From 23-27 September 2021, Jesuit Urumuri Centre in collaboration with Business Development Center (BDC) conducted study visits to successful entrepreneurs across the country for the beneficiaries of the Youth Empowerment project. The visits were meant to encourage and inspire said beneficiaries to work towards the successes of their own business projects. These visits have concluded activities of the youth empowerment project where last year 40 beneficiaries were initially taken through a social innovation and entrepreneurship manual. Following this, 31 beneficiaries graduated and among these, 12 were selected for the incubation phase. All 31 graduates were then invited to attend the study visits.
The beneficiaries were grouped according to their area of interest in terms of their businesses. 5 groups were formed namely; food processing, arts, service delivery, agri-business and poultry farming.
The first group accompanied by JUC assistant director Pierre Nyandwi SJ and BDC’s Dieudonne Hakizimana visited Carl Group Limited in Gikondo sector, a youth-led private company that produces and sells bread and biscuits made from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, this in an effort to encourage the consumption of the highly nutritious crop that is the sweet potato. The group consisting of youth with start-ups in a bakery, a restaurant and a bar were given a tour of the company by the director Regis Umugiraneza and shown the process of getting a sweet potato to become an ingredient in the final product that is bread and biscuits.
Regis shared with the group about the trial and error process that he and his colleagues went through before hitting the jackpot with the first batch of perfectly baked bread and biscuits; “I remember that we baked bread and biscuits for 4 months before we made a single good batch. We were working in one room, using small basins to mix flour and the simplest of other utensils but we were determined to succeed. Look at us today, we are the first suggestion that the Rwandan Development board gives whenever anyone is interested in a business such as ours. Carl group has succeeded to the extent of making such a mark!”
Fabien Habineza, a beneficiary and owner of a start-up restaurant was feeling optimistic at the end of the visit remarking that he had gotten more inspiration to work on his restaurant project; “I have learnt that I need to have patience in the sense that I should not expect immediate profit, and that the harder I work the more likely I will eventually succeed. The director of Carl group also told us to be passionate about the choice of business we have decided to start in order for there to be commitment and consistence.”
The second group visited the store and workshop of Serge Niyonsenga in Kacyiru and Nyamirambo sectors. Serge is a young Rwandan artist popularly known to have painted portraits for notable individuals such as the First Lady of Rwanda, the wife of Tony Blair as well as the wife of George Bush. Beneficiaries of this group included owners of startups in design and printing, fashion design, embroidery and lampshades making.
Serge too shared with beneficiaries about the passion and determination he felt about art before and after making it big in the industry; “I remember many sleepless nights developing my products to a satisfactory level. I was living and breathing art to the extent that I slept at night and dreamt about it. I actually dreamt about that portrait I made of the First Lady of Rwanda, woke up and painted it exactly as I had pictured it. Passion about your business is the most important component of making a success of it”
Clementine Mukeshimana is the owner of an embroidery business and was beaming about the encouragement she received from Serge; “I did not know that I could put value to my products the way I was advised. Apparently pricing products should not depend on the cost of raw materials invested alone, my talent and time is of higher value than that. I am looking forward to growing my business knowing that eventually I will make all the profit I desire.”
Having completed all phases of the Youth Empowerment Program, beneficiaries are now expected to have the tools, connections and confidence to hit the ground running with their own businesses.