What many may call unwanted, Doreen Mutesi calls a source of income. She is in the business of making jewellery out of tree pods. Mutesi, 33, has an eye for style. She has always liked dressing smartly with matching shoes, chic hairstyle and make-up, with nails polished to perfection. It is the same will to be stylish that made her come up with her definitely unique invention. At the age of 16, she made an acquaintance that sparked her creativity. She met a woman who had on very unique earrings that she (Mutesi) had never seen before. They were not of metal or any other material she was used to seeing around. They were made from jacaranda pods. “I was fascinated by the pink earrings she wore. I kept asking myself, ‘how come?’ and when I asked her, she said she didn’t know and that she had bought them in South Africa,” Mutesi says. She had seen a jacaranda tree before as there was one in her mother’s garden. However, there was no specific use she had seen her mother get out of it—at least not earrings. Instead, they were collected once they fell to the ground and thrown away as waste. When she got home, Mutesi went to the garden and picked one pod. In its natural form, a dry round brown pod, she figured she had to separate it into two equal parts first. As she kept thinking about how to turn the pods into earrings, she decided to go buy earring pins and got her own ears pierced. She then started making earrings out of pods collected from her mother’s garden, except they didn’t look like those she had seen. Later on, she came up with an idea to buy pink nail polish to paint them. She did so, and came up with her first collection of pink jacaranda pod earrings. She sold them to her aunties, who happily paid Rwf5, 000 a pair. She kept on producing more, having learnt new ways of refining them (by keeping them in water for a while, drying them, and scraping them to make them smooth and shiny). After one of her friends asked her to make some for her, she decided to bring a package to school, which her classmates bought excitedly for Rwf3, 000 a pair. That’s how she built a client base, starting with classmates, family members and word of mouth. After high school, Mutesi went to India to pursue her studies. As she packed her luggage, she also took along a package of earrings and was shocked that she sold them for a much higher price there. “I could not believe that people were actually paying $50, sometimes in advance, just for something that was costing me less than $5 to produce. I gave it more attention, refined my work, varied the colours and saw my client base grow every day,” she says. Mutesi also started exporting her earrings to South Africa, where she had a friend, who has helped her ever since. However, since there were no jacaranda trees where she was residing in India, the business had to be put on hold. She resumed when she came back to Rwanda a few years later. Now, the wife and mother of one affirms that she ended up falling in love with business as a whole. “My husband also does business. I help him out in his enterprises and also reserve enough time to concentrate on the production of jewellery,” she says. She no longer depends on the tree in her mother’s garden, but pays people to harvest the pods for her in different parts of Kigali. She still paints them with nail polish and has learnt other methods of refining them. Mutesi intends to expand to making bracelets and other accessories. And she dreams of opening a fashion house one day. “I do not care if someone decides to copy me. I explain to people how I do it with no reserve. Because if this can also change someone else’s life, why not?” Mutesi notes. You should not undermine a possible source of income, just because it’s not usual, she says. There’s so much room for exploration and it only takes an open mind and a little bit of effort to make things work.