He is not a typical African youth in a continent said to be facing high unemployment rates. In his 20s, he is the founder of a proptech company that is connecting students with property managers and landlords. His name is Marvellous Nyongoro. Today, we tell you how he started his company while studying and the impact he is making among students in his country.
Who is Marvellous Nyongoro?
Marvellous Nyongoro is an award-winning proptech entrepreneur from Zimbabwe. He is the founder of The Housing Hub, a digital marketplace that is helping university students in Zimbabwe save thousands of dollars every year. The trained accountant believes in empowering youths. Thus, his company employs students as agents.
He has been honored and awarded severally for his work at The Housing Hub. For example, in May this year, he was awarded the Presidential Best Innovative Student Award by the President of Zimbabwe. In 2019, he was a finalist for the Anzisha Prize award.
A Peek at Nyongoro’s Background
Little is known about Nyongoro’s background. But, what we know is that he was born and raised in Zimbabwe. When he was a freshman at Midlands State University studying accounting, he assumed that he would stay on campus until he finishes university studies. However, upon becoming a sophomore, he was supposed to find off-campus accommodation.
Coming from the first year, he had no orientation to this new world of living off-campus. He began traveling looking and asking for a place to live. He was 18 years old at that time. Moving from house to house without success was a horrible experience for him. He says some people were unwelcoming, perhaps, because they didn’t like his dressing.
Others thought he didn’t have enough money. In the end, he gave up knocking on people’s houses and getting the same response. Instead, Nyongoro opted for house agents. He came across an agent who somebody had recommended as reliable. He sent the agent some money to secure his accommodation. Unfortunately, the agent gave him a fake directory with the wrong contact numbers.
Consequently, he abandoned the agents’ strategy and now decided to create a WhatsApp group. He thought that the group would allow students to share accommodation places they find as they move around. This strategy worked for him. Consequently, he found off-campus accommodation and in the end graduated in 2020.
Motivation to Start BusinessAccording to Nyongoro, Zimbabwe has over 200,000 tertiary students. But only 30% of them can be accommodated on campus. Therefore, the majority of students opt for off-campus accommodation. On the other hand, landlords who lease property to students have challenges when it comes to accessing the student market. This is because neither the universities nor the government provides students with a system of accessing off-campus accommodation.
Students spend as much as $30 during the accommodation search period on transport, extremely high agency fees, and temporal accommodation. In 2018, Marvellous Nyongoro fell victim to a bogus house agent. Out of frustration, he conceived an innovative way to use technology to help students easily access available accommodation.
The Birth of the Housing Hub
The WhatsApp group that Nyongoro created soon became full. Then, a friend of his advised him to open a Facebook group to accommodate more students, and he did so. Upon reaching 3200 students on the Facebook group, Nyongoro started realizing that off-campus accommodation was in high demand.
As days went by, someone approached him and suggested, “turn this into a business”. Nyongoro bought the idea and established his digital proptech company in 2018. Within two weeks, he formalized the business, set up necessary structures, and managed to list the first 10 rentals on the platform.
Today, The Housing Hub runs as an online marketplace that provides accommodation services to students. It acts as a bridge between landlords, students, and property managers. The proptech company also provides complimentary services that help students to experience a stress-free life. The company earns by charging a fee for every listing and booking made on the platform.
Challenges at early Stages Business
Nyongoro did not have enough business knowledge before starting his company. He began wondering about many business aspects including how he would go about finding available accommodation and how much he should charge. Nonetheless, a clear focus on what he wanted to do kept him going. Also, he didn’t have the capital to start the business. He says,
“At first I didn’t want to start because I told myself I need funding. I need money for me to be able to start.”
But later on, he realized that he had stayed for long without launching the business simply because he didn’t have the required capital. It was then that Marvellous Nyongoro decided to take the leap and start his property business. He recalls,
“I was like, you know what, I’ve been telling myself for four months that we are starting, let me just start because I’m not growing any younger and the problem is still there in the community.”
He had $30 as pocket money but this was far from enough. So, he borrowed $60 from his parents to register the company and another $50 from his sister. The Zimbabwean proptech entrepreneur had another obstacle to overcome. He didn’t know how to go about studying and running a business at the same time. But he soon realized that having the right mindset and good time management was all that he needed. He explains,
“I re-looked at my timetable and I rescheduled my life. I told myself if it’s time for studying then I’m going to be studying, if it’s time for business then I’m going to be pulling these certain hours into the business.”
Expansions and Future Plans
Nyongoro has grown his company from the initial listing of 10 landlords to 490 properties. The company has over 13,000 registered users and more than 5000 beds on its platform. The company has gone beyond property listing to include online shopping. It has also partnered with other companies. For example, The Housing Hub works with a cleaning company that offers cleaning services at a discount.
It also partners with an energy company that provides cooking gas. Nyongoro realized that some landlords do not practice proper bookkeeping. So, he offers accounting and bookkeeping services to them. In the next two years, the company hopes to extend its services across Zimbabwe before diversifying to neighboring countries and to the rest of Africa.
5 Business Lessons from Marvellous Nyongoro
1. Never be afraid to take the leap
According to the Zimbabwean entrepreneur, many young Africans never realize their dreams because they are afraid of getting started. But he says what is important is to know what you want to do and believe in your idea. Also, other people cannot believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.
2. Don’t have very high expectations
At first, Nyongoro was very excited about his business. He even thought it would flourish within two weeks. Little did he know that his entrepreneurial journey had just begun. He advises everyone who is getting into business not to have very high hopes. Things do not always work as planned. You will have peace of mind by giving your business time to grow.
3. Always deliver value
Customers are always looking for businesses that deliver value. This is the easiest way to draw clients to your business. Nyongoro says that no one will be willing to sign up for your service or purchase your product if it does not benefit them. The young entrepreneur recalls that he had to think about ways to create value for landlords.
He asked, “what do landlords need, what are they missing, and what can be done?” This helped him to identify several areas he could capitalize on to attract landlords. His company started by allowing free property listing on the platform.
4. You need an idea, not money
Marvellous Nyongoro did not let a lack of money stop him from pursuing his vision. He was determined to provide a solution to the off-campus accommodation problem in Zimbabwe. He took a chance and started his property company with just $140. According to Nyongoro, starting is a state of mind. Start with whatever you have. You don’t need money to start.
5. Learn from your mistakes and move on
In the beginning, the young entrepreneur says that he did many business mistakes that translated to losses. But he has learned a lot from those mistakes. He is now more knowledgeable and skilled. Nyongoro cautions people never to run a business based on assumptions. He says doing enough market research pays off, eventually.
Marvellous Nyongoro is one of the young African entrepreneurs determined to provide solutions to problems facing Africans. He notes that many investors are afraid of investing in Zimbabwe because of its weak economy and hyperinflation. However, he believes that,
“If an investor finds a good business—like our business is a good business—a business with a good model and everything, then their investment is safe and they can get a guarantee that they will get their investment back.”
What is hindering you from taking the leap and pursuing your vision? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.