Rose Cynthia Maganga—Bizwick always knew at the back of her mind that she would one day run her own business. With the training she received in university at the Polytechnic and Chancellor College, she is able to apply bits and pieces to her business and run one of the most successful clothing stores in Blantyre and Lilongwe —Options.
Who is Rose?
I was named after my father’s sister. There were 10 children in our family (although we always had cousins living with us and I grew up knowing them as my brothers and sisters too).
I am a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. My parents were disciplinarians with two different approaches. My father was a nonsense-man who believed in loving his children but also believed in the saying “spare the road spoil the child” approach. My mother on the hand believed in disciplining her children with deliberation and logic. They were both very hard working and believed each of their children had a potential they would realise with parental encouragement.
What Qualifications do you hold?
I am a holder of Diploma in Business Studies and Diploma in Management Studies from the Polytechnic. Years later I got my Bachelor of Arts (Human Resources) from Chancellor College.
How many children do you have?
I have four children with whom I have a close and fun relationship with. They are my friends and I make sure they are comfortable to come to me with anything.
How did the idea of starting business come to you?
Having grown up in a business oriented family, I had always had some small business to compliment my salary. I had always brought in clothes and accessories to sell to my friends while I worked. My husband is the one who suggested that I open a clothing shop to sell to a wider customer base as compared to bringing stuff and selling it to my friends only.
How did you come up with the name Options?
I think it was from a discussion I had with my sister. She was giving me the options available to me after I left work. She must have given me several business options that I jokingly decided to name my business OPTIONS.
When the decision to open a shop was reached, I opened my first shop in Lilongwe. The first three locations were not very successful for a number of reasons. The fourth location was safer, spacious and had other shops almost catering for the same market as we do. This has been the perfect place and that is where we are up to now. After a few years I opened a shop in Limbe which, also did not do very well because of the location. I later moved to Blantyre and that was the perfect place.
What keeps your business running and able to stand the test of time?
I believe God has a hand in whatever we achieve and what we are.
Apart from that, I believe fiscal discipline and the desire to see the business succeed are two main reasons the business has stood the test of time. Most importantly though is the fact that my customers have supported me through the years.
I would say the discipline and resilience to run a business was imparted to me from any early age. The actual bookkeeping, understanding of laws and statutes that have a bearing on my business can be attributed to my education and guidance from my husband. Many shops have come and gone.
Again, I have been able to get funding from banks which wasn’t easy at the beginning because I didn’t have adequate collateral. Over the years, however, I managed to prove to the banks that I was determined, credit worthy and convinced them that to grow, I needed their support.
I guess once you have the banks’ confidence, the banks are more than willing to work with small and medium enterprises.
How does Options work to its name?
Over the years with the suggestion of my customers, we have increased the products that we, offer. There are so many options available to our customers. We cater for different age groups and different income groups. To this end I believe Options is living up to its name.
What advice can you give to entrepreneurs?
My advice to other entrepreneurs is: make sure you know what you are doing and what you intend to achieve. Go to the banks with enough information about your business, your competitors and the climate within which you operate. When you get financing from the banks, make sure you put all that money into your business and make it a point to pay back no matter what. Make sure the banks know how your business is doing and let them know on time if you are experiencing unexpected difficulties.
That way if you cannot pay them back on time or if you have to reschedule your payments, the bank knows exactly what is happening. On the other hand businesses must be able to plough back some of the profits back into the business in order to increase capital and grow their businesses. This is a sure way to have banks grow confidence in you.
How are you able to sustain your business in these tough financial times?
I guess Options, like many other businesses, has to contend with lesser profits and even losses, cut back expenditure where we can and hope and pray that we don’t have to fold up.
How can you rate Malawians clothing sense?
Over the years, I have discovered that Malawians are one of the world’s best dressed people. Malawians have a sense of fashion and they always make sure they look good and appropriately dressed for the occasion.
Where do you get your clothes from?
I get my merchandise from the USA, United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Africa.
Forex has been one of our biggest challenges. We haven’t really expanded as much as we would have loved to due to forex shortage.
What is your advice to young people?
My advice to young people is that they should have the confidence that if they can work for someone and contribute to the success of their organisations, then they should be able to run their own businesses as long as they have the discipline to do so.
Have you ever considered giving up?
There are times when I have asked myself if it was all worth it. But those moments haven’t been many because am a fighter and I like to see my ‘projects’ succeed. I have a supportive family because they all know how important my business is. They are my anchor and they cheer me on.
Of what benefit has your business been?
I am empowered financially and economically. That’s a good thing because I believe that takes off the pressure of expecting too much from my husband. And again I am able to relate with my husband based on the mutual love and respect we have for each other and not because I need someone to take care of me financially.
What lessons in customer care have you learnt in your many years in business?
Over the years I have proved that customer is king. Make the customer happy, you will be happy at the end of the year.