How two Rwandan Diaspora women found their niche in exporting Made in Rwanda clothing

Solange Nisingizwe, 31, had finished her degree in International Affairs in Switzerland, where she has been living for 18 years, when she began her career at a corporate company.

Three years down the road, however, she felt something was amiss, and felt the urge to do business of her own, although she did not have an idea of what exactly she wanted to do. Then she came back home for vacation, and her dreams turned to certainty.

“While I was here for vacation, I designed wax clothes for myself. When I returned to Switzerland, I met so many people who admired my outfits and were asking where they could get similar designs. I began making them on a small scale until the number grew.

I got in contact with professional seamstresses and eventually I got more designs and ideas of how to expand this business,” she says.

In November 2016, after a whole year of doing business research and searching for more clients, Sol and Wax Design Ltd was born. The company makes clothes and accessories for export in Europe, and is supplied on the Rwandan market on a small scale.

“In the beginning it was not easy juggling a corporate job while at the same time doing something for yourself, but nothing beats going to bed when you know that you are working on your dream,” she adds.

Later on, her friend, Aliane Rugero, 28, a Rwandan living in France, requested that she introduces her to the business world. Like Nisingizwe, she too was tired and bored of being employed, after having job hopped in five different companies.

“Solange and I shared the same enthusiasm. We both love fashion but mostly I wanted to be self-employed. I worked in five different places and I knew how working for someone is hectic. I wanted to do something for my country and for myself so I can have a home. I fell in love with her style and the more she shared her ideas, the more I embraced them,” Rugero says.

Nisingizwe chips in, “What made us potential partners was our belief that when you are an entrepreneur, you have to work hard on your personal development. It’s not the things that we learn in school that make us the best entrepreneurs but what burns inside of you. I read so many books on entrepreneurship that I shared with her because we badly wanted to be the best at what we do.”

For them, partnering in business has been a big advantage because then they get to share the burden, and living in different locations makes it easy to market their products and expand their market.

Nisingizwe, however, explains that although it works to their advantage, running the business in different countries can be hectic, as it requires many travels. Another one of their challenges is finding employees “that are as engaged as we are and not those that come to kill our business.”

Introducing Vuba-Express

As the years go by, their clientele has grown to a larger size. However, their biggest hindrance, they reveal, is that it is becoming too expensive to export their orders to the international market.

“One day,” Rugero narrates, “we were sending suitcases of clothes for shop orders and unilateral orders to Switzerland and Germany which required to be delivered with 48 hours yet shipping them sometimes takes weeks. The process was so complicated and some of our clients that ordered for dresses for their weddings could not get them in time.

We realised that the courier services were compromising our professionalism. How can you want to offer a service and you are not able to deliver?”

Nisingizwe having worked at an express company quickly came up with an idea to form an express company that would be faster and more convenient.

“I have some knowledge from my former employment but I wanted to just do better. I thought to myself, if we can make a clothing company why not do something to ease our transportation? We wanted it to work better and thinking of my friends that are producing goods locally and exporting them, the idea became very interesting. We designed a model of transport logistics which favours our Rwandan market.”

The duo have already registered Vuba-Express, and will begin operations in January next year. The courier service provider is supposed to deliver goods within 48 hours, at a very low cost.

“We both quit our jobs when we got the idea of Vuba-Express so we can get it started. It’s the network system that will help us export our Made in Rwanda designs but also help other producers who want to send their goods abroad,” Rugero says.

Future plans

“We want to be manufacturers. We already have five shops that we are supplying to in Europe so we want to attract as many more clients as we can,” Nisingizwe says.

“For Vuba-Express, we want to be the most reliable express company. People will be able to order online and find their packages at home. We want to use this opportunity of Rwanda becoming a platform for e-commerce on the continent as a chance to go global. 

“We feel we have an opportunity because we are covering a gap somewhere. With this vision we are creating jobs as well, so we can facilitate Made in Rwanda in Europe,” Rugero adds.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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