The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: From Street Vendor to a King

NO one really expects a barefoot street vendor to rise to a point where he owns a chain of shops.

But one man has made it and that man is Geroge Chiraya, a former street vendor who used to spread his wares on the floor along the streets of Chitungwiza.

Now, 18 years after he started street vending, Chiraya, has become a businessman of repute with four shops in Harare and Gweru.

Trading as CellOne Enterprises, Chiraya has three branches in Harare - First Street, Mbuya Nehanda Street and Robert Mugabe Road - and one in Gweru.

Those who have made it in life always have something to tell whether it is positive or negative, they will admit that it was not an easy road.

Born in a family of 10, Chiraya says he faced many challenges as he grew up but that didn't not deter him from working for the best.

"After finishing my O-Levels at Seke 3 High in Chitungwiza, I used to take pictures and made a bit of money which I then invested into my new business of selling second-hand clothes at Chikwanha Shopping Centre.

"Competition became stiff and one of our neighbours in Chitungwiza, Mr Chaka who used to work at a record store, encouraged me to sell music CDs, DVDs and cassettes between 1999 to 2002. Business was good at the time but it was not long before we were hit by Murambatsvina in 2004 and I found myself starting all over again," he explained.

His eldest brother Johnson then asked him to start a business in cellphone accessories.

"We sold cellphone accessories like chargers, housing, pouches, screen guards, headphones, leash and batteries. The problem was we didn't have a shop at the time so after realising brisk business we opened our first shop in 2006 at Coppacabana building," he said.

Chiraya said he then opened another big shop along Chinhoyi Street later, which forced them to think outside the box.

"The shop had enough for lots of stuff so I went to CBZ and I got a loan and reinvested it into my business. In 2010, we opened a branch in Gweru, another one in Mbuya Nehanda Street and in 2012 we opened the Frist Street Mall branch which is arguably the busiest," he said.

Chiraya, who is a staunch member of the Faith Apostolic Church, said he always believed that greater things were coming his way.

"I draw inspiration from James 1 verse 27 which says 'God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world'. This has been my driving force and this is why as CellOne we always assist the community in every way we can," he said.

He, however, said there were facing challenges in his line of business and were hoping to get funding from Government.

"We are still growing as a business and since Government has started the indigenisation programme we also want to benefit and be able to plough back into the communities that we live in. However, we still give glory to God," he said.

His vision is to bring the CellOne brand to the people through providing original electronics gadgets to Zimbabweans.

"In our business we have always emphasised that people should buy originals. It could be your cellphone, laptop, printer, camera, battery, ipad, television set, tablet, hands-free set, or any of our products. This year we are offering 100 percent guarantee on every product from our shop. We are also looking at repairing anything bought from our shops free of charge through our customer care centre," Chiraya said.

Despite his success, the down-to-earth Chiraya lives a modest lifestyle and spends most of his time at church.

Coming from a big family, Chiraya has two wives - Patience Rukodzi, who is the first wife has two boys and Tapiwa Matowanyika has two girls. "I got married in 2000. I always try and balance between my two wives. We live in Waterfalls and each one has her own house," he said.

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