Meet Umuhorakeye, a law graduate who ventured into shoe-making

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Umuhorakeye (left) and a colleague at their workshop in Kimironko. (Photos by John Mbaraga)

Marie Jeanne de Chantal Umuhorakeye, a young entrepreneur in Kigali, had a grand plan on how to manage her life after school. According to the plan, after completing law school, she would get a job, save up some money and later open her own business. Everything seemed fine and flawless on paper. However, things did not turn out as Umuhorakeye had envisaged; she spent over two years searching for a job in vain after university.

With jobs hard to come by, Umuhorakeye decided to enroll for a business management and entrepreneurship course. The budding entrepreneur says owning a business was one of her childhood dreams, but all this had seemed almost impossible during the years she was unemployed.

Turning point

Umuhorakeye, the managing director of Urwambariro Shoe Hub Limited, later joined hands with seven of her colleagues to form a shoe-making firm in March last year. The firm was also involved in shoe shining and repair.

The then Musanze-based firm kicked off business by making sandals from car tyres and leather materials. The group members used to operate from their homes before they shifted to Kigali from Musanze.

The relocation did not come without challenges as five of the members “who were targeting quick benefits” left the group a few months later.

Umuhorakeye says three of the remaining members have managed to grow the business and their workshop is now worth about Rwf1,000,000.

She attributed the achievements to the business management and entrepreneurship course by Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Rwanda. The Kimironko-based ‘shoeshine girl’ joined DOT Rwanda in 2015, after two years on the street.

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Marie Jeanne de Chantal Umuhorakeye designs new shoes. 

Entrepreneurship training

“I decided to take advantage of the time I was not employed to learn more about business management to lay a foundation for my future enterprise,” explains the Kigali Independent University (ULK) law graduate.

Umuhorakeye was recently speaking during a graduation ceremony of 79 young entrepreneurs trained by DOT, where she shared her entrepreneurship journey. The trainees, all university graduates, were from 16 districts across the country and acquired skills in business management and project planning, among others.

According to Violette Uwamutara, the DOT Rwanda country director, skills development is crucial and increases survival of start-ups, especially those run by young people.She added that enterprises set up by the youth have a ripple effect as they create jobs for owners and others. “This promotes sustainable social and economic change, which creates resilient communities.”

“To deepen the impact of their businesses, DOT Rwanda organises business competitions through which youth with bankable projects are given financial support. So far, DOT Rwanda, in partnership with government institutions and private sector, has provided Rwf54 million worth of financial support to businesses run by young people,” she told Business Times.

She advises youth to keep the lifelong learning spirit, tap into the opportunities presented by technology and ensure their ventures are customer-centred.

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Umuhorakeye holds a shoe that is near completion. 

Trainees speak out

Valery Ndayishimiye, one of the trainees from Ngoma District, said the training by DOT Rwanda has boosted confidence and improved his entrepreneurship skills.

Ndayishimiye plans to start a social enterprise, which will use garbage to produce biogas for lighting and cooking.

Such renewable energy ventures will play a crucial role in Rwanda’s push for green growth and sustainable development, besides helping to create jobs for the youth.

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Youth graduated in entrepreneurship training pose for a group photo. 

Ndayishimiye said the community outreach the trainees were involved in during the programme will enable many youth to start savings groups that will help them raise capital to kick-start individual income-generating projects.

DOT Rwanda has trained 652 fresh graduates under its internship programme since 2010.