Entrepreneur’s tales: Closing food shop to start a shoe making plant

Entrepreneurship is not always as rosy as it often appears. Often, it requires one to walk away from a venture that is not as profitable or that is leading to losses.  That is the story of 52-year-old Xavera Mamamukali of Kicukiro District.

After years of running a food shop in her neighbourhood which often led to losses owing to slow business, the mother of 4 went on to try her hand in shoemaking.

She told Business Times that she started the food shop after three years of unemployment following the loss of her job as an accountant in a rice farmers’ cooperatives.

“Before going into shoemaking, I was running a small food shop which I started after spending three years unemployed. I often faced challenges during slow business days where food would go bad leading to losses. That is when I thought of joining an industry I had interest in and sought training,” she said.

Today, two years after her decision, she says she is making a fortune from production of leather products including shoes, bags, sandals, belts and purses, among others.

She is currently exhibiting at the ongoing 21st International Trade Fair at Gikondo Expo Grounds.

The businesswoman turned to the National Industrial Research and Development Agency and the Ministry of Trade who helped her join the national leather association and acquire technical and business training.

“I was trained in Masaka Incubation Centre for several months. On completion of my course, I began seeking capital whereby I joined Umurenge SACCO and got Rwf3 million loan payable in two years,” she said.

Mamamukali spent the capital acquiring three machines as well as hiring 4 young people at her plant.

“I got a certificate from Workforce Development Authority after the training. The business has helped me to support my four children of whom two finished university, one completed secondary school while the other is still in secondary,” she said.

The female entrepreneur says that she has already repaid 50 per cent of the loan from Umurenge SACCO.

“I also managed to buy a house that generates Rwf400, 000 per month and together with revenues from shoemaking, I pay the workers, taxes and rent and save Rwf300, 000 per month. We produce 30 shoes per day. We also repair old shoes,” she said.

However, she said, she is facing challenges acquiring more machines that can boost the production capacity of her plant.

“We want to expand the business by setting up a factory at the Industrial Zone whereby we will adopt cleaner and cost effective production technologies. I have been working with Umurenge SACCO and COPEDU Microfinance trying to get adequate finance for the expansion,” she said.

Training the youth

“I have employed 4 young people permanently while training others. In September, we will be training 10 young people from Workforce Development Authority (WDA),” she said.

Her firm also trains unemployed university graduates seeking to join the industry.

“I am interested in supporting the youth because I struggled when I was young. I got married at a young age and I spent 6 years doing some odd jobs at the airport because I had never gone to school. When I was fired, I joined secondary school though I was married. After completing secondary school, I joined university but on completion, I had problems finding a job. I have since realised that technical skills are a huge source for job creation, especially for the youth and I would like to play a role,” she said.