This Is HER Story. Making Herstory
It would quite honestly take hours to fully capture the essence of this woman or to find the appropriate words for it, and even then, we’re not sure we’d do her justice. So we’ll pass up on any gallant attempts and we’ll let who ‘she is’ speak for itself instead. She is the Co-Founder of African Family Firms, the biggest African Family Business Association on the globe; Owner and Administrative Director of Montessori Primary School; Business Services Consultant at Nhaka Legacy Planning, an estate planning firm helping family businesses create lasting legacies; Publisher and Editor in Chief of Edgars Club Magazine; Creator and Host of the recently launched Podcast,Enterprising Families; Alumni of the Fortune/US State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Program and a member of the African Leadership Network; Devoted wife, mother and daughter in ‘love’ AND a champion for women (and men) working and winning together. Phew! Allow us to catch our breath…and then allow us to introduce you to the trailblazing powerhouse and all round inspiration that is Tsitsi Mutendi, award winning businesswoman, pacesetter, and passionate game changer set on making sure the legacy she leaves behind is that “She came, she saw, she invested, she created and she left it a million times better than it was”. We celebrate the phenomenal woman she is, the power of her story, and her truly remarkable journey to “Becoming Tsitsi Mutendi”!
THE EARLY YEARS
You as a young girl. How would the people close to you describe you then?
I was a shy, quiet little girl. I was also very inquisitive and head strong. I was the first born and an only child for 3 years and yearned to play with other kids. My parents lived on a large property because my dad was the resident Doctor at a local rural hospital, and I would run off to play with the local children in the rural homesteads every chance I got because I was lonely on my own at home. My mom recalls a day where I refused to be taken to school by car because I would rather have walked with my friends. That particular day was a rainy day, and I ran off before my mom got a chance to bundle me into her car. Needless to say, she ended up taking my whole swarm of very wet friends to school in her car. I see now that I have always been very headstrong.
What were the BIG dreams and aspirations?
I have always wanted to change the world and make it better in some way or other. When I was very young I didn’t know about entrepreneurship. I just knew that I needed to choose a career, because this was what society had communicated to me. This always left me conflicted and changing my mind quite a bit about what career I wanted to choose. At first I wanted to be a lawyer and then later I remember I wanted to be an accountant at some point. The day I found out what entrepreneurs and business owners did, I was hooked. I have always wanted to set out my own course and control my own destiny. Wherever that may lead me, I am willing to follow. I like being independent. Being an entrepreneur is hard but it allows me to live life on my own terms most of the time.
And what influenced your dreams back then?
Watching my mom being fearless. There was nothing she couldn’t do. She never let being a woman define her or put limits on her abilities. Internationally, I was influenced by Richard Branson and his Virgin dream. And his resilience. I found myself drawn to many business builders but Brandon and Anita Roddick of the Body Shop created a boundary-less dream in my mind. Then I went on to discover the Russel Simmons’, Oprah Winfreys’ and so on and so forth.
What do you remember vividly from your childhood- what memories stand out? Moving from the UK back to Zimbabwe and being unable to speak Shona. Being a very opinionated little girl and then being demoted by a teacher because he thought I was too “head strong.” In that time I met a teacher who was notorious for being strict and very disciplinarian. To me she was an angel. She believed in me and fought for me. She told me I could do it and she kept telling me that I was unstoppable if I believed in myself. Between her and my mom, they raised my heart and my strength. I learnt Shona in one year and sat for my grade 7 and passed with 5 units out of a possible 4. The 2 units were in Shona. I remember how proud I was that I never gave up and how proud my mom and my teacher were. That triumph of driving my limits and those imposed by society made me who I am today. A product of fearless women.
How does a day in your life today look like?
I get up at 4:30am, meditate and pray. I go through my emails and plan out my day. Visualisation plays a critical role in setting the tone for my day. It is silent in my home until about 5:30 so I get an hour to myself. I use that time to meditate and focus on God. At about 5:30 I take a shower and get ready to face the day. I love doing my makeup listening to some music or a podcast. 6:30 my kids and my husband are ready to leave the house, we say our morning prayers as a family and we get on the road to school. We do a sing along on our way to school and we are usually at school by 7:00am-7:30 latest. 7:30am: I respond to all important emails and check my to do list and start tackling my day from my desk. Depending on my schedule, I may have meetings, presentations, speaking arrangements, recordings, photoshoots etc. No two days are the same. But at about 5:30pm we leave the school and head home. The kids do homework with their dad. I will be wading through my emails again and checking off my to do list and preparing for the next day. 6:30pm: We have supper at the table. Supper as a family is important to us. Although we spend most of the day together, we do not have intimate times like those at the dinner table. 7:30pm: I take a hot bath and relax. Kids bedtime is 8pm. By 9:00pm I’m usually asleep. My husband is the night owl. He will be writing or translating or going through his checklist until 11:00pm. However, If I have a deadline you will usually find me up until 1am.
