Moise Ishimwe is a final year university student and an accomplished businessman. The young man says he realised early in life that if he didn’t work hard he would end up like other youth who loath work, but wallow in poverty.
Ishimwe takes after his mother, a seasoned handicraft dealer. He says his mother works long hours an attribute that challenged the then teen to emulate the practice, which has made him resilient and patient as a business owner.
“I would wake up early and accompany my mother to the art craft shop she runs in town when I was just 12 years old,” Isnimwe says, adding that she opened for business at her Ikaze Showroom in town at 7am and closed past 10pm.
Sometimes she would leave him to run the business, he notes. These actions helped turn Ishimwe into a shrewd businessman and shaped his work ethic that has seen him emerge as one of the country’s successful young entrepreneurs. He was also recognised by the Private Sector Federation’s Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs. Ishimwe says that he decided to become independent after senior six and ventured in the same line of business as his mother.
“I had enough experience since I had been working closely with my mother for over six years. I felt that was enough to venture out on my own and do things my way,” says the University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology bachelor of civil engineering and construction management finalist.
Nziza Gift Shop is born
Ishimwe says he had always dreamed of the day he would preside over a big business empire, adding that he thought the S6 long vacation was right time to start moving toward this goal.
“I felt I had come of age and wanted to channel all my efforts into my own business, which I believed would also support government’s continuous calls on job-creation and self-employment,” he notes.
So, after sharing the plan with my mother during the last term in high school, I started looking around for a good location and an affordable space where I could open the business.
The move gave birth to Nziza Gift Shop and Gallery, an enterprise that deals in jewelry and handicrafts, including baskets, African attire, bags, pottery objects, and many other different locally-made gifts, he adds. The business is located around the place commonly referred to as Kuri Posta near MPeace Plaza.
“My mother gave me an interest-free loan of Rwf1 million, which I used to pay rent for three months. Left with no cash to buy products to stock the shop, I decided to become an agent of craft-makers who used to supply my mother,” says the 24-year-old entrepreneur.
He says he got pottery products and baskets from Pottery Le Gatagara Co-operative, which he sold at a profit and then paid the co-operative.
This was a new dawn for the young man as he began working with many other handicraft co-operatives that supply both local and international dealers. This was to go on for the next two years until he built a strong foundation to be able to buy items and sell rather than earning commission from handicraft co-operatives.
Today, Nziza Gift Shop and Gallery sells crafts of all types, both local and the imported ones. He also deals in wholesale business, selling handicrafts to different boutiques and craft shops, mainly in Kigali.
Ishimwe says most of his customers are tourists visiting the country, adding that Rwandans are slowly embracing the culture of buying crafts and gifts, especially the locally-made pieces.
He says he supplies some of the big hotels in town, including the Kigali Serena Hotel and Hotel des Mille Collines, which “buy handicrafts in big quantities”. He also runs a hire service for accessories, such as jewelry, which he rents out to mainly fashion and design houses in Kigali.
Juggling school and work
Ishimwe has defied the philosophy behind an old English adage that one can’t serve two masters at the same time by ably juggling business and school. The engineering student says, “Many students abandon work to concentrate on studies. It’s good, but it all depends on how you manage and plan your time,” he says, adding that he has never gotten a retake and sometimes performs even far better than those that are always at school 24/7.
He, however, admits that sometimes he is caught between the two worlds.
Ishimwe adds that commercial rentals in Kigali are overpriced, making it hard for upcoming entrepreneurs to thrive.
“I pay Rwf450,000 rent monthly, which is too high…I have no option but to hang in there and hope things don’t get worse,” he points out.
He adds that the fact that many Rwandans do not appreciate and value Made-in-Rwanda products, means the business sometimes has to depend on a handful of clients, especially during the off season period for the tourism sector.
Many think the ultimate achievement of any business person is accumulation of huge sums of money. Ishimwe, however, says his greatest achievement is experience he has got from running the business and the opportunities it has presented to network with people from across the globe.
“What makes up the world is people, and it’s the people that run all these businesses, as well as consuming our products. Therefore, the experience of dealing with them without wrangle is a high point achievement for me,” says the Nyamirambo resident.
Ishimwe has been totally independent for the last four years and pays his own university tuition fees.
“My parents value education and are always ready to help. My father was surprised that I could go to campus without asking him for fees,” he notes.
Ishimwe has also invested in a plot of land in Kigali, which he says he will develop after graduating from university.
He also plans to open shops in other parts of the city and in the provinces to create a business chain with an eye on export market.
“Later, I may practice my profession as an engineer or not. It will all depend on a number of things,” Ishimwe notes.