Follow your passion — and if you don’t know what it is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.” —Oprah Winfrey
Passion is essentially what drives our Youth Connekt Covid-19 Response and Prevention Challenge winner Miss Junior Bakasa. Her journey to entrepreneurship began when she was still in primary school, with the sole dream of running her own business.
Junior Bakasa is the founder of Olive Virgin Pvt Ltd trading as OV PRODUCTS, a Zimbabwean detergent manufacturing company. Their products range from sanitizers, surface cleaners, bleach, scouring powder, toilet cleaners to dishwashing liquid. OV Products also offers decontamination services and supplies personal protective equipment (PPE) from their manufacturing processes.
As successful as Miss Bakasa is today, the path did not start out so smoothly. After completing university in 2011, Junior found herself betrothed to a maddening commonality among most young Zimbabweans, that of unemployment. Having majored in Psychology and Human Resource Management one of her aspirations was to work for the United Nations with the main goal of serving the community. As time passed, Bakasa acknowledged her discontent with the partial opportunities of work she was receiving; none of them provided the deep social impact her heart yearned for.
Upon her father’s advice, she decided to register Olive Virgin Pvt Ltd in 2014 as a business that sold hair extensions. She was intrigued by the notion of being able to make a dollar out of fifty cents which reinforced her love for business. Her parents loaned her money to purchase the required Indian hair extensions for her business to begin. Bakasa unfortunately made her first entrepreneurial error, of not being able to distinguish between business funds and personal funds. Predictably, being young and new to business, she squandered all her profits.
Having learned from her mistakes, she decided to venture into detergent manufacturing with the partial savings she had gathered from her earlier jobs. As she ventured further into business, she had to overcome numerous obstacles, from procurement issues, financial strains, to the constant battle of balancing personal and work life. Gradually, her one-man band grew to a team of three, then evolved into a team of seven full-time employees in an industrial area in Aspindale. Junior’s goal is to employ more than 500 people in five years’ time throughout the business operations.
Through her passion and work, her aspiration of becoming the next Unilever, were realized in 2018 when CBZ and Empowered Life Trust transformed her dream on paper and placed her second runner up in the 2018 (YEP) national competition. The funding she received was used to purchase 30 tonnes of raw materials to manufacture her products. Currently, OV Products distributes their line in over 600 individually-owned retail shops, with a few Spar Shopping Centers and Total Service Stations.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, OV products added sanitizers to their production line and diversified to supplying PPE and disinfectants. Junior admits that the Covid-19 pandemic has made them question their business processes and has identified the need for readjustment in order to survive. Her plans are to fully automate her manufacturing process to speed up production and capacity.
When asked how it felt to be the winner for the YouthConnekt Covid-19 Response and Prevention Challenge she described it as a dream come true, from her aspirations to working for United Nations to winning a challenge supported by the UNDP the experience was beyond magical for her.
“It was such an emotional moment for me because looking at the other awards I had won I had never been first and I remember telling myself, do better Jay, no one remembers who came in second, and so when I won the challenge with the UNDP funding, I began to see that dreams do come true. I am such an advocate for SDG’s and I hold the UN in such high regard, so for my first win to be a UN win, urgh, what dreams are made of. Unmerited favor! And I intend to use the funding to extreme good use. _Junior Bakasa
Her advice to fellow youth who seek opportunities was,
“Apply, apply, apply, grab the opportunity, you never know what doors it will open. At first I was scared to apply, a friend pushed me to, and here we are. In essence life is what happens when you are busy living. Through networking, other opportunities are availed to you, as in my case. I know my business will never be the same again, ever. Youth Connekt has given me such a platform as a businessperson, an authentication as a voice in sustainable development goals that I have been advocating for and a stepping stone to greater heights and positively influencing my community. The goal is to leave no one behind; they say educate a girl child and educate a nation. I intend to hold hands with others and go forward together. I intend to invite others to the table I am building. Together as the youth of Africa, we can! . _Junior Bakasa