How Ngoma varsity student used pocket money to start a honey processing venture

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Shaffy Hagenimana has always dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur since he was a little boy. This desire pushed him to forego most of the pleasures of teenage boys and saved his pocket money to raise start-up capital. The 23-year-old third year civil engineering student at Saint Joseph University now owns a small firm that makes different products from honey, including body lotions and jellies.

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Hagenimana (second right) with some of his employees. Right are some of the products he makes./ A. Uwanziga.

How he started

Hagenimana started saving part of his pocket money to accumulate start-up capital when he was in Senior Four a few years ago.

“When I was in S4, my mother gave me Rwf7,000 as pocket money, but I saved most of it and used it to buy two beehives during the holidays,” he narrates.

He says he picked interest in honey business because his mother used to spend a lot of money on the natural sweetener.

“I thought honey had ready market and I also wanted to ease pressure on my mother and provide the family’s honey. When I shared the plan with my mother, she supported me and helped me look for the place where I can put my hives,” adds the Rukiri sector, Ngoma District resident. His first harvest yielded 10kg of honey, of which eight kilos were sold at Rwf24,000.

With support from the family, he bought a plot of land worth Rwf1 million to expand the business. The young farmer had about 70 hives by the end of the first year in business. He later invested in another Rwf250,000 of savings raised from honey sales, most of which was used to buy empty bottles and containers to package his products.

Hagenimana presently processes honey to make different products, including pollen jelly, a body lotion for infants and girls; candles, and honey bread, among others.

He says research on beekeeping and honey, as well as working with sector players and attending trainings have played a key role in growing his venture. He also attends exhibitions, “where I learn new ways of doing business and marketing”. The young entrepreneur participated in last year’s Made-in-Rwanda expo, where he exhibited products like honey, candles and body jelly.

Market

Supermarkets and local shops are main buyers of Hagenimana’s honey and other products. He is happy that Rwandans are slowly embracing local products.

Achievements

Hagenimana says he has been able to pay his tuition at university, and has also bought a piece of land.

“I started working alone, but I later hired other youth. Presently, I have four permanent workers.”

He adds that attending Made-in-Rwanda expos two times last year was, to him, a big achievement.

Challenges

Hagenimana says, like many other entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, access to capital is a big challenge.

“Some banks don’t work with youth, and they are very reluctant or never give young people loans to expand or start-up businesses,” he says.

He is also struggling with paying taxes, and called on government to reduce taxes on youth projects to encourage young Rwandans to join entrepreneurship and create jobs.

Advice

Hagenimana advises youth not to wait until they have amassed huge sums of money or until they have completed university to start business. He says what is required is a good business idea, passion and one’s small savings to start an enterprise. “With hard work and on-job learning from peers and the Internet, self-belief and focus, one can always build a successful venture,” he says.

Future plans

Hagenimana has big plans for the project. Besides expanding his customer base, he wants to get more involved in value addition to widen the range of products he makes from honey.

“A day will come when of the 11 million of Rwandans, at least six million would be using my products,” says the young entrepreneur.