Earlier this year, twenty-six year old Pearl Umuhoza was idling with her smartphone, scrolling through her social media timelines when she landed on something she’d secretly been looking for; an opportunity to get started on a business idea that she’d been toying with for weeks.
“It looked promising. It was so well explained and the online application process was quite clear. I immediately told myself, that is me they’re talking to,” Umuhoza said of the moment she read about Bank of Kigali’s Urumuri Initiative which was announced early this year.
As part of activities to mark its 50th anniversary, Bank of Kigali created the Urumuri initiative to give Rwanda’s budding entrepreneurs a firm kick-start on a business journey that would see them ultimately grow into industry leaders.
Urumuri is also a pioneer initiative under ‘promotion of innovation’ a new pillar in Bank of Kigali’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy which also supports causes in promoting education as well as conservation of the environment.
Rwf60million was made available for this inaugural year but the plan is to scale it up in coming years; Umuhoza is among the 50 finalists selected from over 350 projects that applied.
Up to eight outstanding projects based on their performance during a currently ongoing six-month business support mentorship program by Inkomoko will be selected and announced later this year, to share the Rwf60 million as start-up capital at zero-interest.
Umuhoza’s childhood friend Priscilla Ruzibuka is the one who encouraged her to apply; but even as she did, it was to just give it a shot. It was a lucky shot that hit its target.
“I was attending the Transform Africa conference when I got the call, informing me that my application was among the fifty selected to undergo a six-month business mentorship program; it was a moment of joy, I quickly called Pricilla and the my family, to share the news,” she said.
‘Yummy n Fresh’ is Umuhoza’s business idea and she hopes it will be among those selected to share the Rwf60 million. It is a problem-inspired business idea.
“It was born out of many years of my struggle with weight problems. Along the journey, I discovered ‘healthy eating’ and realised that I didn’t have to starve myself to lose weight, and that is the whole point of ‘Yummy n Fresh’,” she said.
As undergraduate students in Malaysia, Priscilla and Umuhoza had discovered high quality fabrics in the Asian nation and the entrepreneurial acumen in the two ladies got them thinking they could retail the material for sale back home to make Rwanda’s traditional wear, Imishanana.
“We pooled cash, $200 each and bought many pieces which we sold back home. We did not only recoup our investment, we also made a handsome profit,” she reminisced. It was Umuhoza’s second attempt at business; a treasured experience in her entrepreneurial journey.
Umuhoza’s first attempt at business was during her high school vacation when she ventured into selling earrings made from agaseke materials with capital from her mother which she used to buy the products and retail to customers for a profit.
Like a baby, Umuhoza appears to be making baby steps in a journey that could end up seeing her ultimately emulating her father, who is an established businessman. Her mum and younger brother may not be into business but they’re fully supportive of her.
‘Yummy n Fresh’ is her third attempt at business and she thinks it’s what she needed as it is a combination of cause and passion.
A cause to lose weight while eating healthy; and a passion for cooking, which is what got her friend Priscilla suggesting to her, she could actually sell the food to others who shared the same need.
“So we cook the food and deliver to our community of customers,” she said.
The business is only a few weeks old now, founded and running on lessons she has been able to obtain from the business support program conducted by Inkomoko, expert trainers that Bank of Kigali hired to mentor the budding entrepreneurs.
Although Umuhoza recently graduated with an MBA, she admits that the Inkomoko training has been deeply enriching and has given her the technical know-how and confidence to transform her idea into a practical business.
“Taxation is perhaps the most important topic; so far, I have learned and understood the tax environment in which I expect to operate once in business, this, is an area on which I had no knowledge in the past,” she said.
While winning the money is the ultimate goal, Umuhoza believes the training is perhaps worth more than the money and with it, she hopes to turn Yummy n Fresh into a major Rwandan brand with a presence in the region and beyond.
If she wins the money, Umuhoza intends to build a smartphone app on which her customers can find and order for ‘Yummy n Fresh’ products as well as educative information on how to eat healthy and manage weight problems more effectively.
Later this month, Blankets and Wine, a popular outdoor music and fun festival will debut in Kigali and Umuhoza has already been cleared to supply her ‘Yummy n Fresh’ snacks to revellers at the event.
An active social media user, Umuhoza is promoting her budding business through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Her customers already include corporate officers, families and events’ organisers who want to ensure a healthy menu for their guests.
Despite what appears to be signs of early success, ‘Yummy n Fresh’ is still a side hustle for Umuhoza who is still steadfast on her 8am-5pm job, as a Cambridge Coordinator at Excella Nursery and Primary school. She is also a sales executive for Malkia, a Jewellery store.