Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
MR Cornelious Edwards (41) started as a photographer taking pictures in Bulawayo’s Centenary Park, but today he runs two firms, one a furniture factory and the other a construction company selling homes for no more than US$30 000.
Born with albinism in Gwanda to parents also living with albinism, Mr Edwards moved to Bulawayo in 1994 to start Form One at Milton High School.
Unfortunately, he did not perform very well in school so he decided to be a photographer in 1999, but things did not work out as he thought they would. He decided to move to Botswana where his uncle was a builder in 2004, but failed to get a proper job that would help him support his family back in Zimbabwe.
While on the verge of deportation as he did not have money to extend his days in the neighbouring country, his salvation came.
Only left with P75 and facing the possibility of being deported should he not raise P300 that was needed for the extension of his days, Mr Edwards visited a Chinese shop with the hope of getting a side hustle.
He said the owner of the shop told him he had no space to add another worker, but was selling socks that he could buy at a cheap price for resale.
Mr Edwards bought 12 pairs of socks with P15 and within an hour they were sold out, giving him P150.
The businessman said he went back to the Chinese businessman and bought 30 more socks which all sold out on the same day.
“In a day l managed to make enough money for my passport extension days and enough profit to buy more socks the next day. I saved my money for about a month then approached the Chinese businessman who had grown to be a friend just to get advice on what I could do with my saved money,” he said.
Mr Edwards said the Chinese businessman helped him to start a construction company, RealChampion.
Fourteen years after going to Botswana, in 2018 Mr Edwards decided to move back home.
“I wanted to come and build homes for people in my country. I moved to Zimbabwe in March 2018 and by July my company had been registered and was fully functioning,” added the businessman.
After opening a branch in Zimbabwe, he decided to add a furniture factory in his catalogue so that his customers could have the option of building a home and getting all their property from him.
He manufactures beds, cardboards, wardrobes, tables and chairs at his factory in Belmont, Bulawayo.
“I gave my company the name RealChampion to show that l conquer in everything that l do in my family. The park photography business helped me raise money to go to Botswana, and the socks business in Botswana helped me start my own construction company and the construction company birthed the furniture business,” he said.
Mr Edwards said from 2004, he has not looked back and he is happy he took his socks business seriously and was open minded when his Chinese friend suggested the business to him.
“My construction company specialises in building homes and reselling them once they are completed.
We build two roomed houses that go for US$13 000, four rooms for US$20 000 and six rooms for US$26 000 mostly in Cowdray Park.”
“Our homes are sold with plumbing and electricity already installed. We also put a tub in the bathroom so the only thing that the buyer has to do is move into their home,” he said.
Mr Edwards said they give their customers an option to buy a residential stand and build the house from scratch.
“As for furniture, after building our homes for the customers we offer them a quotation where we fit cardboards and wardrobes which are made from our furniture shop.
“The shop also makes other furniture like sofas, beds and tables,” added the businessman.
Mr Edwards said he helps his team with building at the site early in the morning and whenever the weather is conducive for his skin.
He said being in construction is very tough at times because of competition.
Mr Edwards said at the moment, he has about 20 permanent workers who are dependent on his construction and furniture business.
He said fortunately for him, Covid-19 did not slow down his business as he was building houses during that time.
“Because I specialise in a business that does not deal in perishables, Covid-19 never slowed it down.
Instead that is when I got most customers,” he said.
He said living with albinism has never limited him from doing anything and he has never felt discriminated against because he has always been proud of himself, so he did not mind about any negative things people had to say about him.
“I have never seen myself as handicapped. Instead, l do the best out of everything that l touch. I have always been a businessman right from being a park photographer till now. Living with albinism should not be a reason why someone stays at home and does nothing. Instead, one should live like everyone else because there is nothing different about us people living with albinism,” said Mr Edwards.
Mrs Patricia Moyo, one of Mr Edwards’ clients said she was a bit skeptical when she first visited their offices wanting to buy a stand because she had heard horrible stories about local constructors.
“I worked with them from the first day they dug the foundation for my home up to the final touch. I am really happy with Mr Edwards’ work. Never did we fight during our course of working together. Even when l was having challenges with coming up with the stipulated money they were never harsh with me.
Instead, they gently came to an agreement with me,” she said. Mrs Moyo said she is planning to buy another house from the company.
Article Source: The Chronicle