Although Rwanda has empowered its women in most sectors, women involvement in the media sector is still lacking. However, Sandra Idossou has made her mark in the business. Sandra, publisher of The ServiceMag, speaks to Women Today‘s Doreen Umutesi about what inspired her to start her own magazine.
“I have come to understand that as women we are capable of so much. The only challenge we have is that we don’t give ourselves the time to discover the talents we have. Of course there are challenges but as women we can handle them. Just like we handle a family, we can also handle a business. We are like sponges; we know how to absorb difficulties. Women are capable of anything they just need to believe in themselves. Dream it and you will achieve it,” Sandra explains.
She also says that challenges are met along the way when trying to achieve dreams or fulfil a passion.
“Every day I ask myself why I started the magazine but when I see the results and the positive things people say about it, I’m inspired and that it’s worth it.”
“I came to Rwanda in 2007 because my husband had started work here. Although I was working before, on reaching here I gave myself a six months’ break and after that I started working. During my first three years, I actually focused on my training and consultancy business and we specialised in quality management, customer service, sales and marketing,” Sandra narrates.
She had worked as Quality and Customer Service, Sales and Marketing trainer in ACCOR Hotels in Africa.
“I’m very passionate about writing and I write a lot about customer service delivery. I wrote a business column for The New Times every Monday for two years. After that I wrote a book titled ‘The Customer Care Handbook’ and it was published in English and Kinyarwanda, giving basic knowledge about customer care,” she states.
The 38-year-old was born in Benin in a family of two and has been living in Rwanda for the last six years.
“When I saw that the reception of the book was good, I told myself I could start publishing articles and that’s how ‘The ServiceMag’ came into existence in 2010. I didn’t know it would be an actual business because it was plain passion. After the first and second issue, it was overwhelming. I opened the company after the second issue,” Sandra expresses.
She has been working in the service delivery field for the last decade.
“When I came here, there was a gap in the quality of service delivery at the time; I thought it was the right time for me. I was lucky that it was around the time the Government had really decided to tackle the issue of customer care service. Perhaps it was more to do with luck,” Sandra reveals.
With a tourism and hotel management diploma from the University of Intercom CEPUI, Cotonou, Benin and a higher diploma of German language, Goethe Institute, Accra, Ghana, she speaks fluent English, French, German and 5 other African languages. Asked whether her expectations were met after publishing a few issues of ‘The ServiceMag’ she says, “I should confess by saying that the first issue was published out of passion, but when the magazine picked up, it was quite difficult because I had not prepared for it. The initial plan was not to make it a business but when the demand became high, I had to learn about publishing, how to get writers, editors, and stories.”
“I wanted a magazine of great quality because Rwandans are not used to reading and I knew that the only way to get them to read the articles was to make it look nice, especially with the photography. Getting advertisers is also a challenge because we need over twenty advertising companies to publish an issue.”
“It was so difficult that at one point I asked myself why I started it in the first place. But now I manage it. I can say I have learned a lot compared to what I learned in school. I now know a lot about advertising, media and being an accountant. I have learnt so much in the three years,” Sandra explains.
Thirteen issues of The ServiceMag have been published; it comes out every three months.
She is a trainer, consultant and has done many painting exhibitions with her personal artworks of Acrylic Paintings. She is married to Giap Idossou and they have an eight months old son.
“During my leisure time, I cook, do interior decoration, swim, paint and extensively use social media. I love Rwanda because it is so orderly. I travel a lot but each time I come back, I realise that something has been done. I think when your around you don’t notice it,” she concludes.