Exploring Sector Trends and Development Strategies with Victoria Gazi of Samson Bricks

Interview with Victoria Gazi, Founder and CEO of Samson Bricks

Could you provide us with a brief assessment of your sector? What are the current trends and how do you perceive its development?

Our sector is experiencing significant growth, particularly in Bulawayo where there is a notable surge in construction activities. This growth trend extends to neighboring cities like Gwanda and Plumtree, along with various smaller growth points in between. Recognizing this growth, we identified an opportunity to establish ourselves as a leading supplier of concrete products. Our goal is to establish a reputation for reliability and quality so that when individuals and companies embark on construction projects, especially in emerging areas, they trust us to provide essential materials for their building needs.

Do you perceive a growing demand in the market?

Absolutely. There is definitely a growing need in the market, and we have strategically positioned ourselves to meet that demand by offering premium quality products. Many are attempting to enter the market, but few match the quality standards we uphold. From the outset, we prioritized rigorous strength testing for our products, a practice not commonly adopted by smaller companies. This ensured that we started off on the right foot, yielding impressive results. As we continue to refine our processes, we anticipate further improvement. Our products have undergone stringent strength tests, and we have consistently ranked at the top. When compared to the offerings of established leaders in concrete manufacturing, the quality of our products is indistinguishable.

How do you distinguish yourself and what would you say is your competitive advantage?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, we have focused on embodying professionalism, delivering exceptional customer service, and ensuring top-notch quality despite being a smaller entity. Additionally, Samson Bricks strives to maintain competitive pricing, providing customers with excellent value for their money at lower rates. This combination of factors sets us apart and enables us to remain competitive in the market.

Can you describe the products that you manufacture?

In-house, we produce a variety of products. Firstly, we manufacture block bricks, which are commonly used for construction in high-density areas for building houses, and in low-density areas, they are predominantly used for exterior walls due to housing regulations. Additionally, we produce standard size bricks approved for both high and low-density construction, primarily utilized at foundation levels. Furthermore, we manufacture two types of pavers: general interlocking pavers and solid brick-like pavers, also known as “bevel pavers”. Our interlocking pavers come in two sizes – the 60 millimeter residential type and the 80 millimeter commercial type suitable for heavy vehicle traffic areas. Apart from manufacturing, we also retail ancillary building materials such as brick force, cement, kerb stones for paving edges, and garden edges for creating pathways. This comprehensive range of products is what we offer at Samson Bricks.

You mentioned that your clients are mainly consumers, but we noticed, for instance, that you provide bricks for heavy vehicle traffic areas. Could you elaborate on your clientele in that aspect?

Recently, we supplied bricks to a privately owned service station for their truck fleet. Additionally, we have undertaken paving projects for a company that owns trucks, specifically at their warehouse parking area.

Could you describe your clients in terms of their geographic locations and their demographics?

The majority of our clients are what I would describe as being from the low-end market segment. Specifically, our main product, block bricks, is popular among residents in high-density suburbs. These areas permit the use of block bricks for construction, and due to their larger size, fewer bricks are needed to complete a house. Hence, this demographic constitutes the bulk of our clientele.

Do they possess the purchasing power necessary for your company’s efficiency?

Yes, indeed. The majority of Zimbabweans reside in these areas, constituting the largest market segment in terms of end consumers.

So you are indicating that there is a significant demand, making this market appealing. And they have the means to purchase from you?

Absolutely. Moreover, a large portion of these consumers are from the diaspora. Despite being overseas, they continue to invest in construction projects, particularly in high-density areas. In terms of payment methods, we are flexible. We accept transactions through Western Union and also allow deposits into Visa accounts. Unlike many small companies, we do not shy away from the associated charges. Additionally, we offer a lay-by system without imposing strict deadlines for product collection, providing further convenience to our customers.

Could you explain how your lay-by system works?

With our lay-by system, customers have the option to make monthly payments towards their purchase. For example, some customers may choose to send $1000 USD each month until they have accumulated enough building materials for their project. We accommodate this arrangement and do not impose any storage fees for the products reserved during this period. In fact, it benefits us when customers pay in advance.

What portion of your total sales revenue do you believe originates from the diaspora? Additionally, where is their primary geographical concentration?

