Jeanne de Chantal Umuhorakeye is the cofounder of a shoe making company called Shoe Manufacturing and Shopping Limited, which is located in Kimironko sector, Gasabo District.
After graduating with a degree in Law from Kigali Independent University in 2013, she hopped from one office to another delivering job applications. Like most fresh graduates who don’t have work experience, her job applications—for four years—did not attract positive feedback from prospective employers.
In 2016, out of frustration from unforthcoming employers, she decided to team up with Japhet Nizeyimana, who had graduated with a degree in Development Studies from the University of Rwanda in 2015, to start their own company in 2016 with capital of Rwf5, 000.
They had identified the prevailing consumer need for decent, affordable and long-lasting shoes.
They were also driven by the desire create job opportunities, not only for themselves but also the society that surrounds them especially for women and the youth.
They were particularly concerned about the jobless youth, who had resorted to drugs and alcohol abuse.
The company makes and sells shoes for both men and women made from different materials like leather, jeans and rubber, in different designs and sizes .They also offer shoe repair services, which account for 35 per cent of the company’s total revenues.
“We offer training services to school leavers and we are currently working in collaboration with government and a Belgian Development Cooperation offer training on how to make shoes in different workshops,” Umuhorakeye says.
In addition to training university and secondary school students on entrepreneurship, the company also trains young graduates on leadership.
Since 2017, the company sold 300 pairs of shoes, generating Rwf1, 500,000 in and a net profit of Rwf650, 000 from three types of shoes. The customer base is increasing.
“We are producing long-lasting, high quality shoes for working women; ensuring environmental sustainability by using recycled raw materials. We offer training for school leavers and will deliver training in four schools throughout the country,” she notes.
The firm makes 50 pairs of women sandals per month. Each pair costs Rwf5, 000. It also makes pairs of men shoes every month, which cost Rwf15,000 per pair.
The entrepreneurs recently secured Rwf3 million loan from a firm called These Numbers have Faces, which they used recapitalise their business. They used the money to acquire three machines.
Umuhorakeye says they challenged by the skills shortage in their domain. However, after a number of trainings, that problem was solved, she added.
She is now looking forward producing high quality shoes with plans to expand the business to create more employment opportunities for the youth.
“I hope to be the number one producer of home-made shoes designed in desired styles for every size of working women and men with income of Rwf30,000 per month; this will require investment for business growth and product development,” she says.
The company founders hope to protect the environments by using old clothes and other wastes as raw materials. She said this will reduce the damage to the environment.
The company also plans to continue training and empowering women who have interest in show making as well as the passion to start business.
“You do not need much capital to start any job, get an idea of what you want to do as you keep saving, through the little you have, you can be able to access the necessary equipment for the start, you can start any job however much it is not connected to what you studies in school, believe in yourself and accept to learn, remember challenges are number one lessons,” she says.