British Council Creative Economy

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22 October 2015

Peer-to-peer mentoring in Zimbabwe

We meet two Zimbabwean creative entrepreneurs, graduates of Nesta’s recent Creative Enterprise workshops in Harare, as they mentor each other through the choppy waters of setting up a business.

As any business founder will tell you, starting and sustaining a small business involves all sorts of trials and tribulations.  Even if you've had great training from experts, doing it on your own can be daunting - and the experts you've learned from can't always be there to help.  Thankfully, our peers can provide continuous support: from strategic guidance, to skills sharing, to emergency emotional therapy.

Nesta a UK-based innovation charity that brings individuals and organisations’ ideas to life, in partnership with the British Council, HIVOS Regional Office for Southern Africa and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Zimbabwe, recently provided workshops for early stage creative entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. 

Following five days of training this summer participants on the programme were matched up in peer pairings.   The pairs committed to keep in touch with each other and meet up at least one a month face to face to help each other implement what they'd learned in the workshop.  

These relationships continue to flourish. We asked two of the pairings, digital publisher CJ Tahmla, and graphic designer and writer Chiratidzo Chiweshe-Saruro - aka ChiChi - to keep diaries of their progress.  We'll be publishing their progress in regular updates on our blog.  In the meantime, here's a intro to both of them.

Chiratidzo Chiweshe-Saruro - aka ChiChi

“I want to educate my clients, challenge their perceptions and ideas, and visually interpret what they are asking into a format that is both beautiful and result-focused.” - ChiChi

Chi Chi officially launched Chiratidzo, a creative consultancy and arts studio, in August 2014.  She has been an artists and graphic designer for over 11 years.  Her business is based on a belief in what she calls "'practical design’ - artwork that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also serves a functional purpose." 

CJ Tahmla

“We are creating authentic African heroes and heroines to inspire the next generation to be active participants in story-making, shaping Africa instead of being mere footnotes.” - CJ Tahmla

CJ Tahmla’s digital publishing platform, for fiction and non-fiction, has been running since 2014. His eBooks and audiobooks are informed by the challenges facing Africa in the 21st century, tackling climate change, religious fundamentalism, biotechnology and more.

Results so far... and expectations on what's to come

Both ChiChi and CJ say they've been been inspired not just by the training’s content but it’s methodology; as CJ says it "was not just another talk shop but an interactive experience that provided a lot of valuable lessons. One of the most important messages I really took in was the need for collaboration".  

For ChiChi being paried with CJ Tahmal will help them both with “sticking to the vision and values we started with.” A she explains this is as much about “pinpointing inconsistencies in my approach or language” as it is about the wider issue of keeping an objective eye on a business you live and breathe. CJ talks of being so often absorbed in the solitary act of writing. He sees sessions with ChiChi as offering both a release and an opportunity, as he says “sharing ideas with others opens different possibilities to problem solving.”