After retiring from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) three years ago, Major Peterson Gasangwa pondered how best to use his time and energy.
He had numerous ideas with an overreaching goal to keep contributing to the development of the country and of course, provide a decent living for his family.
Gasangwa, got his first job as a contractor for a construction project worth Rwf 40 million. Upon completion, he was on the lookout for more gigs in construction, which was his background.
However, all that changed when he visited the US in 2015.
Gasangwa met a businessman in the state of Michigan who runs a liquid soap-making factory that was employing about 3,000 people.
That business, he said, inspired him and he thought of setting up a similar enterprise in his homeland.
“ The soap idea was a perfect catch,” Gasangwa says, explaining why.
“I wanted to set up a business that would create more jobs for the youth and at the same time protect the environment,” he added.
The New Times visited his stall at the ongoing international exhibition at Gikondo Expo grounds, where he is showcasing his products.
“I had to think about novelty, something that would make me stand out in the industry,” Gasangwa said.
Gasangwa, who produces the soap from a factory in Kicukiro District, said he was inspired by the fact that the business did not require heavy investment and complicated production processes.
After acquiring basic training in soap-making both from the US and Rwanda, Gasangwa started carefully studying the market to gauge the level and kind of competition, considering that there was a variety of soap and detergent products on local market.
“I noticed that about 99 per cent of the detergents on local market are chemical-based, not friendly to the environment and are also likely to affect the user’s skin,” he said.
That is when I crafted my niche, venturing into natural and safe raw materials for my products.
He then set up the company and called it Lime Fresh Future Clean.
“In December 2015, I had put on the marked two products and nine months later, we were producing 13 varieties of detergents, all of which passed the rigorous quality tests by the Rwanda Standards Bureau,” Gasangwa added.
Gasangwa recalls that the first batch was to test the market. He produced 400 litres and sold to friends and family to get their feedback.
“I spent Rwf 78,000 on the trial run and earned Rwf300,000,” he said.
The products he makes range from laundry detergents and laundry stain removers and can be used by both washing machines and hand wash. Others are disinfectant soaps which are used in hospitals.
“We have disinfectants that go as far as sterilising Ebola virus,” Gasangwa proudly says.
To remove stains from tiles, and to maintain the shining layer of tiles, Gasangwa said that he made a tile stain remover, and a tile cleaner which are among the market favourites. He also has carpet stain removers
Gasangwa points out that the residues from his products are recyclable and work well as fertilizers for crops.
The products prices compete favourably on the market. The laundry stain remover costs Rwf 3,800 per litre, the tile stain remover is priced at Rwf 2,800 a litre; and toilet cleaner which is at Rwf 1,000 a litre.
Gasangwa said that he has various clients and he started with institutions that buy in bulk such as hospitals, hotels, and schools, as well as the army shop.
The company currently produces between 3,000 and 5,000 litres every day and employs 20 people.
Gasangwa makes his products using extracts from a plant called geranium. One litre of of geranium extract costs about Rwf 300,000. Gasangwa grows the plant on a one-hectare plantation. He plans to grow more geranium to cater for the growing demand for his products.
The RDF regularly retires its officers for various reasons mainly age with most of them joining the private sector and even becoming job creators.