Peace through Business: Empowering women entrepreneurs

Gone are the days when business was the option for people that failed to excel in school and acquire professional jobs. At least according to Rose Businge. Businge is the owner of Creation of Roza, a popular contemporary women's clothing store in Kigali.
Businge (centre) with Rwandan and  Afghanistan women after a summit in the US during the Peace through  Business course.
Businge (centre) with Rwandan and Afghanistan women after a summit in the US during the Peace through Business course.

Gone are the days when business was the option for people that failed to excel in school and acquire professional jobs. At least according to Rose Businge. 

Businge is the owner of Creation of Roza, a popular contemporary women’s clothing store in Kigali.

“I started my business in 2008. In 2009, I started to see my business grow and in 2010 some friends of mine told me about the Peace through Business programme. I applied for the programme and I was selected and later in the year I travelled to the United States of America for a mentorship programme,” Businge says.

Businge, who also holds a degree in journalism, is currently the Peace through Business facilitator for Rwanda.

“It was a wonderful experience because there is a lot to learn. You meet different people, especially established women entrepreneurs who have seen the greater fruits of women empowerment. For example, while in the US, we were paired with women big in business. My mentor was a woman in the oil business who in 2010, had an annual turnover of 70 million dollars. She opened business doors for me and I was able to see everything from finances to the last worker in the company,” Businge says.

She adds: “When you meet these women business gurus, at first you are intimidated but then you think of the fact that they are women, and that if they can attain this, you can make it too.

Then you instantly begin to look at business in a serious way. I would like to say that, years ago, people felt that if you failed in school or didn’t become a professional doctor, lawyer and what have you, you had to opt for business but now the mindset is gradually changing.”

Peace through Business offers an in-country intensive eight-week business course for 30 women that culminates into the development of a business plan.

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Businge interacts with clients at her store.

15 students from the thirty are later selected to travel to the United States for higher-level business and leadership training which includes a week-long mentorship with an American woman business owner as well as a two-day International Women’s Economic Summit, focusing on the strength and contribution of women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda.

“At the summit, women discuss the obstacles they face while doing business, they discuss the way forward and each woman commits to passing on the knowledge attained through the programme to her fellow women back home,” Businge says.

The Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) offices, in Oklahoma City, facilitates the Peace through Business programme and they fund everything for the trip, besides the visa fees.

The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women is a non-profit organisation that empowers women to grow their businesses, pursue greater entrepreneurial ventures and become more active public policy advocates.

“They help in mentoring and coaching Rwandan women that go to the United States seeking to acquire entrepreneurial skills to help start and grow a business. More than 200 Rwandan women have since benefited from the institute,” Businge explains.

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Businge in her shop. (All photos by John Mbanda)

Businge, who is married with two children, says that she travels a lot, especially when she is importing stuff for her shop.

“I travel like four times a year, but as a mother, wife and a businesswoman, I try my level best to balance my roles. It’s tough but possible if one plans adequately. Being a mother is as equally important as being a wife and successful business woman,” Businge discloses.

The 2015 intake

The call for 2015 Peace through Business application is on and the deadline is scheduled for December 12, 2014.

According to Businge, Peace through Business classes kickoff on January 15, 2015 and end in March.

“The in-country class takes up to 30 students. After eight weeks of training in marketing, accounting, financial management, operations and business plan writing, we select the 15 best students to travel to the USA for business boot camp and mentorship. To apply, the criterion is; be a Rwandan woman business owner, own at least 51 per cent of your business and you should have owned the business for at least a year. It should be registered with Rwanda Development Board.”

Alumnae body

Those who benefited from the programme formed an alumnae for
networking purposes.

Kevine Kagirimpundu, a member of Peace through Business Rwanda Alumnae Association, says the alumnae have helped her grow as a business woman.

“I’m into textile and fashion, I employ three permanent staff and, on a weekly basis, I contract over 25 women freelance artisans (skilled craft workers) that design our products,” Kagirimpundu says.

Kagirimpundu graduated from the Peace through Business programme in July 2014 and her Uzuri K&Y shop at Union Trade Centre in Kigali attracts hundreds of customers on a daily basis.

“I was inspired and motivated that, as a woman, I have so much potential to make a change and also have an impact in the development of my country. I was trained on how I can strongly get involved in policy making and at the same time uplift other women so that our voice can be heard,” Kagirimpundu says.

doreen.umutesi@gmail.com