the sunday mail
It is often said that success is sweet, but the secret is sweat.
Entrepreneur Cynthia Bizure’s road to success is a testament to that.
From selling candy and airtime, she has climbed the social ladder to become one of the most famous fashion moguls in the country.
The founder of Jan Jam dresses most of the socialites, celebrities and business executives like Jah Prayzah, Madam Boss, Phathisani Sibanda, Kudzai Violet Gwara (KVG), Ammara Brown and Comfort Mbofana among many others.
In the process of transitioning from the informal to the formal sector, he has seen it all. But despite being a trendsetter and a fabulous success, Bizure remains humble and down to earth.
“Is God! I never thought that one day I would be at this stage, although I had some entrepreneurial spirit in me from my childhood days. I used to sell sweets at school and even continued afterwards,” he told The Sunday Mail Society.
After school, she had a stint as a clerk at a law firm and a bank, and counts most of her former co-workers as her clients. “When I got a formal job, I continued my candy trade and even added a variety of snacks as the business flourished (laughs). The merchandise has now improved compared to my school days. Deep down I knew I was a business person and I needed to start somewhere,” she said.
Later he tried his luck in various business ventures. Sometimes he burned his fingers, but he kept going regardless.
“Sometimes you don’t get the expected results, but you have to keep moving, no matter what.”
His biggest breakthrough came when he negotiated with one of the country’s largest mobile service providers to become an airtime wholesaler.
This helped Bizure raise a substantial amount of money, which he then used to kick-start his cross-border trade.
Initially, it imported electronic devices to resell them. The long and grueling journeys to and from South Africa by bus not only helped her build a small fortune, but also made her a resilient businesswoman.
“Back then I was still working for a bank, so I did my formal office work from Monday to Friday. As soon as it was over, he would board a bus to Mzansi. I rarely had weekends off, as I worked almost every day of my life,” she recalls.
As business boomed, he secured a space in a newly opened shopping center in central Harare and became a reputable electronics supplier.
He later opened four more stores.
It was during that time that he made two crucial decisions that completely changed his life.
“Now I had five stores that I was renting. However, importing and selling home appliances had its fair share of challenges. So I decided to go off the rails and focus on clothes,” she recalls.
“Around that time, I also realized that my side job had greatly surpassed my formal employment in terms of income, so I decided to quit.”
The decision was made to locate the boutiques in the heart of the city to cater to all classes: the wealthy and the lower and middle income.
Attracting the top end of the market in central Harare was going to be a tall order.
Bizure successfully negotiated the rental of a space along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare.
This marked the beginning of Bizure and his Jan Jam brand 12 years ago.
“I think I made the right decision as this turned out to be my turning point.”
He named his company Jan Jam, which stands for Jannice and Jamie-Lynn, his first and second children.
The mother of three children is currently the proud owner of four shops in the Harare CBD and one in Chitungwiza.
She plans to have at least 20 stores in different towns and cities.
Bisure knows how to put the hours.
In addition to traveling far and wide looking for special orders for his customers, he also has to keep the business running.
At home, their roles include making sure their family is well taken care of.
She prepares breakfast for them every day before she drops her children off at school.
In some cases, he sacrifices his work days during the week just to be with his children.
But her social life is suffering.
“Life as a wife, mother and businesswoman is pretty hectic. My attention is often required in different places at the same time and balancing everything is difficult.
“Sometimes family comes first because being a mom is a full-time job, but sometimes business has to come first. I’m glad my husband is someone I can trust to help take the pressure off.”
At work, she is the boss and calls the shots, but when she comes home she is Tanaka Sithole’s wife. “We know our positions and responsibilities as a couple. As the head of the family, my husband makes sure we are well provided for and sometimes even helps the business financially.
“It helped us a lot when the Covid-19 induced lockdowns hit our operations hard. The business went into a hiatus and there was no revenue, but we had several employees to attend to,” he said.
The couple loves together and values transparency.
She believes her strong Christian background has cost her several business opportunities over the years.
“As a Christian and a wife, I have principles, so when some of these deals come around or even if I don’t feel comfortable with certain gathering spaces, I’d rather let it slide, and it has cost me at times,” Bisure said.
“There are some spaces in which I cannot be because I am a woman, a wife and a mother. In this industry, you need to have limits.”
However, she added that women should be more aggressive in business.
The ongoing Women’s Month celebrations, she said, are crucial to creating gender parity.
Their views resonate with this year’s theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”, which is featured under the hashtag #BreakTheBias.
“Women have to work more than double to put everything in order. Being a wife, mother and in business is not easy. A functional support system is needed.”