Rwamwenge turns passion for sweets into a business empire

Ephraim Rwamwenge is a young millionaire behind the multi-million Rwa Business Group. The 23-year-old entrepreneur and resident of Kibagabaga, Kimironko sector Gasabo District has managed to turn his desire for sweets into a conglomerate of businesses.
Rwamwenge started out as a candy vendor in school. (Teddy Kamanzi)
Rwamwenge started out as a candy vendor in school. (Teddy Kamanzi)

Ephraim Rwamwenge is a young millionaire behind the multi-million Rwa Business Group.

The 23-year-old entrepreneur and resident of Kibagabaga, Kimironko sector Gasabo District has managed to turn his desire for sweets into a conglomerate of businesses.

From nothing, the young millionaire has established the first Rwandan based conglomerate operating in commodity trading, ICT, venture capitalism and financial services, among others.

Starting out

Rwamwenge’s desire to do business started right when he was still in primary school.

In school, the young entrepreneur used to sell sweets to his fellow classmates to make a profit.

“I used my pocket money to buy sweets which I would sell to fellow students,” he says adding that his desire to sell sweets on a large scale landed him in trouble with school authorities.

When I tell people that I started out with selling sweets, they don’t believe me, before adding that he always took advantage of the already existing market for sweets in school.

Rwamwenge did not stop at selling sweets, but also worked as a school camera man taking photos of his friends at a fee.

I bought a small camera from a friend and started taking photos of fellow school mates who paid back at a subsidized price, he narrates.

After high school, the then 17-year-old entrepreneur formed the Strati web company specializing in IT solutions and soft ware.

The company offered services including creating websites, e- commerce platforms and payment gate ways.

Moving to college

Rwamwenge, went on to purse a degree in Chartered Management Accounting at college of Business studies in Botswana

After his studies the young entrepreneur returned to Rwanda with $1000 (about Rwf800, 000) ready to make it in business.

I came back with the idea of establishing a print advertising company that would specialize in classified adverts, Rwamwenge says.

Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way he had expected, as he struggled to make it in what had become a competitive market.

A few months into the business, he lost all the money due to lack of experience and financial mismanagement.

Venturing into agricultural produce trade

Not willing to give up, in 2012, the young entrepreneur ventured into selling agricultural produce together with a friend. Using Rwf150, 000 as capital, the two started trading in bananas from Eastern province targeting Kigali residents.

“We came up with a well organised logistical system that helped us to make about $5000 dollars from banana business in the first 8 months of the business, he says.

Diversifying into sugar

As part of a strategy to grow his capital, Rwamwenge diversified into sugar trade as a complimentary business.

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He also ventured in banana trade in 2013 in Kigali.

He also distributed sugar to rural areas through organized networks. And as business started picking up, he approached several banks to acquire more capital but was not successful.

Rwamwenge’s efforts to secure a loan from the bank were unsuccessful leaving him with no option but to turn to his friends for more capital.

I was very fortunate that a friend of mine was willing to inject in about $100,000 so that we start importing sugar.

“Our first consignment came from India and obviously I learnt many things from the business including how to protect the business from risk,” the entrepreneur says adding that it ultimately became important to add value through packaging to earn more profits from the business.

“We also saw a huge opportunity in things like packaging and value addition and improving procurement systems as some of the critical processes to make the business more successful.”

Investing in other entrepreneurs

Rwamwenge says he used part of the money he borrowed to fund other entrepreneurs with good business ideas.

This required us to start yet another sister company that would later specialize in investing in other young entrepreneurs thus the birth of Rwa capital Investment Company.

Through this company, we have managed to invest in more business projects including those in agribusiness and poultry farming, he says.

Establishing FIKIA

After realisation that the solution to business in Rwanda had to be tech based, we decided to establish another company called FIKIA.

“Fikia is a mobile tech company. Our flagship product, Reba is a search platform for products, services and businesses in Rwanda available on the Play Store and App Store; the product will officially be launched during the World Economic Forum for Africa,” Rwamwenge says.

Exporting coffee and flowers

Rwamwenge has not stopped at investing in importing and selling sugar but also exports coffee on behalf of Rwanda farmers coffee company and flowers to European markets.

Achievements

Rwamwenge, says his biggest achievement has been being able to turn a small sweet business at school into a business empire.

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Rwamwenge supervises staff at one of his computer labs. (Photos by Teddy Kamanzi)

Currently he employs 32 permanent workers and between 100-800 part-time workers depending on workload and projects being undertaken.

“When I set out I was targeting a million dollar revenue and I am happy that I managed to realise the targets.”

Challenges

Rwamwenge admits that he has made some business decisions that have backfired because they at times may not be based on fully informed or well researched decisions.

Access to capital and skills for many start-ups according to the young entrepreneur is yet another challenge that has to be addressed.

However, young entrepreneurs need to understand that there are so many things competing for capital, and therefore leveraging on what you can do best is very important, he notes.

Advice

Being able to save every single penny you earn is a critical step towards building the required capital, Rwamwenge tips adding that it is equally important that you invest in yourself first to be able to attract more capital and this you can do through saving.

“You have to have the confidence to take a decision, equally being able to conduct the necessary market research is critical in managing risks.”

Rwamwenge advises that being able to pick the right team to build a business is a plus towards achieving success.

Inspiration

Rwamwenge says he is inspired by his mother and Aliko Dangote Africa’s richest man with net of $15.7 Billion, among other people.

Future plans

The young millionaire says he has plans of building a sugar refinery that will help add value to locally produced sugar.

What people say about him

"Ephraim is a visionary and a hard worker. It takes sometime to understand his ways but when you do it makes a lot of sense." - Kevin Kabatsi, Finance Director (Rwa Business Group).

"I joined the company last year and I have been inspired by the work that we do. Ephraim is always pushing us to be better people. He asks us about our personal lives and our goals, he also asks us to share them with him. I am privileged to work for the company and such a leader." - Jean De Dieu Nizeyimana, Operations Officer (Rell)

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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