From a shop attendant to a supermarket chain owner

After two years of a fruitless search, she lost hope of ever finding a job. So when a friend told her of an opportunity as a shop attendant, she didn’t think twice or ask questions. She took it up believing she was blessed and very lucky. 
Ruth Bashabire
Ruth Bashabire

Business Times continues to profile successful business women, who will share their success tips and experiences of how they made it in the cutthroat and male-dominated business world.

They reveal how they started out, what inspired them and how they have managed to make their business dreams come true. This week, Peterson Tumwebaze caught up with Ruth Bashabire, a supermarket chain owner in Kigali. 

After two years of a fruitless search, she lost hope of ever finding a job. So when a friend told her of an opportunity as a shop attendant, she didn’t think twice or ask questions. She took it up believing she was blessed and very lucky. 

That was in 1994 when Ruth Bashabire had just returned from exile after the Genocide against the Tutsi. 

“I was desperate and ready to do any job. I think my boss must have seen this in my eyes…that’s why he paid me peanuts despite the long hours I worked. But I had no choice,” says the 45-year-old.

Although she was desparate, the job gave her an opportunity to develop interest in self-employment. 

“Every morning I would ask myself whether this was what I wanted in life. whether my job and my salary would steer me towards my dreams,” Bashabire, now a renowned business woman, narrates. 

Bashabire owns a chain of supermarkets and other enterprises around Kigali. 

She says because she knew her goal, she started planning for her exit by saving every little penny she could. 

Bashabire, who was earning Rwf30,000 per month, adds that this was not easy and involved a lot of sacrifice. 

“Although starting my own business was the right decision, I had to prepare for any eventualities,” notes Bashabire.

Humble beginning 

Although Bashabire had saved some money to open up a small retail shop, it was inadequate. 

“After paying rent, I was left with about Rwf20,000. This was scary, especially after realising that no bank would give me a loan since I had no collateral,” she says.

She says because she had little capital, she started a small clothes’ shop. “I continued to plough back the little money I got into the business. Eventually, after years of more sacrifice and hard work, my small shop started to grow,” she adds. 

Later, she was able to expand it and also venture into new enterprises. 

The growth surprised me and many of my peers. In fact, a lot of people would be heard wondering how a mere shop attendant could own and manage such big businesses. 

“But such comments only strengthened my resolve to work harder and expand my business empire,” she says.


Limited capital was the biggest challenge she faced when starting out. “I remember one night, when I had just opened shop, I had Rwf60,000 and was torn between using it for rent and working capital. I almost gave up because it was so little to be used for both,” she notes. 

According to Bashabire, running a supermarket is nowadays very competitive and needs one to always be on top of their game. 

“You have to stock almost everything lest your customers go to the competitors, which can cost you dearly in terms of lost revenue.” Bashabire’s businesses include a supermarket chain under Capital City Supermarket brand name, a jewelry shop, fast foods joints across Kigali and a hardware shop in Nyabugogo.  

She says because these are different enterprises they require varying managerial skills. 

“How you operate a supermarket is not the same way you will run a hardware shop. So you have to be very enterprising with a lot of business management skills to succeed,” she advises.


Bashabire says she was inspired to start business by the desire to live a better and rewarding life. I always developed fear and anxiety whenever I thought of myself as a poor person.

“Today, I am inspired by my big competitors and I often look forward to being like them. I want to own the likesof Nakumatt or Simba Supermarket. I know it won’t be easy, but we can always achieve when we believe.”


The spirited business woman says she has so far acquired all she had always dreamt of as a child and young girl. 

“I have a car, land and I have built a posh house for my family. Expanding my business from a small retail shop to Capital City Supermarket and other ventures is also no mean feat,” she adds, noting that this is a dream come true. 

“Who knew that someone could develop a business empire from Rwf20,000 to a multi-million entity? The mother of six also says she is able to pay fees for her children because “I took that important decision to employ myself.”


According to Bashabire, the line between the rich and the poor is very thin. It all depends on the choices people make. 

“I could have chosen to continue working as a shop attendant for my entire life...but would I have achieved all this? It’s important that one knows their destination and start walking towards it,” Bashabire counsels.

She urges women to always save every small franc they get to achieve their dreams.

She notes that it is suicidal for one to expect other people to help them realise their dreams. She adds that people always wait until one has something to their name before they come on board. 

“It is also important that you do everything bearing in mind that as money starts coming in, you must innovate.

“Understanding your capacity before you can start that business is crucial because it will help you identify which venture you will do better.  Some people want to start big when they have limited cash only to collapse a few months later,” she notes. 

Bashabire urges banks to educate women before giving them loans. “Some women want to get loans because their neighbour acquired. Many don’t even know how these things work and have no financial discipline. They end up misusing the money and defaulting in repayments,” she notes.

Future plans

“I want to open up as many business entities as possible to create jobs for the youth. Whenever I remember the months I spent unemployed, I feel it is my responsibility to help the jobless,” Bashabire says.


What other people say about Bashabire

Byensi Henry, a mobile phone dealer at Bashabire Capital Centre Supermarket 

Bashabire is a hard working woman. Can you believe that she reports for work before her employees? As far as I can remember, there is no day I report to work and she is not in the supermarket. 

Valery Rukundo, one of her workers

Bashabire is an employer with a golden heart. Also, she may look old but when it comes to auditing and accountability, she is smarter than most of us who are much younger.


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