After almost 10 years in the corporate world, Brian Mawoyo was thrown onto the streets on July 27, 2015, one of the casualties of the Supreme Court ruling which gave employers the go ahead to terminate contracts on three months’ notice.
An economist by training, Mawoyo had a fall back plan: he ventured into agriculture while he was formally employed and he had all the time in the world to put his energy into the project.
On the same day he was retrenched a year later, Mawoyo established Spinyard Seedlings, which has become one of the biggest seedling producers in Zimbabwe.
The company celebrated its 5th anniversary last month.
Mawoyo chronicled his journey.
“A couple of months before the termination of my employment I had bought a property where there was a drip and 6000 square meters available for rent. I started doing horticulture there cultivating broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and other small vegetables. So I had already started this a few months before I got my love letter as they call it,” Mawoyo told Business Times.
After the termination of his contract, Mawoyo moved to rent a bigger space from the 6000 square meters in Mabelreign and embarked on another bigger project in Arcturus, specialising in cabbages and broccoli. He was now supplying the big retail supermarket chains.
Mawoyo realised that the biggest cost to his business was seedlings. A friend who was in the seedling business, offered to teach him how to make seedlings.
Spinyard Seedlings was born on July 27,2016.
The company started with three employees and to date has 120 employees operating from three sites, two in Harare and one in Bulawayo.
Plans to open the fourth one are underway.
Spinyard has spread wings and supplies other agriculture inputs including fertilisers, chemicals, greenhouse plastics, materials, and accessories that go with greenhouse constructions.
As the company has integrated well in the seedlings field in Zimbabwe and globally, a seed production company called Hazera based in Israel and Netherlands has since awarded Spinyard a distributorship role of their seeds.
Spinyards customer base spans across all sectors from small home gardeners, large and small scale farmers, schools, and even corporate processing companies as the company is the main propagator of the big tomato processing companies.
Mawoyo told Business Times that the journey was tough.
He attributed the magical turnaround to God’s grace and also the importance of the strong networks he had built during his working days.
‘’When I got retrenched, I didn’t have much, my house was on the mortgage and was owing in excess of US$100 000. I was also owing banks in loans for school fees. I want to thank God that things eventually fell into place,” Mawoyo told Business Times.
He added: “Fortunately, when I was still working I had developed very strong networks with a lot of people from the community, church, and companies. The capital that I rode on was my good networks and the relationships I had built during my working days. So, relationships are very important. A friend who is a business partner today poured in the capital when I started the company.”
Mawoyo advises people who are formally employed to avoid too many loans and not to be 100% settled in the profession as it can end any day.
“Always have something on the side that is driven by your passion and try to develop a project around that. As for me I’m passionate about agriculture and it is why I’m here today,” he said.
Zimbabwe is highly informalised. It is estimated that more than 80% of working Zimbabweans are in the informal sector.
The sector supplies 60% of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40% of total export earnings while contributing approximately 17 % to the country’s GDP.
Mawoyo appealed to government to put up a policy that makes agriculture compulsory in all educational institutions and also to assist graduates in gaining practical knowledge.
“There is a lot of potential in agriculture, one thing I have noticed in schools, particularly private schools, is that many of them do not take agriculture seriously. You will find many other fancy subjects there but agriculture is really not given the room and space it deserves. It’s quite sad because agriculture is the biggest employer in the world,” he said.
The government should make a policy that makes agriculture compulsory in all our schools and educational institutions because it is the future and it’s a multi-billion-dollar business. Effort and focus should be directed towards agriculture.” Spinyard also take interns and trainees and train them.”