jackie Uwizeye had a dream. As a young child, she dreamt of building a business empire and becoming a financially independent woman. The young entrepreneur started working on realising her dream by making paper decorations and toys for the family when she was just six years old. The owner of Beauty Décor was also driven by the desire to create employment for others as she grew older.
“My dream was to create my own job and employ others and not to follow in footsteps of thousands of young people who sit back and wait for white collar jobs,” she says. While in college, Uwizeye started working to raise working capital to help realise this dream. “I used to spend sleepless nights working to make my dream come true when I was still at university,” says the 25-year-old entrepreneur.
The Kigali Independent University economics and business graduate last year opened Beauty Décor, which deals in decorations, as well as hire business for tents, wedding gowns, ‘mushanana’ (traditional attire), chairs and tables for functions like weddings, birthday and other parties. The Gisementi, Remera-based enterprise also sells customised wedding gowns and men’s suits.
Beauty Décor also sells wedding cakes, handbags and shoes required at weddings and other functions. “I also do decorations for functions and parties… I love decoration and it’s the driving force of my business,” she says.
Her entrepreneurship journey started when Uwizeye was six. “I used to make flowers for decoration using pieces of cloth and papers as a hobby. I would also draw flowers on my siblings’ toys, which they liked very much. This inspired me to continue even when I grew older,” she says.
Unlike her peers, Uwizeye was a working student and did many small jobs to save money and gain experience in business. Fortunately, she later got a job at airport as a sales assistant. She would study during the day and work the night shift.
“It was hard for me to juggle the two, but the desire to make money, save and secure my future by starting an income-generating project kept me going and focused,” she notes. She used to save half of her Rwf100,000 monthly salary, “though I could sometimes put aside more for all the four years I worked with airport-based firm.”
The young business woman’s efforts paid off last year. She managed to set up a business using her savings.
How the business works
Uwizeye charges between Rwf100,000 and Rwf700,000 for a set of traditional attire containing 24 pieces, depending on type. A tent that shelters 100 people is hired out at Rwf50,000 while clients pay Rwf200 for each chair hired. So far, she has three tents and 200 chairs, which bring in Rwf190,000 for a single function when they are all hired out.
The enterprise that was started with Rwf2 million brings in about Rwf500,000 to Rwf800,000 per month, minus expenses.
“This is mostly a ‘seasonal’ business and it is always low during the commemoration month in April, when there are fewer events taking place. Demand for our services is relative high during other months and we get jobs almost every weekend,” she says.
Uwizeye has been able to attract clients over the short period she has been in business, thanks to good customer care. Because of this, I have got my clients from referrals by those who get impressed with our services, she adds.
“When you give the job your best, money will just come as people will be contented with the services and won’t mind much about the cost because they know the service they will get would be worth it,” she explains.
Uwizeye says some people still underrate enterprising youth like me, saying they cannot provide good services “claiming that we lack experience.” This challenge is mostly with some of the clients that have been referred by previous customers.
When you tell them the cost of the services, they say the price is high for a start-up run by a young person.
“However, when they give us business and we perform beyond their expectations, they always apologise and thank us for a job-well-done,” she narrates.
Another challenge is that people like cheap services, without minding about quality of service offered.
She also has an issue of low capacity and is at times overwhelmed by the demand and resorts to hiring some items from colleagues which increases operational costs. She often gets this challenge when she lands two or more jobs slated for the same day.
The fact that some Rwandans still prefer foreign-made items also affects the business.
“Some Rwandans do not value locally-made products and prefer buying from outside the country and, yet these materials are the same as those produced in the country,” Uwizeye says.
Uwizeye notes that her efforts have inspired many youth and women to work toward becoming self-reliant.
“I am always humbled to know that I have influenced someone to start up something that they will call their own. This challenges me to work even harder and keeps me going, especially during hard times,” she says.
“For instance, my elder sister used to work in a restaurant where she was paid peanuts. But I advised her to quit the job and start a farming project.
She is now doing well and also employs other women.”
Uwiziye employs two young women at her shop, one of whom earns Rwf80,000 monthly salary and the other pockets Rwf60,000. She pays over Rwf500,000 tuition fee per semester for her master’s degree course at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology - Kigali campus.
Uwizeye advises young people to follow passion, noting that one can never go wrong doing what they love most. “This plus determination and hard work, the sky will be the limit for you,” she says. She adds that the days of women to “sit around and wait for men to provide for them is long gone. “We need to work hard and prove to everyone that we can do it,” says the Nyagatare District raised young entrepreneur.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, having a business idea and working to refine it is an essential step toward this goal.
What others say about Uwizeye
I met Uwizeye last year when I was working for a certain company in town, where I was earning peanuts. She advised me to quit the job and use my little savings to instead start fruit selling business. I followed her advice and left the job, and I am glad that it paid off as the business is running well and I have managed to set up a small fruits store which provides my daily bread.
one of her employees
Apart from just offering me a job, Uwizeye inspires and encourages us to always be innovative. She also encourages us to save so that in future we also start up our own businesses, which is rare for an employer to do. Most of the time, employers will want you to work for them forever.