In this 21st century, African women entrepreneurs are transforming and challenging the status quo even as some have to juggle between the competing demands of career and family.
In spite of the difficulties they face such as a lack of financial resources, poor access to business networks, suitable markets, and distribution networks, these superwomen continue to strive, succeed, create impacts in their communities, motivate the next generation, and also raise families. Quite remarkable, not so?
What fuels their drive and passion for entrepreneurship even in the face of existing barriers to their growth? techbuild.africa had a chat with Chilufya Mutale, Co-founder of PremierCredit, a Zambian fintech startup.
In addition to providing insights about her company, Chilufya also shared her entrepreneurial journey, goals, and challenges that can resonate with other African female entrepreneurs.
What is your background like?
I was born in Lusaka, Zambia to a family of 8, of which both parents and 3 siblings are now late. I was raised by a single parent, my father, who inculcated an entrepreneurship spirit in me as he was an entrepreneur.
My career started with an International microfinance company that had a social mission to reduce poverty and my passion to support women-led businesses was derived from there. I am now a 36-year-old mother of two beloved boys, married, and currently, Co-Founder and CEO of PremierCredit.
Can you tell us about Premier Credit, its goals, and objectives?
PremierCredit is an online microlending platform operating in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since 2019, PremierCredit has been offering microloans in Zambia, supporting local entrepreneurs and small scale traders, many of whom are women, increasing their access to capital and the ability to grow their businesses.
With the support of its partner bank in Zimbabwe, PremierCredit provides affordable bicycles, smartphones, and Solar equipment on a Pay as You Go (PAYG) basis to underserved, urban, and rural communities across Zimbabwe.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
After 3 years of working as CEO in one of the fastest-growing consumer lending fintechs in Zambia, I realized I could serve my customers better by providing solutions that really met their needs, contributing positively to their standard of living.
There was an inner burning desire to be part of a meaningful and impactful cause that benefited our society and economy at large, and this passion and drive led to the birth of PremierCredit.
Were there challenges you faced as a female founder at any point during your entrepreneurial journey?
I faced many challenges in the first year of our start-up. I was a full-time entrepreneur with no other source of income and liquidity was our biggest challenge. We had to create a super-efficient and very lean model, leveraging off the existing technology.
Most funders we approached wanted audited financial statements for the last 3 years among other requirements, and we could not meet these requirements so we got a lot of NOs.
Entrepreneurship can also be a lonely journey as not all friends can relate to your problems as you are no longer in the formal sector, perhaps in an executive role with support systems that can easily fix things with a phone call. Therefore, I had challenges in sharing my problems and knowing how best to solve them.
We were fortunate in the latter part of 2020 to partner with a VC firm, Enygma Ventures, that focuses on and supports early-stage women-led businesses. I’ve started to enjoy the camaraderie of the group of women (investees) giving me a great sense that is not alone, and I have a strong support system I can fall back on, women I can relate with, and share my experiences.
At the time PremierCredit was founded, I was expecting my second-born son. It was challenging trying to balance business, debt, that comes with unemployment, family, and taking enough rest. It was a stressful and vulnerable period.
What impact did COVID-19 have on PremierCredit?
The pandemic had a positive effect on our business which was contrary to what we anticipated. We expected our sales to reduce, but what happened was our online sales increased by more than 200%. It was easier for customers to borrow money from lenders that provided digital financial services to avoid face to face interactions.
As we venture into 2021, what plans do you have for your company?
We plan to provide alternative finance by way of P2P lending, creating passive income for many MSMEs and individuals across the region. We are building internal structures and systems that will provide more digital financial services to MSMEs and consumers across Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Do you foresee future trends happening in Africa’s tech ecosystem?
I foresee more challenger banks coming up and scaling in the Fintech space.
Hopefully, we see another spectacular and groundbreaking acquisition by another international tech giant, as we saw with Paystack and Sendwave.
Do you have a few words of advice for aspiring female techpreneurs in Africa?
- Please join startup communities and tech hubs in your area that share similar or the same aspirations as you. You won’t believe the exceptional support systems startup communities and tech hubs have. I have greatly benefitted from them.
- Develop a product-market fit that will scale your business even on a regional and global level, THINK BIG, BRAND INTERNATIONAL.
- Be the first Investor in your own business before trying to attract larger investments through VCs, there is no shame in bootstrapping.
- You may face opposition from your peers who may discourage you, pull you down and it’s even more painful if coming from family and friends. You can overcome this by NEVER GIVING UP. Keep trying and never quit. Your hard work will eventually pay off.
As a busy woman in tech, when and what do you do to relax?
Honestly, I don’t get enough time to relax on weekdays, so I made a deliberate policy to relax on weekends. I spend that time playing with my kids and bonding with them.
Featured Image: Chilufya Mutale, Co-Founder & CEO, PremierCredit
Don’t miss important articles during the week. Subscribe to techbuild weekly digest for updates.