Intare Gitori is a carpenter and the founder of Ibyiwacu Bamboo, a firm which produces furniture out of bamboo. The emerging firm, located in Masaka, also engages in interior and exterior designs.
His journey began immediately after graduating from university in 2013 when Gitori sought a job and was appointed the manager of a then-emerging firm. It was however short-lived.
Considering himself a talented artist, he spent most of his free time developing his craft and eventually became a full-time carpenter.
With what he had managed to put away as savings, he started a carpentry workshop which has grown over time overcoming challenges as he learns through the process.
He spoke to Business Times’ Joan Mbabazi about his entrepreneurship journey.
How much capital did you have at the start?
We started with about Rwf100,000 which was used to buy necessary materials. I believe one can start with any amount provided you have a plan. No matter how much money one has when starting a business, as long as you do not have a plan, it is likely to be wasted.
Which kind of furniture do you make and what is the range of your prices?
We produce a wide range of furniture including; chairs, tables, beds, wardrobes, cupboards, among others. The prices depend on the design and quality. For a set of chairs and table (dining set) the prices range from Rwf100,000 to Rwf150, 000.
Why did you drop your initial career, which was IT, for carpentry?
I did not want to look for formal jobs yet I consider myself to have a creative mind. School equips us with knowledge and skills that help us be innovative. When you start your own firm, you are assured of employing others. Youth should attempt to be creative and also learn on the job.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered so far?
Our main challenge was to organise a team that could work together as partners and shareholders. Some of the people we approached initially to work with were not cooperative or willing to work with us. Some of them left, we started nine of us but only for remain.
What achievements have you acquired from this job?
As the founder of the company, I have been able to create partnerships and connections within the country and beyond. Our market has since grown and we now have more regular clients compared to when we started out. We have also undergone a lot of training.
Over time, we have saved returns which we have in turn invested in better tools and equipment to speed up the production process.
Currently, we are undergoing training on incorporating technology in the production process.
What are some of the major steps in the production process?
We start by harvesting bamboo and allow it to dry for about a week. After it has dried up, we begin to design and produce desired pieces.
Why did you choose to use bamboo as your material of choice?
We prefer using bamboo as it is more environmentally friendly compared to using wood.
Bamboo stalks are also very strong and much more resistant to moisture and heat.
It does not expand or contract under humidity and heat. Bamboo is also aesthetically pleasing as it provides a decorative element.
We buy bamboo grass from Musanze but we have recently planted some nearby to reduce costs involved in acquiring it.
What does one need to have a successful carpentry business?
One needs to be organised, consistent, be good at record keeping as well as be creative. It’s also important to make sure you produce high-quality products as it assures you of repeat clients.