Running a business anywhere in the world obviously has it challenges. But I’ve decided that running a business in Zimbabwe elevates challenges to the level of comedic art.
Thus far, under the “usual challenges” category, are the days that I am busy Googling hospitality-industry jargon while emailing travel agents so that I know what the heck they are asking me, from our make-shift office in the lounge because our actual office has no power points.
Under the “unique to a third-world country*” challenges category comes the following little incident:
A couple of days ago I was right in the middle of some very critical (and awful) administration stuff when the power cut. Now, I REALLY had to send an email. Kepler had decided not to sleep, and was attempting to crawl over me, while I bellowed for Faith to come babysit him so that I could whiz down to Shearwater Cafe to use their free internet.
Cue frantic hunting for the computer bag, which Faith also decided to join in on…in the end she produced an oven bag usually used to carry hot dishes around in. It was good enough for me, so off I set with wild humidity-hair, deer-in-the-headlights eyes and a computer in an oven bag.
Now, in the “unique to Zimbabwe” category comes the following HYPOTHETICAL, highly -illegal situation. Let’s say, for example, you lived in a country where the currency was crashing. Presumably, your suppliers would no longer want to be paid in that currency…they would want US dollars.
Now, let’s say that trading currency was illegal in this country…HYPOTHETICALLY you would be contacting suppliers about where to pick up wads of US dollar cash. You would also be feeling a lot more like a drug dealer than a legitimate, respectable business.
But of course, we have no idea what that feels like.
Even where the law functions well, incompetence can be rather a huge challenge. The other day I successfully paid for our P.O. Box to be set up. The paper work was not lost (amazing). The prices were stated at the same amount by all parties involved (incredible). The whole thing took less than 24 hours (miraculous), and then I went to pick up my key.
“Your key?” said the lady at the counter.
“Yes,” I replied, “for box 170, please.”
“It’s not here,” came the reply. “The keys are still in Bulawayo, but don’t worry, you can just come pick up your mail here.”
While the offer of a solution was wonderfully kind, it didn’t explain where my key was, why it wasn’t in my hand, or how long it would take. In the end I managed to discover that the keys would probably take a couple of months…to make the five hour drive from Bulawayo.
Despite the interesting, unique challenges that come with setting up a business here, I do have to say most days we are wide-eyed with wonder at watching our dreams transform into reality.
To see a lodge taking shape, business cards appear in our hands, and bookings coming in is rather incomparable.
We’re setting up a business in Zimbabwe, despite ridiculous challenges, and it is going to be AWESOME.