A common English saying goes, ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. What this means is that, when life throws you a bad situation, look for the positive in it and use it to move forward.
Meet the man who first worked as a taxi driver at the age of 18, Serge Nsanawe Ndekwe, the owner of Papyrus Restaurant and director of Masaka Farms.
“It was during my vacation when I went to Nyanza and attended a 9-month- course in Driving and Mechanics. I started driving the second I attained my driver’s license. I worked for 1 year before becoming a truck driver for another year. I later got a driving job in USAID for three years,” Serge narrated.
The quiet and soft-spoken 32-year-old was born in the current Democratic Republic of Congo where he attended both primary and secondary school. However, he completed his university in Rwanda at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology where he attained a Bachelors Degree in Human Resource Management.
“I later started several business ventures such as selling cars, mobile phones and many other small things. When I was 24, I met an Italian businessman called Ciccio and we started Papyrus Restaurant in Kimihurura in 2004. We co-owned the business for 8 years. Eventually, I also set up Masaka Farms and went to Italy to attend a six-months course in foods and beverages,” the proprietor said.
Sometime last year, Papyrus closed but Serge reopened it three weeks ago, still in Kimihurura right next to the Flamingo Asian Restaurant. The new Papyrus is more spacious, has two floors and a club in the basement. The state of the art building has an artistic touch as well as a spacious parking lot.
“The former place had become too popular and too busy and since it was smaller, we were told to move to another place. It was hard, seeing as I had to put all my investments as well as a loan into it but I’m happy that I did and we are now operating full swing and hoping for the best,” Serge expressed.
When asked what inspired him into joining the restaurant business, he said, “Between the time I was 18 and 23 years old, I had that energy inside me and the spirit to work hard but I wasn’t very focused which is why I tried many little businesses. But after meeting Ciccio, he inspired me and gave me direction – introduction to the food industry.”
He added that he is overjoyed with the fact that both Masaka Farms and Papyrus have over 80 employees under their wing.
“I always tell the employees that we collectively own the business so we have to work hard and make sure that we make money to sustain us all. As a child, my dream was to become a doctor to save lives and have a good impact on people but I can’t complain because even in my current field, I touch people’s lives in different ways,” he explained.
He also said one of the things he hates most in his line of work is firing an employee.
“I was fired twice in my life and it felt so bad since I was not warned at all. In both cases, I found a letter saying my services were no longer needed. It feels as if someone is blocking the chances in your life. It was at that time that I swore never to work for anyone again,” Serge narrated.
He said that he encounters day-to-day challenges but also continues to learn from the lessons that have kept him going.
“There have been several bumps but to establish a business and keep it running, one has to invest a lot of time and resources. One of the greatest challenges I faced was when we had to close our business – we weren’t given enough time to look for another place to relocate. We woke up that morning, went to work, and found the doors closed. We lost a lot of money but we had to re-establish ourselves,” he recalled.
Regarding his opinion about the entertainment industry, he said, “This industry should be supported and more hang outs should be set up since tourists and locals have limited choices. People need to release the stress they get from working really hard during the week.”
His advice to the youth is to always follow their dreams and work towards making them reality.
“You need persistence and belief that you can achieve your goals. It takes time so you will need patience and a lot of determination,” he advised.
The shy established businessman is divorced and has a five year old daughter.“It’s been two years since I got divorced and I hope I will meet another person to spend my life with,” Serge optimistically said.