Amazing-Grace Makusha, Women's Business Education Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on helping businesswomen in Zimbabwe succeed, the importance of rest, and your exact brand of weirdness.
I am a Chartered Accountant (CA) by profession and I trained with PwC in Harare, Zimbabwe. Post-qualifying as a CA in 2017, I spent a few months in London where I had the opportunity to work with diverse teams on interesting clients. I enjoyed my secondment but at that point, I knew I wanted a change from auditing work. I left PwC soon after returning to Zimbabwe and joined the Finance department at Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola experience was mind-blowing and I enjoyed learning how a global company operated and, more importantly, the significant contribution it made to the Zimbabwean economy and the impact it had on a large number of families (through employment and end-to-end value chain transactions).
This realisation made me ponder what I want to do with my life and the impact I want to make. It led me along the path of equipping women who run small businesses in Zimbabwe with skills to scale their businesses and make them sustainable. Thus, I decided to pursue an MBA at a Top 10 school because I wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and consulting/advisory work.
I knew that funding an MBA would be a challenge, so when I was doing my research I focused on schools that offered scholarships. Applying to London Business School and for the Laidlaw Scholarship was an easy choice. Their values align incredibly well with mine and I knew that I would be supported through the journey, as well as beyond. The Foundation has a track record of funding exceptional women and I knew I wanted to join this cohort. One of the happiest days of my life was when I received the phone call informing me that I had been granted a scholarship. It was honestly a life changing moment for which I am eternally grateful.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
The year is 2035 and against all odds, Zimbabwe is a middle-income economy. The middle class is thriving and there has been growth in the small-to-medium enterprises (“SMEs”) sector of the economy. A consulting & advisory firm established by Amazing-Grace Makusha in 2026 has made incredible inroads in ensuring that SMEs that are owned by women in Harare have access to her incubation pod that provides basic business skills. These women go on to use these skills in their small businesses and by implementing the operations, marketing and finance skills that they learn, they are able to create structures that promote growth. Over the past few years, the country has seen an increase in loan applications for SMEs headed by women and it has been noted that in a decade, women-led SMEs will contribute at least 5% to Zimbabwe's GDP.
What is the biggest life challenge you have overcome and what did you learn from it?
When I started my CA training at PwC, I enrolled as a part-time student as I also needed to write my final qualifying exams. As I grew as a professional and was awarded more responsibilities, I found it challenging to consistently balance being a high performer in the workplace with ensuring my studies did not suffer and passing exams. At my lowest point, I found myself stretched thin, physically exhausted and experiencing anxiety attacks, as I felt I was failing in all my responsibilities.
During this time, I was fortunate to have a counselling session scheduled with a partner and after I poured out my heart to her, she told me that I was being too hard on myself. She assured me that my work performance was well above expectations and I was in fact due a promotion. She also encouraged me to take personal time off and allow myself to rest, as my life would only get busier as I progressed in my career and I would need to learn how to prioritise tasks/responsibilities whilst ensuring that my health was not compromised.
This has proven to be true as my to-do lists have kept getting longer and I always need to prioritise and re-prioritise tasks. Thus, I always carry this lesson with me, as it highlights the importance of rest and serves as a reminder that I can only perform at my best (at work and in my relationships) if I am feeling my best (if I take care of myself).
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
“You are worth being brave for.”
I got that from Brené Brown where she was explaining how your dreams are valid and they are worth pursuing. You should always give yourself the chance to become the person you want to be and achieve the things you want to achieve. The only thing that separates you from the future you desire is acting intentionally in the present. Go for it — because you are worth that bright future!
Conversely, what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
“You are too THIS to do THAT!”
THIS refers to age, gender or any other personality trait which supposedly hinders an individual from attaining THAT i.e. their goals.
Your exact brand of weirdness is what sets you apart and ensures your contribution to the world is unique. No one knows where the next great idea or invention will come from, so you owe it to the world to bring your full self and contribute — despite your age/gender/personality.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
- Embrace vulnerability — being able to be honest about what you know or don’t know and surrounding yourself with colleagues and team members whoo will cover your gaps and ensure the overall goal/mission is achieved.
- Be authentic — bring your true self to the team and the task. This inspires others to do the same and where people are able to be fully themselves and feel accepted, they perform better at the jobs which results in overall team success.
- Stay curious — the world is moving at breakneck speed and it’s important as a leader to keep learning and growing, so that you contribute meaningfully in your sphere/s of influence.
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Nelson Mandela — for showing love in the face of hate and helping unite a divided nation whilst remaining humble.
Greta Thunberg — for being brave and standing up for a worthy cause and proving that age is just a number.
Barack Obama — for defying the odds and inspiring millions of people that anything is possible.
Sheryl Sandberg — for owning her success and showing that it’s possible for women to do it all…just maybe not all at the same time!
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
It means I have a highly esteemed community that believes in my potential and is rooting for me to succeed. This belief is simultaneously liberating and empowering, as it frees me from a huge chunk of the imposter syndrome that comes with applying to an institution like London Business School. The faith that the Laidlaw Foundation has expressed in me empowers me to bring my full self to the School and contribute to make a difference because my place here has been validated. It also means I have a responsibility to pay it forward to other women and ensure that as I rise, I also lift other women up.
📺 Currently binging: Modern Family (rewatching all seasons as the show recently ended!)
🎵 My quarantine anthem: EVERYTHING by Taylor Swift to be honest. I am an avid runner and more often than not over the past few months, I have found myself selecting Taylor Swift at the start of each run and letting her song list shuffle!
🎧 Podcast obsession: This American Life - a storytelling podcast which profiles ordinary individuals doing ordinary and extraordinary things in their day to day lives. It reminds me of how we are simultaneously unique and similar.
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: I recently had a farewell party with close friends in Zimbabwe and the outpouring of love from my female tribe made me feel loved, grateful and super joyous.
Amazing-Grace is a Laidlaw Scholar from the debut cohort at London Business School. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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