Thursday, November 15, 2017 will always be nostalgic for 13 budding entrepreneurs and, ultimately five of them for whom the day could be a turning point as they stand a major chance to win Rwf60 million interest-free financing under Bank of Kigali’s Urumuri initiative.
The Urumuri initiative is among several activities through which Bank of Kigali marked its 50th anniversary since incorporation after the lender announced it wanted to trace its baby steps in 1966 in a symbolic way, by helping discover ideas with potential to be the ‘next big thing.’
The word ‘urumuri’ means ‘light.’ So the initiative, through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) office, is Bank of Kigali’s way of holding a light up for Rwanda’s brilliant start-ups to find their way on the tough road to success, the bank says.
Development experts who have reviewed the initiative have hailed it as a brilliant business sustainability strategy, whereby Bank of Kigali is using part of its success in banking to help foster the success of other businesses; these would ultimately work with the lender.
A call for applications issued in March 2017 attracted over 400 projects. But only fifty projects were needed in line with the bank’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. So the lender sought the technical services of Inkomoko, a local business development firm to manage the project.
Inkomoko managed the selection process that was guided by three main aspects of commercial viability, innovation and high social impact.
At an event in May, the fifty selected projects were revealed to the press; shortly after, they were admitted into a six-month business mentorship programme.
They have since been undergoing training in core business management aspects such as tax management; book keeping, business planning and income projections to help them successfully lead their enterprises to their full potential.
Initially, fifteen candidates were to be picked for the semi-finals but only thirteen made the cut.
On Thursday, the budding entrepreneurs pitched their business plans before a five-person panel and to an audience that was composed of members of Bank of Kigali’s executive and senior management.
“We are looking for the next million-dollar enterprise,” said chief executive Diane Karusisi in her opening remarks for the pitching session.
Eight out of the 13 projects pitched were Fin-techs, while other categories featured included manufacturing and agriculture. Each presenter had ten minutes within which to convince the judges that their projects deserved part of the Rwf60 million on offer.
Questions from judges focused on aspects such as how the entrepreneurs’ planned strategies to counter competition, marketing approaches as well as projected revenue streams that would facilitate them to repay the money.
“We were pleased by the confidence and eloquence with which the candidates presented their projects and answered technical questions from the judges,” added Dr Karusisi at the end of the session.
At an event to be held on December 13, 2017, the bank will announce projects that will share the Rwf60 million interest free-financing on offer.
Urumuri will be an annual event.