A group of 15 female entrepreneurs will receive business courses at university level, which includes mentorship through a partnership with fellow female entrepreneurs in the US, as part of the “Peace Through Business” programme later this August.
The group of 27 was short-listed after completing an extensive eight-week course largely administered by last year’s pioneers, with their graduation ceremony being held at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR), at Gacuriro Estate last Sunday.
Jane Natukunda, a mother of three and a tea dealer is one of the entrepreneurs who were simply ecstatic after being named at the graduation ceremony.
“I really feel very happy being among the fifteen women. We learnt many useful business skills in the past few weeks,” a cheerful Natukunda said.
“Previously, most of us conducted business without the proper know-how, but have learnt much – bookkeeping, networking, business management, risk management and even leadership. I am highly empowered and motivated to teach others as well.”
In August, they will GO for a three-week training at Northwood University (NU) in Texas.
Initiated by the US Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), the programme first trained Rwandan small-business women in Oklahoma Christian University last year.
Dr. Holly Hixson the local programme co-coordinator applauded the first beneficiaries.
“When they came back, they’re the ones WHO taught these classes over the last 8 weeks. I think the potential is great! By growing their own business, they employ new people, they teach other people.”
One of the first Rwandan beneficiaries, Goretti B. Kabuto, is the publisher of Business Rwanda magazine.
“Now I can organize my programme very well. I know about accounting, I know what to do and at what time. I see so much change in my business now. Nowadays, I can even do two jobs at the same time because I don’t need to worry – I know what to do,” Kabuto said.
“I was very encouraged by these women (Oklahoma women). We had wonderful speakers, visited their businesses. If they told you how they begun, it is just more or less like ourselves so I was so encouraged – it is just the same thing, the same stories, so, I realized that I can also become successful and I am ready and determined to succeed.”
Kabuto concurs that passing on her knowledge was an essential prerequisite.
“Besides passing exams and other things, you have to sign or be committed to your community and, I am committed to my community.”
Inspired by the American experience, Kabuto is currently working on a business venture – a special women’s magazine for “women achievers in Rwanda” that she believes will positively influence others.
“You point out successful people, women achievers, giving back to their community. This acts like a role model for the young generation,” she said, stressing that “Peace Through Business” is an awakening that is changing people.
Among those who inspired Kabuto is Desma Reid-Coleman, a successful US businesswoman. Her advice to Rwandan women entrepreneurs is – just do it.
“Just do it! Don’t think yourself out of something, don’t spend days and hours and years talking yourself out of it – go for it.”
Reid-Coleman likens the birth of a baby to starting a business
“You don’t have a perfect time – go for it. Make mistakes along the way, try to get yourself set up with some backup capital in case you have the lean times, but go for it. Every time is the perfect time.”
IEEW began the Peace Through Business initiative in 2007 by hosting 12 women entrepreneurs from Afghanistan.