For many small to medium sized businesses, getting ahead can be challenging when you don’t have the resources in-house at your disposal. Recognising this challenge, Zimbabwean entrepreneur Tariro Makina, was keen to find a solution, and her business today, Twenty47 Virtual Assistant, is helping clients to streamline their business processes by providing a range of virtual business solutions.
LoA found out more about this new business support venture that is looking to make an impact on the lives of other SMEs globally.
What does your company do?
Twenty47 Virtual Assistant specialises in providing flexible and economic business support solutions to small and medium sized businesses across the world. These solutions allow growing businesses to have adequate support to business functions for which they cannot afford to hire full-time staff. The services we provide include, but are not limited to, social media management, research, email management, customer support, document processing and other administrative services. We manage to work with clients around the globe as long as they have access to the internet and have work that can be carried out via the same platform. We also service clients outside Zimbabwe with projects requiring someone to be present here on a frequent basis. Our overall goal is to help our clients streamline business processes through efficient information distribution, stakeholder relationship management and resource utilisation.
"Twenty47 Virtual Assistant specialises in providing flexible and economic business support solutions to small and medium business across the world."
What inspired you to start your company?
I used to work an average 12 hours a day in an IT job for a bank. One day I woke up and decided I didn't want to work like this anymore. As much as I enjoyed this job, I felt it was not giving me the flexibility I wanted. I wanted to work from home or wherever I could find an internet connection. I wanted to work on my own terms but still be able to serve and provide value to others. I wanted to work with small and medium business because, from experience, I had seen how many small businesses fail to get ahead due to absent or inadequate staff to execute specific functions in the business. 9 times out of 10, this is mainly due to limitations on their budgets. I wanted to be able to help small businesses execute these functions at a lower cost than hiring a full-time in-house employee as I would be using my own resources to work on the projects, that is, computer equipment, internet connection, stationery etc. All these factors together led me researching on this kind of work and finding out about virtual assistance, leading me to start Twenty47 Virtual Assistant a couple of months later.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
I recommend startups and growing businesses to use our service because the solutions are not only economical and flexible but there are so many benefits to enjoy from working with another team of individuals who are committed to achieving your goals just as you are. It's not rocket science: Any business that is starting up hardly ever has an abundance of funding for operational or training expenses and costs have to be managed very well. One of the highest costs in any business is staffing costs. These are not just wage costs but even the benefits associated with it. There are taxes, computer equipment, training, telephone bills, benefits that usually need to be taken into consideration. Having added together all these costs, it is easy to realise why any startup or growing small business should consider outsourcing some of its business functions to Twenty47 Virtual Assistant and be able to manage these costs. Twenty47 Virtual Assistant gives business owners an opportunity to adjust their business support needs as and when they want at much more economical rates. Because we understand that every business aims to develop and grow we are committed to growing with it even through transitions. That is why some of our clients, depending on the plan signed up for, get to enjoy training on how to perform the outsourced functions at the point they decide to do so.
"We manage to work with clients around the globe as long as they have access to the internet and have work that can be carried out via the same platform."
Tell us a little about your team
Twenty47 Virtual Assistant, being a new company, was a team of one up till early 2016. With the growing workload, I realised I couldn't serve my clients well if I continued to work on my own. I decided to hire a new member of the team to compliment my skills and we have been working together since. The beauty of our work is that we don't have to be at the same location all the time. We normally communicate and update each other using the phone, email and other technologies like Skype - the same technologies we have also adopted to keep in touch and interact with our clients. The team is bound to get bigger in the coming years as we continue to seek out serving more clients across the globe.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My parents started a functions equipment hire business they have been successfully running for the past 17 years. They are also involved in farming. We used to work in the company or go to the farming fields on holidays especially during the early days when the company was establishing itself and we used to do help out with almost everything. Having seen how building an empire for themselves gave my parents the financial freedom they couldn't otherwise get from day jobs, I secretly wanted to own a big corporation and lead a successful business too. However, this is not how my life looked on the outside at all. I doubt there was anything entrepreneurial about me growing up. I would see my friends hustling, selling this and that and just could not see myself doing it too. It seemed stressful and I didn't wanted that stress on top of my already stressful career at the time. But it was that stressful job that led me to falling in love with the idea of setting up this business and working for myself. This is, therefore, my first startup back in 2014. My client base has been growing from the time I started but given the nature of the business model, some clients have come and gone. This journey has given me an opportunity to learn a lot about business through a series of successes and failures. Having watched how my father, for example, dealt with some sticky situations in his business, I have been able to draw upon the same lessons and apply them in Twenty47 Virtual Assistant. Some methods never get old, whilst others can't be used anymore in 2016. My biggest lesson on this journey has been to never stop learning. There is always something new and valuable to learn from someone every day and my mind is constantly open to this.
"Our overall goal is to help our clients streamline business processes through efficient information distribution, stakeholder relationship management and resource utilisation."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
At the moment Twenty47 Virtual Assistant is serving small to medium sized businesses, but I would want us to provide tailored outsourcing solutions to larger corporations across the globe interested in doing business in various African countries. I plan to leverage my experience in IT to design solutions beneficial to large scale corporations in Africa seeking more efficient and productive business processes. All these opportunities will create room for people to be employed and help in the development of my country and Africa at large, as unemployment is currently a huge problem on the continent, especially in my country, Zimbabwe.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I particularly love being able to set my own goals and knowing that there is no limit to what I want to achieve, and as long as we put in the effort, the value enjoyed by our clients is immense, acknowledged and appreciated. This makes it all worth it.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Savour the process. There are going to be a lot of flavours you are going to taste from working on your startup. Bitter, sweet and everything else in between. It is this process where you draw your lessons and experiences. Regardless of how you finish, always live to fight another day. It could be in the same venture or a completely new one. Whatever it turns out to be, remember it is the process that takes you where you desire to be. Live it. Savour it. Enjoy it.
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Why LoA loves it….
There is nothing quite as powerful as entrepreneurs finding ways to help each other to thrive in the global marketplace, and in the case of Zimbabwean entrepreneur Tariro Makina, she is providing practical and essential business support solutions virtually to her clients. She is harnessing the power of a digital economy, and drawing on her significant expertise in the world of IT and online business solutions, to help other businesses to become more resource efficient. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa