Acham’s wine business finds home in Rwanda

Harriet Acham, is a 30 year-old business enterpreneur. She is the proprietor of Made in Italy, a business chain dealing in beverages and foods from Italy.The shy but business oriented Acham spoke to Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi about  her expereince in her new home. “I first came to Rwanda as a visitor in 2008. Today I call it home. Having worked for an Italian company in Uganda, I used to interact with customers who had come all the way from Rwanda to buy Italian products. They suggested that opening up a branch here would be a

Harriet Acham, is a 30 year-old business enterpreneur. She is the proprietor of Made in Italy, a business chain dealing in beverages and foods from Italy.

The shy but business oriented Acham spoke to Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi about  her expereince in her new home.

“I first came to Rwanda as a visitor in 2008. Today I call it home. Having worked for an Italian company in Uganda, I used to interact with customers who had come all the way from Rwanda to buy Italian products. They suggested that opening up a branch here would be a lucrative business and I believe it was a right move,” Acham narrates.

“Before starting the business, I came here and did some research about the market and I went back and sold the idea to my boss. He said that if I was willing to take over the busines and stay in Rwanda, then there was no reason not to open up a shop. The first Made in Italy Rwanda Ltd shop opened its doors in 2009 in Kicukiro. Although I’m in charge of the business, I own five percent of the business,” Acham explains.

She adds that just like how it is with business, she ecountered some bumps before the business fully picked up.

“In Rwanda people were used to Belgian and South African products. Italian products being new on the market made the first three months rough because we didn’t have customers, save for the few expertriates who knew the products. The locals first complained about the prices. But because of the reputation of the quality of the product, people started enjoying the products. Although we make some Italian products, most of them are directly imported from Italy to Rwanda,” she reveals.

Apart from the imported Italian products, Acham is able to make Italian products localy such as cheese, fresh ricotta or mozzarella and gelato.

 “The good thing about Rwanda as compared to other East African Countries is that the tax process is very fast if you have all the documents required. One can have their goods in stores in 24 hours at most,” she says.

“Besides the business challenges, I also faced personal bumps like language barrier. Most people use Kinyarwanda and I didn’t know anything. But now I know the basic Kinyarwanda words like greeting at different times of the day for example, ‘mwiriwe’ which means good afternoon. Each day, I learn a new word because if I don’t learn the language, I will not be able to communicate with my employees or the customers,” she states.

She employs eight Rwandans who are able to speak a little bit of English, French and Swahili. She also taught these employees how to make Italian cheese, fresh ricotta, mozzarella and gelato.

When asked how she is able to be in two places at the same time given that she runs two shops, one in Kicukiro and another in town, she says, “I have developed trust with my employees. You know in business you have to develop trust and its a basic trait if you are to succeed. I trust that they mean well whether I’m around or not.”

Born in Lira Uganda, the cheery Acham attended Aboke Girls School before  going to Lira intergrated School and later graduated from Makerere University Business School where she attained a Bachelors in Business Adminstration.

“As a child I always wanted to become a photographer, but as a result of several life changing moments, that didn’t happen. I own a professional camera and when I take time off work, I travel and take pictures. I’m still very passionate about photography although I don’t earn money from it,” she expresses.

The young and ambitious Acham advises women to be confident when venturing  into business because it is fruitful in the long run.

“I know the main challenge for women to start a business is still limited startup capital, but if you can attain small bank loans then don’t hesitate to do it. I believe and have seen that women are great at business.”

“Business gives self dependence, especially if you want to be a full-time mother. For example, you can work any time you want provided you have a target set and you work with the right people. You can just dedicate six hours a day for the business and go back home to your family.”

 Although she is not yet married, she said that she is in a relationship.

“Because I work too much, I spare amicable time to rest.  The best way I relax is by hanging out with my friends or cooking. I also travel alot and have been to three continents,” she reaveals.

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