As you walk into Nyagatare town, one of Rwanda’s satellite cities, one is welcomed by a number of sign posts and banners, among others. Most of these are work of Emmanuel Nshimiyimana, a resident of Karanganzi, Nyagatare District, who has turned his love for graphic design into a cash cow.
How he started
The founder and managing director of Shine Graphics Arts, which deals in graphic design, photography, signage and painting, among others, says the desire to create jobs and contribute to Rwanda’s economic development agenda pushed him into entrepreneurship in 2014. Trained at Nyondo Technical Institute in Gisenyi, where he graduated with an arts and design certificate in 2014, Nshimiyimana chose self-employment instead of searching for a job.
Armed with a camera, a pencil, crayons, painting brush and only Rwf70,000 as start-up capital, the now 22-year-old opened a photography and painting enterprise in his hometown, Nyagatare, in Eastern Province.
“I had done some research and found out that the district lacked professional graphic designers which, for me, was a huge opportunity to exploit instead of looking for jobs,” he says.
He says securing enough start-up capital was a big challenge, adding that the Rwf70,000 savings he had could not pay rent, buy equipment like computers, and market the business.
With no bank willing to give him a loan, the enterprising youth had no choice but to turn his rented residential into a multipurpose house, using it for business-related activities, too.
“However, I continued looking for funding to expand my business. Besides, the business required a lot of marketing and advertising among the residents who at the time did not appreciate art,” he says.
“Few people understood the concept and were willing to walk into the studio to have their portraits painted.” He, however, never relented and works about 10 hours every day painting portraits and shooting pictures, which have ensured a steady source of income for the young entrepreneur.
BDF comes to his rescue
With banks not ready to give a penny, Nshimiyimana tried to mobilise capital from friends, relatives, but the effort did not bear any fruits.
“All the people approached for support were reluctant to help. However, around the same time, I learnt through a radio programme that the Business Development Fund (BDF) gives guarantees to young entrepreneurs,” he narrates.
“I quickly revised and updated my business project and submitted to BDF, which gave me a grant of Rwf1 million,” Nshimiyimana says. With the cash secured, not even the sky was to limit him.
He used the money to buy equipment, including computers, cameras and printing machines, and also recruited a team to market his business in the district and across the province.
The strategy, he says, has worked as customer numbers continue to rise, ensuring better returns for the enterprise.
He says BDF support marked the turning point for the business whose future was not certain at the time.
From a small capital of Rwf70,000 Nshimiyimana’s business is now valued at more than Rwf15 million, thanks to financial and technical support from BDF.
The young businessman employs 10 other youth, including graphic designers and photographers. His company has won tenders to make badges and IDs for many schools in Nyagatare. Nshimiyimana is also a celebrity photographer in the area and is hired to take pictures at weddings and other social and public events.
He earns an average of Rwf1.5 million from all the business activities every month.
His success story has inspired many youth, who look up to him as a role model. Nshimiyimana has become a master of photography and graphic design. Indeed, when we visited his studio in Nyagatare town last week, we found him painting portraits of his customers.
The business faces many challenges, including high cost of inputs and equipment. The increase in smartphone ownership is also giving Nshimiyimina a ‘run for his money’ as “some people no longer rely on conventional photography, but instead use their gadgets to take their own pictures.
Advice to youth
The artist advises the youth to become innovative and not to fear to take risks if they are to achieve their dreams and also contribute to the country’s development agenda.
“Young people should not be discouraged by anything; they should be aggressive and confident in whatever they are doing to make it to the top,” he says.
He urges financial institutions to work with young people, arguing that it is important for the country to achieve sustainable growth.
“Banks must design products that suit the youth, especially start-ups, to help create more employment opportunities in the country,” he says.
Nshimiyimana says he wants to open more graphic design studios as part of his contribution to local media and fashion industries, as well as to the growth of the larger Made-in-Rwanda initiative.