A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, goes an old adage. It is also those that dare to dream big and work towards achieving their dreams that succeed in life.
Juma Ndayambaje, a former shop attendant turned successful entrepreneur, falls in the latter group.
The journey to a big business owner in Kicukiro sector, a Kigali suburb, started over four years ago for the 28-year-old businessman.
Ndayambaje says when he was growing up, he always believed that studying hard and excelling in school was the only way to secure his future. But destiny was not to allow him take that path.
“When I dropped out of school in primary school due to lack of school fees, I realised then that self-employment was the only hope left for me,” he says.
However, with no capital, no job or any links with business people, his dream looked an impossible bet at some point.
The journey starts
“When all seemed lost, I met a business man in Kicukiro District, whom I befriended. After some time of proven loyalty and commitment, he offered me a job as shop attendant.
“To me that was a huge stepping stone to my dream life as a businessman,” Ndayambaje narrates.
He adds that he had always had passion for business, a reason he looked at the job as a significant milestone in his quest to join the world of entrepreneurs.
“The job gave me the opportunity to learn and sharpen my skills as an entrepreneur,” he says.
“Though being a shop attendant wasn’t what I always dreamt about, I believed it was a road to achieving my dream,” he adds. He notes that he knew he deserved better because of the efforts he put in. He was earning just over Rwf40,000 per month.
Road to business ownership
Luck smiled his way when his employer gave him an unexpected and irresistible deal, which would see him take over the business.
“We agreed that I should start investing some money in the business and, once I hit Rwf3 million that he invested in the venture, I would take it over,” he says with glitter in his eyes.
“Nothing beats the joy of owning your own business… I was excited, but I knew the journey wouldn’t be easy. It required me to work extra hours and attract more clients. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip through my hands, so I committed to do whatever it takes to take over the business,” explains Ndayambaje.
He says that his humble background was a reminder that the offer was a lifetime opportunity for him to improve his living standards and that of his family.
“That was the source of my inspiration; the fire that drove me to set very ambitious targets to achieve this goals,” he points out.
Ndayambaje says the fact that he had saved some money earlier, his ‘never-say-die’ spirit that saw him exert pressure on himself beyond imaginable measure, played a key role in his rise from a shop attendant to an accomplished entrepreneur he is today.
He adds that apart from his salary, he raised more money to pay for the business from friends and relatives.
“I exercised financial discipline, honesty, great customer care and ethical conduct, which helped me grow my savings and attracted more customers.”
Most of his clients are full of praises for Ndayambaje.
“I have been shopping from Ndayambaje’s shop for about two years now… He is one of the passionate and honest traders in the neighbourhood. He is consistent and cares for customers,” says Joyce Mukashema, one of the clients.
Ndayambaje sells groceries, beverages and general marchandise.
It is now a year since Ndayambaje took over the business, which he says has Rwf3.5 million working capital.
“Managing the business has given me the opportunity to use all the creativity and innovation to grow the enterprise,” he explains.
A word for youth
Ndayambaje advises youth and all those who wish to be successful in business to be focused and cling to their dreams.
“Above all, value the culture of savings and work hard even if it costs you several sleepless nights. Dream big and associate with people who have good ideas and tangible achievements. These are the people you can always learn from to improve yourself and do better in business,” he counsels.
As I approached his shop earlier, I had noticed that his shop was teeming with clients, which does not surprise him.
“I stock all the essential commodities and treat my customers well, besides the quality products we offer. All these services give them a reason to comeback,” he says
Ndayambaje plans to build a commercial building in the neighbourhood. “I started saving for the project some time back… If all goes according to plan, I should be operating from my own premises in two to three years time,” he says.
As they say a small business isn’t for the faint hearted; it’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent, and meticulous planner. That’s what Ndayambaje’s success has proved.
What his clients say
Aliany Musabyimana,a customer
Ndayambaje has good customer care skills. He not only welcomes us with respect but also listens to our concerns regarding his services. He makes sure the majority of our essential needs are available.
Theoneste Murwanashaka, a customer
It is rare to find another shop open in the neighbourhood late at night apart from Ndayambaje’s shop. At times, it is open in the middle of the night.
Innocent Bageruka,a client
Ndayambaje is an honest trader and sells quality products. That’s what we want as customers.