Blessing Mashangwa

Cosmetic firm empowers women

Gibson Mhaka
THERE are a lot of ways to make money, but not so many ways to make a difference!

The above words seem to be a guiding principle for a top cosmetics firm, Oceane Collection Cosmetics (OCC), which has apparently taken a leading role in the country in inspiring, encouraging and empowering women to enter the world of business through the sale of perfumes.

OCC which is headquartered in Harare and has branches countrywide, was launched in Bulawayo in September last year with the aim to mobilise people interested in selling perfumes and earn commission. The move has provided an avenue for hundreds of unemployed women in Bulawayo to earn a living.

Since there have been calls for the empowerment of women in the past years by the government and various players there is no doubt that direct marketing initiatives of perfumes by OCC has offered an opportunity for women in Matabeleland to venture into business.

Empowerment initiatives by OCC are in line with United Nations (UN) studies which show that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. The study also says families become healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase.

OCC believes that strengthening the economic role of women is critical in reducing poverty, improving health and education outcomes and achieving other broad development goals. In short, OCC accept as true that through the empowerment of women communities become more resilient.

In a lengthy  interview with B-Metro on the sidelines of an event where top recruiting and best selling agents in Bulawayo were being rewarded, OCC co-director Blessing Mashangwa (ABOVE) said their firm was in Bulawayo to support mostly disadvantaged women in Matabeleland region to create businesses through the sale of their products.

She said it was the perfect opportunity for people in Matabeleland region to create their own success stories adding that with the support they were giving them they were able to earn money, lead change in their communities and break the cycle of poverty.

“I am proud to say that Oceane is the largest direct seller in the country and being our agent means that you are selling an iconic brand while running your own business. People can make money by simply selling our products.

The more perfumes one sells, the greater the percentage one will earn on those sales.

“Agents earn money based on their personal sales, with a similar commission earnings structure applied. Although most of our agents are women, men are not excluded. We now have a good number of men selling our products and we want them to come in numbers since most of them are now out of work.

“Initially we were recruiting women only since we felt they have been overlooked in many markets and actively suppressed in others. Our sole mandate is to distribute Oceane Collection products in a way that would empower women to wealth and as an established company we are like a bridge for people who do not have capital to start their own businesses,” she explained.

As gender roles become less distinct, she says, women need to find their own way of forging new paths, “where home, family and business all have to be thrown into the mix”.

The 35-year-old director and mother of four firmly believes that empowering women to be key change agents is an essential element in fighting poverty in the country.

“What women should know is that for one to be a successful businessperson it takes risks. There is also need to overcome personal fears. What people should know is that they are not working for us but this is the opportunity for them to make money by selling our wide range of products which are highly concentrated and guaranteed to last.

“For example each perfume is going for $12 and we say per each perfume a member or agent sells he or she gets $4 from it. From this it is clear that the initiative is actually helping both the company and citizens at large.

“Five cars will be given away in December to agents who will have sold more perfumes and also recruited more people into the company. We are encouraging people to join the organisation and our contact details are found on our Facebook page.”

When she was asked what she felt was the most significant obstacle for both girls and women in this regard, she replied:

“Confidence is everything. Women need to know how valuable they are and how valuable their point of view is in any field in order for us to inch towards gender parity in the workforce. It sounds simple, and of course there are so many external factors that play in to the way things are, but I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.”

Turning to the major driver of her business, Mrs Mashangwa said she was dedicating her products and business to God. Quoting from Proverbs 31 which details the attributes of a virtuous and hardworking woman she said although she had degrees in business, she has managed to achieve success through the grace of God.

Oceane collection of perfumes was established in 2005 as a subsidiary of Ocean Holdings Company in Harare and has over 4 000 active participants countrywide. It also has branches in South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.