The dream…my dream.
Through the various stages of my life I have always dreaded the exercise of sending goods. Not from stinginess, but from the hassle of getting a reliable transporter who won’t disappear with said goods whilst remaining affordable. Being able to walk into a store or a virtual one, purchase your goods and get them delivered directly to the end destination with no other input from me has always been a dream of mine. Call me crazy but the seamless logistics exercise that could carry off such a system would be one that would not only change people’s lives irrevocably but also help some businesses through tough economic times. I believe these dreams are achievable with meticulous preparation backed up market and behavioral data, mistakes made but learnt from, and an energy that infuses every person one comes into contact with. I strongly believe that as Thumeza, we are on our way to achieving this vision. We currently have over 400 Intracity deliveries successfully completed with the aim of now getting into the Intercity space. Anyway, I digress, you’re not here for that. You’re here to read a tale of evil corporations and the plucky little underdogs that persist in staying in their faces.
First… “WTAF?” – the shock
I vividly remember the first time I saw the name of my competitor from one of those by now notorious spam messages a famous network provider plagues us with. I was sitting at my little rented desk at the Techvillage, assuring a client that the transportation of their 30 bags of cement was confirmed. whilst panicking as I knew my drivers had been hit by various maladies ranging from the normal to the ludicrous. Being confronted with the fact that it was a Monopoly derived subsidiary, my first reaction was icy shock. I asked everyone I knew who was knowledgeable on the subject for their opinion and unfortunately people will tell you what you want to hear during such dark times lol.
“Urghhh f*$#@!“….the anger!
Then I got angry which I admit was fueled by well-wishing friends and family forwarding me the by now notorious text message with accompanying, “What will you do?” Who were they to enter this industry I had claimed for myself? I was more passionate than their whole team put together! I cared more about the welfare of our clients and partner drivers than they did! Unluckily, the denial did not keep them at bay. I then moved onto what by now I had realized were the 5 stages of grief. As an entrepreneur in this beautiful land of ours, you, unfortunately, found your startup bearing in mind that at any stage “they who must not be named”, can enter your industry and blow you out of the water not from innovation but from sheer volumes and financial resources. I told myself that if I could get enough traction and enough clients, I could make Thumeza attractive enough to be bought out rather than pushed out. Crazy and farfetched I know but a lot of ridiculous scenarios were going through my mind at that point!
Panic, meaning – “Grow very fast!“
This stage fueled a frenzy of activity that spurred one of the most productive stages of Thumeza at that point. We got our very first employee, signed on 4 additional clients whose great reputations and businesses helped us get to the next level, got recognized by great international organisations such as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Foundation, and featured onto the Innovation Maps powered by Briter Maps amidst other great milestones. I was on a zealot high, bursting with a slightly manic energy that more often than not gave me sleepless nights.
The looming reality- “they are big!“
Then came the inevitable crash that comes when reality hits. How was I, a startup with virtually no financial resources, a marketing team made up of myself and no social clout going to beat the Goliath that was our competitor? The economy by then had started acting funnier than usual and things just weren’t balancing whilst “they who must not be named” were putting up posters on what my fevered mind thought was every Pole in Bulawayo and Harare.
“They don’t get it -its harsh!” – depression.
Depression unfortunately for entrepreneurs is a real thing that people go through on a day to day basis. The pressure to act like everything is okay makes us ignore very real warning signs. I thought about closing down Thumeza’s figurative doors and the thought of doing that was actually paralyzing. What would people think? How could I admit to them that I had failed? Personally, I feel that is one of those aspects that make people hold onto failed ventures longer than they have to purely because of the stigma that comes attached.
The Eureka moment – “It’s not so bad?!“
One day whilst trundling to work, one of our partner drivers’ car with a “powered by Thumeza” sticker passed me by. I then realized that my clients and pool of partner drivers had been hard won from pure sweat and leveraging on meagre resources. From that delivery of a delicious Brooks Express cake using a small sedan to a 30 ton truck carrying equipment for a farmer, all these relationships and transactions had been facilitated by a team that I had infused with the energy and belief that we could do it. The actual point of acceptance was, when at the recently passed ZITF, we utilized our competitors’ not inconsiderable show of resources, to canvas for customers in front of their stand whilst proudly wearing our company regalia from head to toe. This I admit was now a point of lunacy and a borderline suicide mission but it worked out for us at that point lol.
“We are crushing it!” …because of you!
The journey has been real, we are no way close to the finish line but we have hope that we will make it through and thanks to people like you who keep using our service and keep recommending new ways to make us grow faster. Thank you for helping us survive our goliath and for making Thumeza the coolest kid on the block! Aluta Continua!