22-year-old entrepreneur on juggling two degrees and a business

As our appointment time approached, and we were just a stone throw away from the agreed meeting point, the lady I was to meet, Daniella Ngarambe, suggested a corner for us to sit. Given her age, it is safe to say that she has quite a fascinating story. 

Myth or fact, it is said that women are good at handling different tasks in a not-so-flexible span. And 22-year-old Ngarambe is taking it a notch higher.  

She is currently pursuing a double degree; a mechanical engineering day programme at the University of Rwanda, and a business information technology evening programme at the University of Kigali — all that while also running a “side hustle”. 

Some of the designs of Tea T-shirts. Courtesy photos 

“I know that sometimes it’s overwhelming, but I also believe that if you can manage, you don’t have to wait to finish college to start chasing your dreams,” Ngarambe says. 

The pursuit of education

The young entrepreneur recalls how everything began; with her sister wanting to prove her date wrong.

“Over my sister’s date with a guy, he undermined her degree and it awoke her spirits. When she got home, she told me about it and kept urging me to study hard and succeed, and then she suggested that I do a double degree that she would happily pay for,” Ngarambe narrates.

“I agreed jokingly, at some point I thought it was a suicide mission, but then I said, why not? I then went to register at University of Kigali for the BIT evening programme,” adds Ngarambe.

Daniella Ngarambe, the brains  behind Tea T-shirts, is also pursing 2 degrees.  

At first, she says, procurement crossed her mind because she thought it would be easy to combine with the not-so-easy mechanical engineering programme she was enrolled into. But she had always fancied technology, and still does, making her drop the procurement idea for BIT. “I had always wanted to do that,” she says. 

At the time, she was in the second year of her mechanical engineering course at the University of Rwanda, which she began in September 2016. 

The birth of a business  

Ngarambe is what you’d call, a ‘t-shirt and jeans kind of girl’; as her studies progressed, she noticed her style wasn’t as easy to come by as one would think. 

“I couldn’t find t-shirts that appealed to my taste,” she says. 

And then, a light bulb went on in her head. She decided to buy a plain t-shirt and customised it to her liking. On reaching home, her sister said she liked the t-shirt. When she found out that Ngarambe had designed the t-shirt to her taste, she told her, “You can make that a business.”

After thinking it through, she recalls, she bought four t-shirts, customised them, and that’s how the ‘Tea T-shirts’ concept was conceived.

“I started with a capital of Rwf50, 000. I wanted to start small,” Ngarambe says.

She operates through social media, mostly Instagram and Twitter (@tea_tshirts), to receive orders. The orders vary, as some just want already-made t-shirts while others propose their own suitable design.

She hasn’t hired anyone yet, but wishes to as her business expands.

“I don’t have any employees yet but I would love my business to expand into a clothing factory, and then I can hire as many employees as necessary,” says Ngarambe.

“I only have partners,” she adds, “Abdul and Issa, to keep my business going.”

Prioritising; a golden tip

Some people can barely keep up with the tasks they have by the end of a typical working day, but Ngarambe is juggling a double degree pursuit and side hustle, is she ‘wonder woman’, one may ask?

“The key to completing all my tasks and managing my day well is prioritising,” Ngarambe says. 

The business was started with a capital of  Rwf50, 000. 

“Sometimes,” she says, “I find myself having to write tests for both programmes, with a couple of orders to deliver. So, the only way through this is to evaluate what’s more important at the moment, which requires absolute honesty to myself and my customers, that is, whenever I can’t get time to deliver their order.

“It also requires a lot of focus and being organised because my mechanical engineering classes end at 5pm and by half past six, I have to be at the University of Kigali for my evening programme because the attendance is also very strict there.”

Ngarambe is cautious not to overwork herself, and tries to get as much sleep as she can, for being sleep deprived “makes you inactive and eventually you wind up sick.”

In her free time, she loves taking walks, singing in the church choir, reading eBooks, attending toastmasters meeting and hanging out with her friends.

With challenges met and overcome, Ngarambe is graduating next year and her business is slowly but surely growing; granted she won’t have to look for a job after graduation.

She urges every girl out there to start small even if it’s a just an idea or a service the individual thinks is needed, because, “you never know, someone might be looking for that same service.”

“If you don’t dare then nothing will happen.”


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