Stephen Margolis is living testimony of how determination, sheer hard work combined with a never-die-spirit, can yield the desired results. Born on June 23 1951 to peasant parents at Chivhinge village in the semi barren Murehwa Communal Lands, like many of his age, young Stephen used to walk 20km barefoot, to and from school at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Musami Mission. His spare time, as was the routine with boys of his age at the time, was spent tilling the land or herding cattle and goats.
The third born in a family of seven, Stephen came to Harare in 1967 after completing school to look for employment so that he could supplement his parents' meager earnings and help look after his family. He did all sorts of odd jobs including working as a fire fighter in the railways and selling insurance policies
Because of his insatiable appetite to succeed, he started his own company, Margolis Trading in 1981 which marked the turning point in his life.
Construction of the $45 million Margolis Plaza, situated along Speke Avenue stretching from Harare Street and Kaguvi street have been completed. The building, formerly a block of flats, has two wings with each wing consisting of three floors of high quality office space. The Plaza featuring 10 shops on the ground floor, also has a three-entrance arcade with a sun roof on the center.
The complex was built by ISM Contsruction, who were also the electrical and plumbing contractors. Subcontractors were Thermacool (air extraction), Creative Systems (shop fronts and portioning), Wan Brothers (electrical engineer), and Margolis Construction (outside louvers)
"It was difficulty, I did not have capital but I was determined to go into exports and imports business. After being turned down by many financiers for a loan because I did not have collateral, a guarantor finally agreed to finance my first consignment of hardware equipment at a cost of $12," said Stephen as he sat in his posh office in the three-floor Margolis Plaza building, one of achievements of never-die spirit.
The first consignment was a flop and he could not pay back the money. However, his financial backers understood his plight and agreed to continue financing him.
"You see, I had no experience in this line of business. I am one of those people who believe in learning something on the job. Eventually the company started making money and I was able to pay back the loan and even ventured into real estate business as well as manufacturing health care products. I had to compete with well-established companies with strong financial bases. For one to succeed in this business, one has to be honest, hardworking and be able to fulfill promises.
"My advice to upcoming business people is be honest and not to bite more than what they can chew," he said.
Now the proud owner of Margolis Plaza Complex and a chain of other business outlets, Steve does business with countries as far afield as China, Germany, Malaysia, India, England and many others worldwide.
As he speaks with awe of what he calls the pride of his life, the Margolis Plaza, which has 10 shops at the bottom, three floors of office space and two wings and his home to 62 companies, Steve whose rise is a typical rags to riches story says a lot of guys of his generation are more solid in life because they had to work hard to be what they are. They also had a lot of responsibilities at home, including sharing whatever little they earned with extended families.
It is this background that has seen him engaging in a lot of humanitarian work. Recently, he was instrumental in raising funds for Musami Mission Hospital, where as a boy, he attended a school that was almost collapsing and he managed to get equipment worth millions of dollars.
It was in this spirit that in 1999, a subsidiary of his company, Margolis Medicals, introduced the Nurse of the Year Award in an effort to motivate, boost morale and thank nurses for their important role they play in health delivery in the country.
"We started the awards with the walfare of nurses at heart. The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has been very supportive and assists with the selection of the winners. Since the inception of the awards, we have never looked back and will continue with the awards to show our appreciation for the work being done by the nurses," said Margolis.
United Bulawayo Hospital nurse, Stembinkosi Sibanda, is the latest to win after being crowned Nurse of the Year at a colourful ceremony held at a Harare hotel recently. She pipped 15 other provincial representatives to walk away with a cash prize of $15 000. Tendai Westehof's Glamour Modeling School pledged over $25 000 worth of prizes. These included a three months modeling and grooming course, six months of pedicure from her beauty therapist, a facial package and a host of other beauty products and a foreign designed costume which she will wear on her graduation at the modeling school.
Tendai said the prizes would ensure that nurses maintain their reputation of cleanliness. Yvonne Burutsa of Harare Hospital and Belinda Gwati came second and third respectively and walked away with cash prizes of $10 000 and $7 000.
"This is the best day of my life. I never thought that my work could be recognized like this. I want to thank God for this and all the sisters and matrons I work with. This is not my award alone, but it came about through team work," said an elated Stembinkosi, who urged other nurses to contest the award as an encouragement and a challenge to them.
Acting Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, who was the guest of honour, paid tribute to al nurses in the country for the sterling work they were doing under difficult conditions.
"I hope that this trend of cleanliness and caring for the sick continues among you. You belong to a distinguished and wonderful profession. That is why you put on those white colours. Thank you for the work that you are doing to make ours a healthy society," he said.
In coming up with the winners, two nurses are selected by their matrons from each health center and are secretly monitored. Their names are then forwarded to the provincial level where they are screened down to 16 who will then go to the national level where the final winners are seleted.
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