Hello Ms. Sue Chigorimbo. I’m Miss Miriam C.R. Mushaikwa from Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe, and it’s my pleasure to have you here for this interview.
Q: To kick off the interview, kindly tell us more about yourself.
A: My name is Sue Chigorimbo, and I am the eldest child in a family of three. I was born in Harare 40 years ago, then we moved to Mutare when my mom passed on. I am a single mother to three lovely children, two boys Tinashe aged 18 and Noel 15; and a little girl Nicole aged 6.
Q: Childhood is an exciting phase in life. What is your most vivid childhood memory?
A: Well, my childhood was like any other in the 80s and 90s. I was energetic and loved playing ‘Maflawu’ and ‘Hwishu’ with my friends. My most vivid childhood memory would be when I was in Grade 7 in 1993 when I was chosen to travel from Harare to Victoria Falls [all expenses paid!] The program was planned by an organisation that chose two intelligent and well-behaved children per school from a couple of Primary Schools. It was amazing because the journey was by train, so it was a memorable experience. I had the time of my life.
Q: Success is not an overnight thing. Kindly walk us through your journey.
A: Like you rightly stated, success is a journey and I am still far from where I aim to be, but the journey so far has been insightful. I started off knitting in 2018. My daily routine had become boring and I bought myself some yarn and knitting needles. I began by making headbands for my daughter. One day I posted them on Facebook and Instagram and people loved them. Next, I made placemats, accessorized them with buttons and orders started coming in. Then I thought, “Why not knit a cushion cover?” I did, people loved it and began getting orders. An aunt of mine saw my work on Facebook and she came by and asked if I could use a knitting machine. I had never used one before, so she offered to get someone to teach me. I learnt how to make cushion covers on a knitting machine in 3 hours. From then onwards, I was making up to 20 a day. I bought my own knitting machine, and that’s when Knits n Krafts by Sue was born. The cushions were a hit for a while then I stopped because I was battling depression due to some personal problems. The whole of 2019, I didn’t make anything and when the depression got really bad, I attempted suicide. As time went on, I figured out that keeping busy kept my mind off my problems. I needed to keep busy to ward off the anxiety, so I started knitting again in 2020. I wasn’t so sure if it was going to help, but I started posting again on my then dormant Knits n Krafts by Sue page, but the responses were amazing! I started getting calls and messages from all over, women were inspired by my work, and some even wanted to be taught how to knit. I then started writing my patterns and listed them on Etsy, Lovecrafts and Ravelry. The money started coming in from the pattern sales and this pushed me to keep going. I am yet to achieve my goals, but I have come so far.
Q: I saw some of your knitting works on Twitter and I was immediately drawn to them. What motivated you to venture into this enterprise?
A: Initially boredom was the motivation for me to start knitting. Then personal problems and my battle with depression and anxiety also created a knitting zeal, because the craft became therapeutical. It was my outlet. Each time I felt the anxiety coming on, I would start knitting and would produce amazing creations. I realized that when knitting, my mind was constantly focused on what I was creating. I didn’t allow myself to think of anything else other than my creation. Knitting is also highly Mathematical; with so many sequences to follow, a lot of counting and remembering involved, so you really don’t have a choice but to block out everything else. I regard it as a highly cognitive craft.
Q: You are an entrepreneur and a mother. How well are you juggling both roles?
A: I won’t lie to you here, juggling motherhood and entrepreneurship is challenging. Especially now, with the lockdown and home schooling. I have to monitor my children`s work on a daily basis. My daughter is in Grade one and I have to take her through her work step by step. I’ve have had to adjust my work times. I now start a lot later than I used to, and most of the time I have to work late into the night to meet orders. My 24 hours feels like 12 because there is always so much to do and very little time! Further to that, raising teenage boys and trying to run a business is hectic. There’s a time where I want to be involved in everything they do, but at the same time I have so much on my plate… but I try.
5b) In the household, what’s your favourite chore as “Mummy”?
