When Covid-19 struck Zimbabwe in 2020, triggering a nationwide lockdown, Marlvin Chieza found himself returning to his rural home, seemingly without a clear future. Yet amidst this uncertainty, an opportunity presented itself through the abundance of apples scattered around his locality. This observation sowed the seeds for what would become Nyanga Craft Cider, Chieza’s growing enterprise that turns local apples into a sought-after beverage.
For someone who only began his business during the Covid lockdown, Marlvin Chieza certainly doesn’t lack ambition.
“My future goal is to get financing lending so that we can make a lot of products so that they can be found in every area of Zimbabwe and Africa before extending globally,” said the entrepreneur, whose business has gained meaningful traction in less than four years.
“I was a rural boy until I got an opportunity from this business, and now I live in Harare, the business generates thousands of dollars monthly, and our products range in price from 1 dollar 75 cents to 30 US dollars. The majority of our clients are local neighbourhood hotels, restaurants, bars, and tourists,” Chieza explained.
While Covid was tough for all business owners, it did offer opportunities for some budding entrepreneurs on the lookout for opportunities. Chieza was one.
When he went back home to Nyanga, in eastern Zimbabwe, during the country’s first lockdown, he spotted the opportunity that was to transform his life.
“In my rural area, the place is in the mountains, and the temperature is always cool, which is why they call it mini-England. Nyanga is home to fruit trees such as apples, grapes, and many more,” Chieza shared.
The idea to turn the fruit into cider took root as Chieza waited out the lockdown.
“I could see many fallen apples on the ground in numerous plots while there was a high demand for ciders as bars, shops, and restaurants were closed, and that day I can fairly say Nyanga ciders was created,” he explained.
Prior to the pandemic, Chieza worked for the Rusape municipal council, in eastern Zimbabwe.
“When the Zimbabwean government imposed mobility restrictions due to the pandemic in 2020, I had no choice but to return to my rural location in Nyanga,” he said.
“I invited a friend of mine with a background in the food business to work with me. We used 2,000 [US] dollars to start. We had to buy bottles and the few inputs needed to kick-start our business, and today Nyanga Craft Cider has penetrated Zimbabwe and tourists from South Africa and the Netherlands order our beverages.”
Chieza capitalised on the resources available to him. “Entrepreneurship begins with what you have. Occasionally, the resources in your immediate surroundings can serve as a bridge to the business world. During the epidemic, I became interested in the cider industry and took advantage of the abundance of apples in my community,” he highlighted.
Nyanga Craft Cider was a finalist in the Eagles’ Nest Youth Export Incubation Programme, an initiative by ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organisation. The initiative aims to assist new exporters by providing them with access to mentorship opportunities, an idea-pitching platform, and operational support.
“Our neighbourhood draws visitors from all around the world. A gentleman from South Africa came for tourism and shared Nyanga Craft Cider’s tale across the internet,” Chieza said. The tourist then went a step further and helped Chieza with a dream learning opportunity.
“He assisted me in connecting with a cider guru from the Netherlands, who sponsored me for a cider-making course in America in 2021. This course provided solutions to all of my questions that arose during my home fermentations. It provided me with the opportunity to learn from cider industry specialists and interact with other cider producers and cider makers who we do not have in Zimbabwe,” Chieza disclosed.
“The cider business has turned my life around, and the demand for our products is so high that we are overwhelmed,” he noted.
Currently, Nyanga Craft Cider employs five permanent and ten temporary workers.
Chieza’s company has also provided Nyanga farmers with an opportunity to earn income from their fruit trees.
Despite the initial challenges of a new business, Chieza has his sights set high. His goal is to be a major player in the cider market, not only in Zimbabwe but across Africa and even internationally.
/ Bird Story Agency