I would estimate it is about 65 to 70% of our sales turnover. The majority of our diaspora clients are based in the United Kingdom, with smaller numbers in various parts of Europe. We have customers in Switzerland, the Netherlands, among others, but the majority are indeed from the UK. This aligns with the significant migration from Zimbabwe to the United Kingdom, making it a logical trend.

What are the primary concerns that diaspora individuals typically have when reaching out to companies in Zimbabwe?

The first question they often ask is, “How can I trust that you won’t abscond with my money?” It is a common concern rooted in experiences of being conned or cheated, not only by companies but also by relatives. Consequently, they prefer dealing directly with trustworthy companies. Sometimes, this trust issue prompts them to seek extended services beyond what we offer initially. For instance, they may ask us to handle additional tasks like roofing, leading to full project management. This extends beyond our core business but is driven by the diaspora’s deep-seated trust issues. To address their concerns, we keep them updated with progress pictures, provide accurate receipts, and maintain clear communication to reassure them throughout the process.

So, it seems like your scope extends beyond brick production to encompass full-scale construction projects. Do you handle these internally or collaborate with partners?

We subcontract certain aspects of these projects. We have a group of builders who are not full-time employees but work with us on a project basis. This allows us to outsource specific services that we do not offer in-house but can provide to our customers when needed.

It appears that your key strength lies in both producing the materials and supplying them to companies. Does this mean that the companies you collaborate with become your clients, acquiring raw materials from you?

Yes, absolutely. It works both ways. It is important to build relationships with builders. They often hold significant influence, sometimes even surpassing that of the end consumer. Even if I directly market to a consumer and they prefer our products, if the builder disagrees, their opinion usually prevails. Therefore, builders are crucial stakeholders for us. We actively seek feedback from them and conduct after-sales visits to gather insights on any issues encountered. This approach allows us to continuously improve and grow.

What projects are you currently involved in?

Currently, we are engaged in constructing a classroom block at one school, and simultaneously building a perimeter wall at another school. These are our two primary projects at the moment. Additionally, we are in the process of paving a sizable residence in a lower density area, which we anticipate completing within the next week or two. These three projects constitute our main focus areas at present.

Apart from your ongoing projects with clients, you mentioned plans to relocate your head office. What are your considerations for the development of Samson Bricks?

One of our primary focuses is our relocation to the main road. Currently, our office is situated a bit away from the main road in the industrial area, making it more accessible by car rather than public transport. Moving to the main road will enhance our accessibility to everyone, serving as a form of self-advertising for passersby. Additionally, our new location will be strategically positioned between two major industry players, about 500 meters from each. This move signifies our commitment to stepping up and making a name for ourselves. By situating ourselves in the hub of concrete product suppliers, we aim to further establish our presence and sow the seeds for future growth.

When you mention the two major industry players, do they also manufacture bricks like you, or do they have a different approach?

Yes, they also manufacture bricks and are essentially doing what we do. However, they have been established for a much longer time and have built a solid reputation over the years. Nevertheless, we are looking to challenge the status quo and disrupt the industry.

What message would you like to convey to potential investors interested in your business? What approach do you have, and what would you like to say to them?

I am definitely open to investment opportunities. My message to investors is to have faith in us as a small company and to embark on this journey of growth together. Let’s not solely focus on the established big players; instead, let’s nurture each other’s growth, provide guidance, and disrupt the market as we learn and evolve.

Can you share your plans for the next three years? What is your vision and what do you hope to achieve if everything goes according to plan?

In the next three years, I envision our company being synonymous with concrete products, where our name is the first one that comes to mind when people think of this industry. I aim for us to achieve what I call the “Coca-Cola effect,” where instead of asking for a soft drink, people specifically request our brand. I hope we will be well on our way to becoming a highly established and recognized brand, ultimately aiming to be the market leader in our sector.

What is your philosophy in life? You have achieved significant milestones recently, including awards and launching your own company, which is quite courageous. What motivates you to wake up every morning and pursue your goals?

Well, for me, it is quite simple. I am driven by the fear of being average. I constantly strive to exceed expectations and be above average in everything I do. At 27, particularly as a black female in today’s environment, I am proud to say that I have surpassed the average. This fear of mediocrity propels me forward. I always aim to expand my dreams and goals, diversifying across different sectors. Currently, I have three income streams, aiming for four by the end of the year, and hopefully five by the time I turn 30.

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