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Ryan Katayi: I almost quit

Young entrepreneur Ryan Katayi (left) in conversation with Trevor Ncube recently

Young entrepreneur Ryan Katayi has chronicled the struggles he went through to complete his tertiary education, revealing that he almost dropped out of college due to lack of money.

Katayi (RK), who is the founder and chief executive officer of FarmHut and Kwingy, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that his problems started when his father died as he was about to go to university.

He spoke at length about how his upbringing shapes his views about life and business.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Ryan Katayi, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

RK: Thank you Trevor, and for inviting the rasta. First rasta on the show I think? Oh Winky D I think?

TN: Yeah Winky D. Well you have actually planted an idea in my mind; so we go to the hair.

The way we are going to go to the hair is like this; the headmaster of George Stark, Masimba Mupavaenda, has sparked you know what people call controversy, by shaving pupils that come to class with their hairstyles like yours.

What is your response to that?

RK: I think for me even talking about it brings a lot of anger inside me.

 To start with, the headmaster has no right to physically touch a student, right?

You know I took it from the point that if I were a parent and my kid was touched, and touched in such a humiliating manner, knowing someone else is recording a video right, whatever reason the person who is doing that angers me.

That is against any law I think is valid in this country to begin with.

I think the parents should sue the school to begin with.

Secondly, we as a society just do not want to grow and need to evolve right?

We came from a pre-colonial era where we had our own hairs, different types of them.

Long, short, I do not even think many people did short hair because we did not have many instruments to cut the hair, right?

Then we had the colonial era where we had standards, your hair should be neat, cut this short etcetera, right?

Then we are sticking to that, so my question was now if there was a person of different colour to me, a black person learning at that school were they going to be subjected to the same conditions?

I have met a number of different races, they have their hair in different directions, shapes and flows, and that is acceptable, but then you take a black kid and you say your hair should be short.

For what reason?

And if there is a law to sustain that, then what is the design of the short hair?

Is it supposed to have this cut? It is absurd, it is barbaric, it angered me Trevor.

TN: Even now I can sense the emotion.

RK: It did, it angered me, and it is one of the reasons why I even put my hair, because people would not take meetings with my co-founder, because he had dreadlocks, and I was like okay fine if you want to try and because it is short hair then you are going to be trying with the rasta.

Then we will see whether we are going to have the meeting or not because we cannot do business with people with such stereotypes.

I think as young people that are coming up, and even the Gen-Z that is there now, it is that kind of mentality that we just want to put into them, that your hair does not matter, your height does not matter, your weight does not matter.

All that matters is who you are as an individual, your authentic self, be you and after that we can see actual value coming from the people that you are trying to represent or even acknowledge.

TN: I hear you completely, but my issue there is what about a bit of order?

What about a bit of rules?

Should we not have rules and a bit of order that comes from the home and comes to the school?

You shall not drive on the right end of the road and that kind of stuff?

Let us have uniforms, what is your sense as far as that is concerned?

RK: There has not been a scientific study concerning that, but on uniforms yes there has been scientific study.

I support uniforms because people come from different backgrounds, and having casual clothes there, you know it is going to create classes, and this is an age where people are still growing personally and that impacts them so much.

When it comes to stuff like hairstyles etcetera, we have had these rules over I think a century now, we can even go back.

People are still driving on the left side of the road, people are still seeing the records of crime that are going on, it means it is not doing anything, right?

What I have seen, let us take public schools in Europe or even in America, they wear casual, they dress the way they like and how they want to, but they still breed the Mark Zuckerberg's etcetera who drop out of the schools.

So, there is no formula to say if you want to bring order let us have a uniform, we are not in the army, we are civilians.

So, if you want to have a people who work, and who are creative, do not put them in a box because now they are defined by the box they are put in, which is why I think it is something that has been ingrown in me  because I went to a mission school. So yeah I know the rules.

At 6am I am awake, I cannot eat before you know 1pm because I would eat lunch every day for nine years at a boarding school at 1pm, so I cannot eat before 1pm.

So, it is stuff like that, and as an individual I feel like I have been put in a...

TN: Box?

