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In Conversation with Trevor: ‘Why I am passionate about start-ups’

Entrepreneur Prichard Chad Mhako believes his father’s exploits as a businessman influenced his decision to venture into business.

Mhako (PM), who is passionate about start-ups, shared his journey as an entrepreneur on the platform In Conversation with Trevor hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Prechard Chad Mhako, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

PM: Thank you so much for having me.

TN: What a great pleasure. You know we should tell the audience how we got to be here.

You were a bit reluctant, but I think you put your hand up by commenting on a tweet.

There was then a whole noise on Twitter that you should come onto the show.

I am delighted that you finally changed your mind and decided to come onto the show.

PM: Thank you so much. So, you know I usually work from behind the scenes, so when the opportunity came though I was sort of taken a little aback, but I am glad you gave me the nudge and for me I consider that to be my Mufundi Mpofu moment!

TN: Hahahaha. Right. So who is Chad Mhako?

PM: Well Chad Mhako is a young man. I was born in 1986 in rural Shamva.

He is an entrepreneur and business development consultant. So that sort of sums up my story.

I grew up somewhere between rural Shamva and Harare’s Glen View, where my father had a house.

I was born in a family of nine children.

Upon my father’s death, we then discovered we were 18 children.

So I come from a very big family, and I am just that guy who is there solving problems for people.

Whenever there is a complex business problem, I am there and I am doing my work.

TN: Correct me. So you are an entrepreneur, you are a banker, you are a business development professional and you are very passionate about start-ups?

PM: Absolutely. I have been passionate about entrepreneurship and start-ups for a very long time.

My first job, formal employment, was working for a pension fund. I was part of their properties department.

TN: That is the Construction Industry Pension Fund? That was your first job, yes?

PM: Yes. I was working for the Construction Industry Pension Fund.

I was part of managing their property portfolio, and when you are managing a property portfolio you are interacting with entrepreneurs.

As I was interacting with those entrepreneurs, most of them would come and apply for an office, then a month or two months down the line they are struggling to pay rentals and so forth.

So I always wanted to help them fix their problems because them performing as a client would also help me collect my rent and be able to meet my targets.

That is when I fully discovered that I really wanted to be an entrepreneur.

However, I trace back my entrepreneurial roots to my father, Peter Mhako, the late.

When we were growing up, we thought my dad was a pharmacist.

We always said when we were asked at school what our father did, we would say he was a pharmacist, but my dad was not a pharmacist.

He was actually a sales represantative at a pharmacy.

TN: Which pharmacy was that?

PM: It was Lancaster Pharmacy. It was a big pharmacy chain back in the day.

When he died, my mother then sat us down and then she was telling us about the story of my dad.

We discovered that my dad was not a pharmacist but a sales rep for a pharmacy, but he was so brilliant at what he did and we always thought he had a bottomless pit of money because he was like one of the pioneers of rural industrialisation.

He set up the first metal fabrication workshop from Bindura going to the border. So on that route, my dad was doing scotch-carts and those kinds of things.

For me it was a whole mix of things he did.

TN: So he had a job, and he was doing this on the sidelines?

PM: He was doing this on the side-lines.

For us, we thought he was really loaded, we saw him doing business and so forth as not was exciting for us as kids, and it was exciting particularly for me as a kid to watch him pursue his entrepreneurial ventures.

Then as I grew up, a lot of influences came into the picture, the pension fund job, my brother Plot who then quit his job after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad.

TN: I gather that the book had a lot of impact on you? Talk to me about that?

PM: Absolutely. It had a big impact on me because I think the entrepreneur gene had always been inside me, then when my brother Plot read that book, it changed him.

So I had to read that book.

I went in and I read the book and it was mind blowing when Robert Kiyosaki speaks of the Rich Dad and Poor Dad, and the different attributes that made them.

His (Kiyosaki) rich dad being an entrepreneurial man for me was like I wanted to be that guy.

I recall one of the days when I was coming from college in Bindura, we had hired a truck, we were like sitting in the pan of a bakkie and we were coming to Harare and I had my colleagues.

I said to them I did not want to work for anyone, I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

A lot of things then changed. So that book had a lot of influence on me.

TN: Interesting. Like you have said you worked for the Construction Industry Pensions Fund.

Then you joined Astro Mobile Africa.

Then you have a turning point in your life where you decide you were going to quit your job and become an entrepreneur?

Talk to us about the thinking process, why you thought you would quit your job and become an entrepreneur? What was the attraction to entrepreneurship? Talk to us about that experience?

PM: The attraction to entrepreneurship had been a long time coming because of the things I had highlighted earlier.

In 2011, I was watching TV sitting in my house. Then I saw they were talking about the environment, and I thought, wait a minute, what these guys were talking about was not happening here (in Zimbabwe).

They were talking about the environment in the context of businesses main streaming green practice.

So then I thought to myself I wanted to start something that speaks of the environment, but not event based like on a certain day people sometimes plant trees, no.

I wanted to talk about the environment in the context of if one is taking care of the environment they would have to make profit, so people planting to profit, that kind of thing.

That was the first time I went and did an entrepreneurial venture.

I started an enterprise called Agri In Africa, it was a non-profit social enterprise in 2011.

In 2010, we did a conference which I believe to be the biggest business and environment conference since Zimbabwe was founded.

We brought business and stakeholders in the environmental management space to try and bring them to dialogue so they could find means and ways of main streaming business practice, that is profitable to business but also sustainable to the environment.

So that was the first time. I was doing all of this whilst I was employed.

The entrepreneurial bug was always in me somehow.

Later on in 2013, I had a publishing company.

So we were publishing a magazine called Zim Impression Magazine, and we ran with that.

However, there was never really any aggressive nature in which I was pursuing my entrepreneurial ventures, because I had a pay-check.

I was wiring for a pension fund, I had a good job, a big office and all of those things that someone my age would dream of.

Come a time when there was a bit of a promotion at the Construction Industry Pensions Fund, which did not align with my ambitions, and I went to the CEO and asked if I could be retained where I was.

There was a marginal increase in my income and I felt I wanted to curate my career in a certain way.

Unfortunately the CEO told me they had already advertised for my former job.

So I told him thank you, I had been head hunted by Astro for about a year then I told the CIPF CEO that I had served my time fairly well so I had to leave for Astro.

My exit from Astro was now me coming full circle to being an entrepreneur because Astro was a startup.

I knew moving from a very established entity and going into a startup there would obviously be a change in culture and a lot of things. So I helped start Astro and stayed there briefly.

I then had a conversation with the CEO of Astro and told him I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur so I thought it was my time, and that is when I left Astro to go and cofound a manufacturing business.

  • “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Nyaradzo Group.

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