Since our launch in March 2018, BlackEXPO has provided a platform for dozens of businesses to share their products. Through the in-person markets and active WeChat groups, vendors are able to engage with potential customers and build community. Now we want to go a step further and to give the vendors in our family a chance to share their stories. So many vendors, (if not all of them), are multidimensional people with inspiring backgrounds and unique insights. As such, we are launching a series of vendor spotlight to dig a little deeper and give you a peek behind the brand, welcome to “Feature Fridays”.
Tina from Chariots HandMaydz is one such vendor. As we have had the pleasure to get to know her over the past few years, we have learned that Tina’s jewelry is not only stunning, it is also impactful. Keep reading to learn more about the Chariots’ story and the necessary work being done through beads.
B•e Team: Tell us about you and where you are from.
Tina: My name is Tina Tendai Makaya, I am from Zimbabwe. I am a Christian; my life is guided by the principles of God and the sacrifice of Christ. I am [also] a mother [and] a staunch believer of working through my own hands for the benefit of my family and the community.
Love that answer. How did you come to China and what do you do in Beijing?
Tina: I came to China through a friend who was already living in China. I had this big dream and I wanted to learn more about different cultures. [At the same time,] I also wanted to work hard [to] finance my dream, China provided an opportunity for me to utilize my skills to get the financing required for my dream [ to become a reality].
What was your big dream?
Tina: My big dream was to have a group of schools that carter for marginalized children from infant class to high school.
That is a great dream. Most people know you for Chariots HandMaydz, your jewelry company that specializes in handcrafted beadwork. How did you start your business? What was the starting inspiration?
Tina: Chariots was initiated to make a difference in my community back home assisting orphans and vulnerable children as well as women from underprivileged backgrounds. Our initial focus was on single mothers. We needed something to show to the women, something that they could witness and believe in, and also know that they could also make it on their own. We started Chariots a company that makes African Themed jewelry to finance these projects.
So your business was focused first on creating a practical solution to a pressing issue and the product was almost secondary. If that is the case, How did you settle on jewelry as the product to bring in revenue for Chariots?
Tina: I settled for jewelry because I wanted to show the women that I work with that you can start from somewhere and make a living out of using talent. The majority of marginalized women that I work with are not educated and I needed a practical example so I chose jewelry.
From those early days until now, how has your business evolved over time to what we all see and know as Chariots HandMaydz?
Tina: It was not an easy road. …Jewelry making is something that I learned [through] youtube. It was not easy but with what we are able to do now as an organization, the struggle was worth it. There were always people around me who were so encouraging and helpful, [including] my best friend Tula [who] is very creative she would help me with ideas until I found my feet. It started very slow but I kept pushing because of the cause. I attended a few markets every month. People began to appreciate the brand and cause, [which would later lead] to an increase in sales and referrals.
Keeping the cause and why at the center and having a supportive network is certainly critical for any young business. What about a platform like BlackEXPO? You have mentioned before that BlackEXPO has had a positive impact on your business. How did you get to know about BlackEXPO and can you expand more about how BlackEXPO has impacted your life?
Tina: BlackEXPO has had a very positive impact on our business and projects. The sales that we have made at BlackEXPO have made a huge difference in our projects. The first BlackEXPO [in March 2018] was a game-changer. Our customer base increased so much because people from all walks of life came to this event and they appreciated our products. We [still] have loyal customers and relationships [built] from this event. I got to know about BlackEXPO through one of the co-founders Miss Olivia. We met at different markets before BlackEXPO [launched]. BlackEXPO has made a great impact on my life personally because I feel that it made me realize that there is hope for our work. It inspired me and I feel where we are is only the beginning of a great journey to greater heights. I have also learned to respect humble beginnings and to soldier on, little by little, One step at a time. I have learned that connecting and uplifting other people makes you grow as an individual.
Wow, that is inspiring for us to hear about the impact we have been able to have in your business. We have heard about the great work you are doing back at home in Zimbabwe, especially with the opening of the Early Childhood Development Center. Please tell us the background of this project and the reason why you started it.
Tina: Yes, we have built and opened an early childhood center in Zimbabwe for orphans and vulnerable children. This program was started to spread the love of God, not through handouts but [by] equipping the children [and] changing their lives through education. This was also a way to empower the mothers to be able to go out and find work or use their hands for profitable use, without worrying about the welfare of their children, or [having to leave] their children home alone when trying to find means to provide for them. We wanted to start from the grassroots that is why we started with an early childhood center.
The school holds a capacity of 30 children. We have 8 children at the moment. We are looking to enroll more children once we get sponsors. The background of the children that attend the school varies. We have children that are from child-headed families, single mothers families, orphans and children that are taken care of by the elderly or grandparents.
Kudos on tackling the hard problems with real and tangible solutions. I am sure the community in Zimbabwe is better for this work. Does Chariots HandMaydz support any other people back at home and how?
Tina: Chariots Handmaydz, through its foundation People at Heart, supports women. We help women achieve their dreams by providing financial assistance as well as empowerment programs. We host conferences where women can gather and talk about issues that affect them. We just held a conference on the 27th of July 2019. This was a conference for single mothers just to appreciate the work that they do in our communities. We [also] have a project where we will train single mothers over a six-week program to sew; we already have acquired 10 sewing machines towards that project.
We have also been approached by a single mother with four children whom we have taken onto our assistance program. We have also in the same vein taken up her debt for the program she is doing at a local University enabling her to submit her dissertation and final exams. We are also in the process of securing an electronic wheelchair for a paraplegic lady who was referred to us. We continue to take on any other women who need assistance and by the grace of God, and the assistance from well-wishers and partners, we will be able to provide for all those the Lord will direct to us for assistance.
You are a genuine inspiration for the work you all are doing to better the lives of your community and empower women. With all that Chariots has already achieved, what are the future plans for the business?
Tina: The future plan of Chariots is to continue creating opportunities for women and children to become who they are ought to be in life. We are looking at becoming the crème de la crème of African Themed Jewelry. This will increase our earnings, enabling us to create opportunities for women to make a living.
What is one lesson that you learned through Chariots and your other projects that you would like to pass on to others looking to make an impact through business?
Tina: I have learned to put other people first and work that extra mile to make a difference in someone else’s life. I have learned never to take an opportunity or a blessing that God has given me for granted. My advice to people who want to make an impact through business is that don’t wait to have so much money until you help someone, and do not think business is just about making money but [it can be used to impact] lives positively. One small gesture will go a long way. It can be as simple as putting food on someone’s plate. They will appreciate it. There is so much work to be done in every community you just have to make the decision to help.
Well said! How can people learn more about Chariots HandMaydz and the great work that you are doing?