For most students, school breaks and holidays are for relaxation and ‘going easy’ on things but not Hannah Christa Rubenga.
Since she didn’t want to depend on her parents for all her financial needs, she set out to start her own small venture.
The young entrepreneur had a number of business ideas, including poultry farming, flower selling and mushroom business. She however settled on mushroom farming business considering its nutritious value as well as the low risk factors in the venture.
She said that mushrooms have nutrients that help reduce the risk of getting diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and also help in weight management.
This year, the graduate of Wellspring Academy Nyarutarama opted to learn from a mushroom farm at Deyi Limited.
On completion of the training, she started a small mushroom house and garden at her parents’ home.
A garden of mushrooms at the teenager’s home in Kibagabaga. Photos by Joan Mbabazi.
“I got a loan of Rwf 600, 000 from my mother, which I used to buy mushroom seeds and construct a small mushroom greenhouse with shelves,” she noted.
Rubenga started operating in October and, has since begun reaping fruits from her venture. The number of her customers currently varies between five and seven and at times more a day. She sells each kilogramme of mushrooms at Rwf2,000.
The resident of Kibagabaga in Kigali sells the mushrooms mainly to her neighbours and also does home delivery service depending on demand.
Currently, she advertises through social media platforms such as Whatsapp, where she sends pictures of her mushrooms to potential clients who also spread the word.
“Sometimes it is too hot or too cold; this affects the mushrooms as they need to be in a humid temperature. That is why we water them two times a day, both morning and evening,” Rubenga noted.
She noted that, in other instances, the harvest is more than the demand which often leads to losses as she does not have sufficient storage capacity.
The teen farmer states that the mushrooms have a short life span and have to be refrigerated or dried in order to have a longer shelf life.
Her greatest worry at the moment is that potential clients might underestimate her potential and fail to believe in her, thinking that she is too young for such a business.
“A number of people do not know the nutritional values of mushrooms, that is why the mushroom market is still low,” she added.
She plans to construct a big mushroom house with air conditioning as such facilities are favourable and ideal for commercial mushroom growing.
Rubenga plans on becoming one of the top mushroom entrepreneurs in Rwanda by adding value to her products.
“I am able to cater for all of my financial needs without asking my parents for money. I am also saving money so that by the time I join university next year I can pay part of my tuition,” Rubenga said.
She added that she has started training five students how to grow and sell mushrooms which she hopes will help them start their own small businesses to make a living and stop depending on their parents for simple necessities.
The form six leaver believes that youth can make a difference in society if they don’t look down upon jobs.
She earns around Rwf 210,000 per month and has started paying back her loan.
The young entrepreneur has also been able to donate to the vulnerable residents of Kibagabaga to access health insurance as part of giving back to the community.
“Don’t let anyone diminish your dreams, you are more powerful than you think. Believe in yourself and start with the simple ideas you have. I was discouraged at the start to only put my focus on school but my passion was in this business,” she said
She calls upon those who want to start business to look for mentorship from the people already in business.