Entrepreneurship often involves making the most of what is within one’s reach.
Such was the case for Alexandre Nshimiyimana, a 27-year-old founder of Sanit Wing, a Northern Province based producer of soap, jelly and detergents.
The firm produces soap, jelly and detergents from avocado fruits which are readily available in the area.
Nshimiyimana who is based in Burera District started out with an aim to reduce importation of products like soap and jelly which could easily be made out of locally available raw materials.
On completing secondary school, he missed on a chance to join university due to financial hardships leading him to take on different jobs including at a photo studio.
In 2015, Nshimiyimana began looking into the idea of making liquid soap leaning on the skills learnt in school.
With soap being a much-needed product on a daily basis, he figured that it would be a great opportunity.
“What pushed me to make soap was the greatest percentage of Northern Province residents depended on soap imported from Uganda and the other countries, making it quite expensive,” he said.
After about 2 months of research on avocado processing and avocado oil properties, he struck a deal with local avocado growers.
With capital of about Rwf 200,000, he acquired necessities for manufacturing to complement equipment he could mobilise locally.
When he started out, the firm had only two employees to manage the manufacturing process, branding, marketing and distribution but later increased them four permanent and ten part-time workers. This was also matched with improvement of skills and distribution of responsibilities.
“We process avocado into oils, cosmetics and soap. Some of the avocado-based products include jelly (SANTAVO) which is very effective for skin ailments like acne. We also produce hair Cream (VOKA PLUS), which is a combination of olive and avocado oil and supplements. The firm also produces avocado soap (AVO) which has been found to be skin friendly,” he said.
The young entrepreneur added that the firm also manufactures liquid soap and detergents that are affordable.
Over time, Nshimiyimana noticed that skin infections such as ringworms, acne and rushes were becoming more common among children leading him to venture into production of skin care products such waxed avocado oil.
Avocado was the raw material of choice owing to its ability to treat skin ailments which complemented few natural additives.
“In the near future, I hope to be the leading producer of avocado-based products and bi-products across Africa. I also plan to expand my market beyond Rwanda as well as increase the quality of my products as I acquire the latest equipment. I also hope to create more employment opportunities as the company expands,” he says.
Nshimiyimana told Business Times that everything about him changed on becoming an entrepreneur. He no longer had to depend on his parents for anything related unlike previously when he had to turn to them for everything. He won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Rwanda Development Board Business Excellence Award in 2017.
He noted that the major challenge has been some clients meeting their obligations in regard to paying debts which has often held back capital. He also noted the need to improve equipment in use at the firm.
Advice to upcoming entrepreneurs
“It’s much easier to start a business today than it will be in the next five years. Anyone who thinks of doing business, ought to gather information, skills and be confident before committing themselves,” he said.