I enjoy shopping for my kids, if that’s even a mommy chore. That’s the only time they listen to me and play along! Besides this one, I don’t think there’s a chore I enjoy anymore. I used to, when I was younger. I guess I got burned out [Laughs].
6.a) The public space can be hectic. What’s your best or worst experience with a client?
My best experience with a client so far has been when a client pays much more than I asked for. That happens a lot when people see my “kraft” and appreciate the talent. The worst experience I’ve had so far is when I received a knitting order and made it, only for the client to ghost me. Knitting takes some time, so I was gutted.
6.b) How well are you managing your social media presence, and is it effective enough?
I majored in e-commerce so I am a social media freak. I understand what a powerful tool it is in business, how effective it is in building a brand and I have also learnt so much through my social media marketing journey. I used to advertise and post my work on Facebook mainly, never on Twitter. There are some conclusions that I have drawn with regards to the effectiveness of the various social media platforms. I can confidently say my brand grew more via Twitter than any other platform. The same applies to sales. More than 90% of my orders have been via Twitter. Facebook Ads really helped me push my pattern sales globally. Entrepreneurs in this tech era need to embrace social media marketing, it is highly effective. It is less costly than the traditional marketing means, the reach is global and it is ubiquitous. An aggressive social media marketing approach is one of the most important strategic tools that a businessperson can possess.
Q: The line of work you’re in is still a niche market. Do you plan to start teaching others too?
A: Of course, imparting my craft skills is one of my goals. My skills are so diverse and it’s been difficult for me to focus on just one. I am literally all over the place, I make anything and everything. This made me think long and hard on how to make the most from my diversity, and the dream is to open a crafts school. This would offer opportunities of employment to other creatives like myself to teach what they know. My dream is to nurture young creatives from a young age, instil confidence in them to showcase their talent, and change the perception that crafts do not pay. I have been teaching knitting virtually for a year now, and I am working on turning it up by doing face to face classes once Covid-19 dies down.
Q: Apart from being the Knitting Lady, what else are you involved in?
A: At times I am into retail hustles, but currently I am focused on growing my brand.
Q: Being a woman is not easy. What are some of the struggles you face in your line of business?
A: Perception is my greatest challenge and it trickles down to my pricing strategy, as people expect handmade crafts to be cheap. There is general lack of understanding and appreciation of the creative process, how taxing and complex it is. Talent needs to be appreciated and the prices of our products need to reflect the worth of the creative process. I once applied for funding from an organisation that was giving out loans to start-ups. The moment I told them I needed funds to import yarn for my next line of product: a baby range, they switched off. If perception changes and crafters get support from government, our journeys would be a lot easier. Women are not taken seriously if they do not have a white-collar job. We are expected to take on the more ‘respectable’ careers such as being a lawyer, doctor or an engineer. Crafting has always been looked down upon and not taken seriously. The moment someone asks what you do and you say you are a crafter, they think you are a joke, that you are not smart. Like I said before, a lot of people do not realize how mathematical knitting is, it is for the sharp mind. So there needs to be a lot of education from a young age, on how important crafting is alongside other career paths.
Q: As Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe, our role is to celebrate women. Do you have anything you would like us to prepare for that you’re working on in the shadows?
A: As alluded to earlier, I am working on opening a School of Krafts to nurture crafting from an early age and create employment for lots of crafters locally who have hidden their talent for fear of ridicule or because they are not confident it will put food on the table. So, watch the space.
Q. As we wrap up the interview, are there any words of advice you would love to give to fellow women who would like to follow in your footsteps?
A: My advice to fellow women who want to follow in my footsteps is: go for it, the sky is the limit. Start today, with the little that you have… voice shaking, trembling legs, just start! Unleash your creative giant, do what you love regardless of what they say, even if they don’t support you, go on. I always tell myself that my greatest supporter is my hands because they are capable of doing so much.
Q. Kindly share your social media handles so that we can like, share, follow and buy your products..!
A: I am on Facebook as Knits n Krafts by Sue, same as Instagram. My Twitter handle is @KraftsQueen
M: Thank you very much for your time.
S: The pleasure’s mine.