RK: Exactly. How do you want me to compete with a kid who after school goes to some PE stuff, you know goes to some you know some creative piano lesson, how am I going to compete with that?

When after all that I am still in that box Trevor?

TN: Which takes me to another interesting aspect of your life. You have started two companies? FarmHut...

RK: Sadly...

TN: And Kwingy? Co-founder of FarmHut and Kwingy partnered. You are studying. Who is Ryan? Are you an entrepreneur or a student or you are doing all? Talk to me about that?

RK: So I think I will take you back. I grew up with my dad, a loving man  he was. My father always had...

TN: He is late now? It is okay. May his soul rest in peace.

RK: May he continue to rest in peace yeah.

He always projected through me, right.

So there was that walking to school for 10km, you know those kind of stories, he was that hard maShona kind of guy.

When he started making it, he always pushed me to a point of doing 15 subjects at ‘O’ Level, to the point of up until he said at ‘A’ Level he was like you know do five subjects.

I was like no I am not doing that, right?

But what he always wanted through me was to see the version that he could have been himself had he been afforded the opportunities.

He had always told me I want to take you to the best schools in the world, we had started applications to Harvard, to Stanford, Yale etcetera, you know the Ivy League schools.

He was like you do not even need a scholarship I am going to pay for your education.

I was like wow, this picture-painting that my father is giving me...

Then he passed on at the same time I was supposed to start varsity.

A lot of things happened, and I found myself not in school, very good grades but was stuck.

I managed to wiggle my way into NUST, struggled so much Trevor, very much.

This is why I am very sincere about students, about people and their stories. I struggled so much.

TN: What do you mean you struggled so much? Unpack that that for us?

RK: You know it was university. It is that time in your life when you are like freedom right, I can stay out as long as I want, I can...

TN: I can drink, I can be a young person?

RK: I could not afford a bottle of whatever lager or something

I want to start experimenting as well you know, everyone wants to do it, I could not.

People were going for road trips, I could not.

TN: You could not because you couldn't afford it?

RK: I did not have money to buy lunch. Lunch was $1,50 at that time, I could not.

I was surviving off my best friend you know and other people. It was hard.

My stepmother was also trying, but then you would see she was struggling up to a point when I came back.

We always had that kind of conversation at home like Ryan I do not think we can still keep on doing this.

I started going into WhatsApp groups, 200 and something people. I was copying and pasting my message, one by one.

I even sent a message to Temba Mliswa, in an email. I would say this is my story, this is my struggle can you please help me?

I sent to a number of people. Fortunately enough, one of the people I sent the message to actually worked at (at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) Zimra, a charity fund they run by Zimra.

They were like Ryan, your story, can you come and meet us. I went to Zimra but they would not allow me entry into the building, they were like the way you are dressed, no.

 I then said I am waiting for him (the company representative), they said call him to come down and I was like I do not have airtime I cannot call him.

So I waited and waited up until he was coming down and we actually met there downstairs. He was going somewhere else, he was like Ryan is a no-show.

He came down and saw me was like Ryan come up.

We had an interview, a set selection process after that and I got on a scholarship.

I was like God, I mean I was about to quit Trevor, I was about to quit. After that it was in God’s hands.

So to your question, am I a student or an entrepreneur?

We started FarmHut before I got the scholarship when we were still in that struggle.

For me, it was a way to remember the people I lost.

I lost my grandmother, I lost my my father, I lost my grandfather. The only thing that kept my memory alive was our farm.

We always went there, I always hated it every time we went there. I did not like it at all.

TN: Why?

RK: Trevor you wake up having to dig the earth!

For other people they would get back to school, they would be talking about how they went to Joina City, which was very popular then, or they went to KFC.

 I would be like okay.

Others would say they went to South Africa and I would be like I went to Nyazura, no cellular network, no phone.

That was my life, and I hated it, but then after that I was like that is me.

TN: Wow. What a story.

RK: I am always thinking if my dad was alive, if my dad was alive, and I was at this point where it was so dark, I just want to give up. I am very empathetic to people who commit suicide.

I never judge them because I have been to that dark place.

“In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor.  The conversations are broadcast to you by Heart and Soul Broadcasting Services

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