Having graduated high school in 2015, Jean Pierre Kidamage was both bored and jobless, and due to financial constraints, the chances of pursuing a university degree were slim to none. Kidamage searched for part-time jobs in his neighbourhood, such as carrying sand at a construction site, for which he was paid Rwf1, 200 a day. He says he saved the little money he earned with the intention of starting his own business. Fortunately, a friend persuaded him to farm vegetables such as ‘dodo’ which he embraced immediately. He proceeded to sell the greens in Nyagatare and Kigali, where he earned around Rwf 15,000 daily. But he longed for more. Hands-on skills Kidamage yearned for a way to gain life experience and develop hands-on skills, but he was unsure of what to do. Recalling his journey to Kigali to sell vegetables, he said he took a detour to attend an exhibition in Gikondo. There, he found the seeds of beading, which served as the inception of his business. Kidamage explains that they cultivate seed beads which are then crafted into a variety of decorative items such as necklaces, chaplets, bangles, curtains, and chandeliers. Starting out, motivation Kidamage enrolled in a six-month course taught by a local non-governmental organisation specialising in poverty alleviation, in order to learn to craft beaded products. In 2022, he bought land (four hectares) at Rwf 10 million and started the beading business on a larger scale. The 32-year-old’s Nyagatare-based company, Zamuka Rwanda Ltd, now produces a variety of products from sourced beads. Kidamage’s decision to launch this business was motivated by his own investigation of foreign beads when he observed their expensive prices despite many being made of plastic. He aimed to make an impact by cultivating seed beads in Rwanda with the goal of generating employment, decreasing imports, and increasing export revenues. He had discovered the versatility of beads as fashion accessories that add beauty, complete outfits, and create a range of items such as necklaces, bracelets, armlets, bags, and shoes, as well as serving as decorations or ornaments in the home or art. ALSO READ: The beauty of beads Worth the hassle Kidamage asserts that this endeavour is profitable, having a harvest of approximately 20 tonnes of beads each year. A good month, he says, brings him a profit of Rwf 260,000. He employs over 35 workers and has purchased basic equipment and tools for processing beads. The entrepreneur emphasises that for Rwf 7,000-8,000, one can purchase a kilogramme of beads which can be used to create 15-20 chaplets, priced at approximately Rwf 500 each. He currently distributes his goods to individuals, other institutions, hotels, and faith-based organisations within the country. By capitalising on his spare time and agricultural knowledge, he has helped to transform the lives of the locals by teaching them how to cultivate and sell yields profitably. After sowing the seeds, it takes him six months for the harvest. “I have trained youth and women in Nyagatare prison to craft artistic designs with beads, specifically those with tailoring and fashion design skills,” he says. Kidamage currently manufactures beaded products using needles and nylon threads and plans to acquire machines in order to accelerate production and reduce labour time while increasing output. He estimates that it will take approximately Rwf 400 million in capital to set up a factory, purchase necessary machines, and begin exporting increased amounts of processed products from tons of harvests in order to meet his target. He faces the challenge of insufficient funds to train additional farmers and broaden his business. He is also dissatisfied with inadequate irrigation; however, he is optimistic that this can be remedied by the use of a pumping machine for irrigation. ALSO READ: Mukafurika banking on seed beads farming to make a fortune Tips Kidamage suggests that beading could be a lucrative pursuit for entrepreneurs who strive to reach a larger audience, such as participating in art fairs in order to showcase their products. He stresses that being creative is essential for a successful beading business right from the start, suggesting that business cards should be created and shared with customers to facilitate order requests and act as a form of promotion. “Make it a point to also share your knowledge and skills with others. You can do so by organising workshops to enable others to benefit from you, by starting with the basics. This will increase your professionalism and expand reach to a wider audience,” he says. He emphasises that, as with any business, it is essential to understand your target audience in order to determine where to concentrate your marketing efforts for higher returns. “People love creativity, a savvy entrepreneur can appeal to a greater number of customers, and by optimising their use of social media, they can build an even bigger audience,” he says. Kidamage highlights that no matter one’s skill level, one can craft new designs and gain knowledge from a variety of YouTube tutorials, emphasising that learning is an ongoing process and can help one develop better skills.