HARARE - Sheer hard work, determination and creativity keeps Harare businesswoman Barbara Chikosi popularly known as Mama Red Rose going.
Revellers in entertainment circles know Mama Red Rose as a shrewd live music promoter.
But she told the Daily News that the business of promoting music is a second priority to her.
She has brought the likes of Jamaican reggae acts Capleton and Turbulence to Zimbabwe for live shows but shockingly, showbiz is the least of her business priorities.
Born in the Marange area in Mutare, she grew up in Harare’s Highfield suburb where she attended several schools including Mutasa and Chengu primary schools before advancing to Highfield Community Mhuriimwe School.
She later moved to Zambia for both Ordinary and Advanced levels. She went to Kitwe High, Mindolo Girls High and Chipembe Girls High in Lusaka.
“My mother died while I was in Zambia,” she recalls.
“That is when I developed the interest in doing hair for my school mates. Unknown to me, this was the salon business in the making. Through this, I managed to augment my pocket money.”
When she came back to Zimbabwe on holiday, she continued with her hair-dressing business. Her clients were mainly employees from Harare Central Hospital.
“After completing my studies in Zambia, I came back to Zimbabwe but this time I was now staying in Mufakose with my grandmother because my mother whom I stayed with in Highfield had passed on,” she said.
“I continued with the business on a subsistence scale before getting employed as a hair dresser in one of the leading hair salons in town.”
She used the little she earned from the salon to fund her secretarial studies at a Harare college.
“After graduating as a clerk, I left the salon for Harare Central Hospital where I served as a clerk and typist for a number of years,” she said.
She saved her meagre earnings to further her education.
“While I was still employed at Harare Hospital, I began attending short hand lessons at Harare Polytechnic College,” she said.
After graduating at the Harare Polytechnic, she quit her work at the Harare Central Hospital for Norton Rural Council, before joining Chibuku Breweries for half a decade, working in the secretarial department.
Retracing where it all started, she says she became a businesswoman by accident.
“This is the time when I hooked up with old Zambian friends who were into the buying and selling business,” she recalls.
“The Zambians visited Zimbabwe to buy goods for resale.
“I used to accommodate them at my rented rooms in Cranborne each time they visited the country.
“Because of their numbers, it then resulted in problems in accommodating them all as they kept swelling, hence they later advised and encouraged me to open a lodge for them in Harare.”
She opened a lodge in the capital in the mid-80s, and most of her clients were from Zambia.
“Initially, the lodge had only three beds before I got a bigger place in Harare and by then, the business was flourishing, considering that the economy of Zambia was experiencing a free fall, they relied on the strong economy of Zimbabwe by then,” Chikosi said.
“The business was good by that time hence I diversified again into salons, trading as Red Rose Hair Salons,” she said.
“My first salon was in Mufakose before the one which was in Greencroft and then CBD in Harare.
“At one point in time, I introduced the idea of renting a chair to her as a way of keeping our boats afloat in those trying times.”
Gradually, she found herself becoming more aggressive in business.
“In the early 90s, I decided to buy two salons in town. I did not have enough money to buy them, hence I approached a local bank for a loan but my application was rejected because I did not have security.”
This did not dampen her spirits as she negotiated with the owner of the business, and they settled for the payment to come in instalments.
“I was the proud owner of about five salon shops in town and the business was good and the need to expand my business empire forced me to venture into promoting live music,” she said.
She sought advice from Derby Metclafe, a former manageress for superstar Oliver Mtukudzi.
“My first show featured Alick Macheso and Diamond Musica and it was during the early 2000s and from there it was show after show because it was a brisk business,” she recalls.
Chikosi’s secret to success lies in keeping a close eye on business trends.
Mama Red Rose has maintained her leading position in the cut throat salon business.
“The mushrooming of salons in the city has brought competition on us the pioneers, meaning the business became less lucrative, hence we are forced to keep on devising other ways to survive like selling space in the form of ‘renting a chair’ strategy,” she said.
And she has expanded her business into real estate management as she currently owns a shopping complex in Harare’s central business district.
“I was inspired to venture into such less costly business by my usual business of parcelling out small units of space or ‘rent a chair’ in Harare’s buildings, that is when I discovered that costs are less in property business,” she said.
She has no other business outside the country and has advised new entrepreneurs to seek business ideas or advice from those who have been in business for a while.
“Seeking ideas from those who are into it for a long time is the only solution to new entrepreneurs,” she said.
She declined to comment on her marital status or her family, but is believed to have children in the Diaspora.
Labels: Alick Macheso, Barbara Chikosi zimbabwe, Diamond Musica, Mama Red Rose Zimbabwe