Corporate Partners was no smooth ride either as she could have 15 contracts one year and four the other.

To avoid headaches, she looked to having different income activities and added corporate decoration activities.

She also faced difficulties in acquiring the right detergents.

Through Corporate Partners, she grew an interest to make her own detergents, as she could not find required detergents on the local market that were also affordable.

As a result, she went to South Africa to get the required resources which did not fare well in profit making. The running up and down and payment of duty affected her income output.

To minimise all these, Wijays came to mind. After research on where she could learn to make detergents, in 2016, she went to South Africa for training for four weeks.

Partners, she bought a detergent producing machine.

Joyce says she has been importing herbs form Tanzania and South Africa to minimise costs of travel and increase profits.

She also bought herb seeds from South Africa and planted in her garden.

Joyce recruited 24 female farmers from Nkwenembera Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) M’bwatalika in Lilongwe, provided them with seeds to grow the herbs which she will buy from them.

She says she decided to work with the women to economically empower them.

Presently, these women are being trained in producing herbs by a herbal expert she recruited.

For sustainable economic empowerment, Wijays, will continue to sell the seeds to farmers, and train the farmers.

“I was fortunate to get the grant from Growth Accelerator Fund, some of which will be used to buy an extracting machine and a machine to produce the soaps at a larger scale,” she says.

Joyce adds that the market is big and they are failing to meet demand.

On estimations of current customer size, she gets about 500 customers per day at her Lilongwe shop and offers services to about 14 institutions in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu.

Her vision is to be an essential oils supplier in Malawi which she says the country does not have and to incorporate 100 farmers.

Having worked with several organisations, she says the freedom she has now working at home is nothing like anything she has had before.

“Entrepreneurship is a challenge; it makes you think about new ways of survival. It keeps you alert and turning negatives to one’s favourable solution.

“Don’t wait to be recruited. Be an employer. That’s key to our economic development. Corporate Partners taught me businesses are not for life, especially contractual businesses,” says Joyce.

Losing contracts every month from government, private and parastatals was devastating, but Joyce did not give up.

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