D.I.V.A of the Month – April 2012
Meet April’s D.I.V.A, Sharon, and read about how she is making her money work for her as well as making a difference in other people’s lives!
Lelemba: Who is Sharon?
Sharon: I am a down to earth person, who is passionate about making a difference in the world, even if it is just to one person, for me I’ll have fulfilled my purpose in life.
Lelemba: Tell us about what you do for a living and your family life.
Sharon: I work in the International Development sector, where I support the implementation of programmes of cooperation with the Government. I am a single mother to a lovely boy who’s just turned 3 years old and I am still waiting for someone to sweep me off my feet!
Lelemba: You also do quite a lot of entrepreneurial activities; can you tell us what kind of things you are involved in?
Sharon: I have a passion for enriching women’s lives; I run a small business supplying cosmetics, the Mary Kay cosmetics range.
Lelemba: I recently learnt that you are also doing some work around empowering taxi drivers, can you tell us more about that?
Sharon: I try to keep my money working for me, so one way I do that without having to exert my personal efforts is to invest in taxis. I know most people have horror stories of how that works but in Zambia with so few investment options and where there are any, the returns are so low, I’ve found this option to fit my purposes just right. I invest in a few taxis at a time, where I enter into a contract with the drivers. We agree on the total “cashing” that they must make in a given period of time, of course taking into consideration my ROI (return on investment), and at the end of the period, the car is handed over to the driver and he becomes the absolute owner. It has many risks like any other investment but I have found it to work very well because it is a win-win situation for the both of us; I make a good ROI and he is incentivized by gaining a car at the end of either 42 or 48 week period, depending on the contract. Some drivers have managed to liquidate the amounts in an even shorter period like 35 weeks. You are talking of ROI of about 40% in that period of time on average.
Lelemba: Wow thats a pretty good deal. Is this something you will be doing over and over again?
Sharon: Of course I’d do it again. Its one way of empowering people and this time, I am looking for female taxi drivers, remember, when you empower a woman, you empower a family.
Lelemba: Do you ever get ‘me’ time and if yes what do you do during this time?
Sharon: It’s very important for me to ensure that I have a proper work-life balance as I have a very busy schedule. My weekdays and weekends tend to run into each other, sometimes I have to work on Sundays, of course on my entrepreneurial activities only. So yes, my ‘me’ time is sacred! This is the time I pamper myself, I do what I don’t normally do, get a full body massage and grooming, go to a movie or just enjoy a novel.
Lelemba: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Sharon: I think the biggest challenge I have faced is when I returned from my Masters degree studies in the UK and I couldn’t find a job for a very long time. I worked at a company I had worked at before I went on to study and moved on to work as an intern for an international organisation, then as a volunteer for another international organisation. I felt like a failure, yet I had graduated among the top four of my class at University of Manchester. Those were probably the lowest points of my life because I was almost facing destitution. Yet I refused to accept that perhaps I had failed in my career and what kept me going was a belief that in all that I was facing, there was a LESSON, somewhere in there, that God wanted me to pick up and learn. That got me through it all.
Lelemba: Indeed there are lessons in both the good and bad times .. its just harder to see in the bad times! LOL! What are some of the highlights you have experienced?
Sharon: Of course one of them is the birth of my son, he is such a blessing that I keep asking myself why I didn’t have him sooner…lol…he makes it ALL worth it! Another highlight has been the opportunity to learn from great feminist scholars like Dr. Uma Kothari, who has inspired me with such provocative critical thinking that has manifested in all my work.
Lelemba: Who/what else inspires you?
Sharon: My late mom is always a source of inspiration; I always remember how strong she was in the face of adversity. No matter how bleak it looks, it’s always gonna be alright, that’s my motto in life.
Lelemba: Where to from here? Can you share what some of your dreams or goals are?
Sharon: We were all born for a purpose and go in different directions to find the purpose for our lives. Some are born to amass wealth; others are born to serve others and others to be served. I’ve had to ask myself countless times which one I am. I am building my career and at the same time, leveraging my varied career experience to inform my financial planning for the future, to build a diversified real estate investment portfolio.
Lelemba: That is great! Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. I am sure it will encourage a lot of people out there.