“You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.”
This is simple advice from Sheryl Sandberg, an American technology executive, author and billionaire. Sandberg is also the chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org.
The advice resonates well with the story of one Zimbabwe’s leading florists.
Typically, behind every bouquet is a florist who brings different flower species together to make one big pretty bunch of flowers.
In Zimbabwe, we have Mildred Rutsande, a Harare-based florist who brings beauty to every bouquet.
Born and bred in Chinembire, Buhera District, Rutsande decided to take up the career of a florist after completion of her secondary education at Nemakonde High School. She could not further her studies because of poor grades.
Although she had a desire to attain tertiary education, Rutsande did not let her failure throttle her ambitions, as she simply switched to another passion, one of becoming a florist.
In a lengthy chat with this publication, Rutsande said when she was young, she dreamt of becoming a pilot or rather become a famous business woman.
“Being an independent woman has been my desire, supporting my family and l.
“Even though I couldn’t be a pilot, I am extremely happy because I add beauty to every single bouquet,” she said.
In 2004, Rutsande joined the crew at corner Second Street and Jason Moyo Avenue in Harare.
“Flowers are beautiful, as a woman they have made me appreciate beauty more, ” she says.
Selling flowers is not easy in Zimbabwe as they are not really appreciated.
Other factors that make flower
vending unpopular in Zimbabwe is because vendors do not have proper space to sell flower bouquets and they fall short of refrigerators to keep flowers fresh.
A few flower brokers generally buy most of the produce and distribute them to local retail outlets after a significant mark-up.
The retail florist shops usually operate on roadsides with little or no protection for flowers.
Said Rutsande: “It is time that we as a country start investing in setting up auction centres.”
She added that as florists they would need support to export goods and bring in foreign currency.
One of the main challenges which local florists face is that some popular flowers are exported for various uses such as roses for rose oil.
These specific flowers are over-supplied on the international market.
Zimbabwe used to be one of the largest exporters of a wide range of horticultural products in Africa, supplying overseas markets including Europe and the Middle East.
For instance, citrus exports peaked in 2001 at 45 000 tonnes, being 60 percent of fresh produce output.
According to ZimTrade , Zimbabwe exported cut flowers worth $60 million, making it the second largest exporter after Kenya.
Rutsande invited women to take part in this business as it helps a number of people to earn a living as well as support their families.