How did you get here? How did this dream and this life come to be?
I got here by hard and smart work. I love seeing opportunity in all that I do. I sincerely believe that by helping others I, by default help myself and I grow. My businesses are driven by solving problems that I face. Mutendi Montessori was a result of my wanting Montessori based education for my children. So I set up a school. My consultancy for Family Business (Nhaka Legacy) and African Family Firms (Family Business Association) is from a need to see my wealth passed on to my family as a multigenerational investment. And to see other family businesses grow in the same way. My online Entrepreneur platform, Africa is Rising, is because entrepreneurs are family businesses in the making. All my businesses are interlinked. When I started off as an entrepreneur it was all very much about stroking my ego and proving I could do it. So I loved magazines and fashion and I set up a fashion house and a magazine. I was recovering from a personal tragedy and I found an outlet that stroked my ego. Three kids later, and a lot of growth and maturity, my mainframe and passion has changed. My focus has changed. I see my immortality in my children and their children and I want to see the place I call home become all the dreams that I have ever wanted. My businesses now focus on Legacy building. On wealth creation and management and investment in tomorrow.
Why do you get up in the morning to do what you do? What drives you?
I get up to see the face of God. No matter what I am going through. I found God at a very young age. I believe He is the centre of my world. His grace covers me more than I am deserving of. So, every quiet moment I get I reflect on God and ensuring that I serve him through my everything. My mornings are spent in this meditation and visualisation and reflection. 4:30-6:30 I am in a zone. What drives me is my potential. How far can God take me if I allow Him? What drives me is my children. I know how powerful it is to see a parent setting the example.
And what’s the most fulfilling part of doing it all for you?
Tomorrow. That tomorrow I may not be here but I will have contributed significantly to its outcome through the work I do today. I have always loved history. Because of all the great stories of people who have invested in my today through their determination and foresight. Hopefully one day I will be in one of the books and my great great grandchildren will remember that they are also working for tomorrow.
What are some of the challenges or the things you want to change, or wish were different?
I wish I had more hours in the day and more versions of me to do the various things I need to get done in that day. I sometimes get overwhelmingly busy and in those times I wish I had more time and help. I do have people who work with me but still I find I take on quite a bit. I don’t believe in regret or being overly challenged. I am of the school of thought that we only get that which we can carry. Life is full of speed bumps and they make us stronger and better equipped for the mountains and valleys when we face them.
And what’s the next big thing for you? What new projects or prospects are cooking up in the pipeline?
African Family Firms, Mutendi Montessori, Africa is Rising are my future. Especially AFF and Nhaka Legacy. I am focused on and dedicating my life to ensuring that the bag is secure for my children and the children of the continent. With the right education, support and mindset we can be unstoppable and limitless in our dreams. Through these vehicles I am working with the right partners and stakeholders to build the Africa of my dreams, an Africa wealthier than the Wakanda dream.
How would those close to you describe you today?
Determined, Team No Sleep, Bossy, Organised, Ambitious, Straight talker, Momma Bear. I had to ask a few of them and dig into my nicknames.
Work, Life, Play and Everything in between? How do you juggle & manage it all?
I have a formidable team and a support system that is like no other. It takes a village to raise a child and this baby is no different. My husband is my rock, my two moms (Mom and Mom-in-Love), my helper, my various teams at my businesses. My friends who will do school run, prayer rooms…I have a whole battalion that stands behind me holding me up and propelling me forward fearlessly. And my children. Special mention to them because they understand, cheer me on and support and are independent from a young age. My family especially my husband and my kids and my two moms have been everything. They have held me down and provided me with safe spaces, prayers, inspirational hugs and words of encouragement and reassurance. They have been my inspiration and my biggest drivers. In short, I would not be here if it was not for them and I am truly grateful for them every day. Every day they give me strength.
How do you get away from all the noise when you need to?
I wake up early in the morning and spend time on my own. I also can read a good book and find myself escaping the daily grind. I send the kids to Gogo and spend the weekend marinating in silence. I put on my headphones and listen to goodness. I basically know how to self-isolate and I am not afraid to ask for space or time when I need it. It’s called self-care. It allows me to be a better everything for my loved ones.