“Don’t think that you need a lot of capital. Start with little, but use the knowledge and the environment that you already have.”
Ten dollars — that’s all that Rwandan science teacher Cephas Nshimyumuremyi had to start his business with two years ago.
It may sound less than promising, but Cephas made that initial investment go a long way. “The $10 helped me to purchase the empty bottle in order to put my product on the market,” says Cephas. Today, his company Uburanga Products, which makes herbal jelly and soap from local medicinal plants, is worth $30,000 and employs 12 workers.
His idea for natural cosmetics with healing properties came from trying to teach his students how the science they were learning in class could be applied in practical ways: “I teach chemistry so I showed my students how you can test a plant, and know the capacity of that plant to kill bacteria,” says the young entrepreneur, who launched his company to supplement his income from teaching.
Cephas also wanted to use the local medicinal plants, used by some traditional healers, in a scientific way. Herbs used in Cephas’ remedies are grown in a botanical garden, then dried and mixed to create either soap or jelly. “The products made by Uburanga help the skin to be smooth and they protect from bacteria which can cause skin disease,” says the entrepreneur. His future goal is to provide the solution for “skin diseases caused by bacteria all around Africa.”
Like with many new businesses, the greatest challenge Cephas had to overcome was getting the word about his product out to a wider audience, without having money to advertise. Another was the high cost of containers in which his products are sold, which he had to import: “In our country there is no industry producing such kind of bottles and cartons, so we purchase them from Kampala,Uganda.”
In a previous interview, when asked for his advice to fellow would-be entrepreneurs, he replied,
“First, I would tell young entrepreneurs to have a quality of using the little means they have and then put emphasis on the power of knowledge to help them achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. The power of knowledge is very important in business because success in business comes when you provide a solution for consumers.
I would also advise young entrepreneurs to look at the resources that they have nearby and make something out of them.
Don’t be intimidated by what the others are doing and more especially don’t be afraid of competition because competition is good and usually competition comes when you are on the path of success.
Last of all I would encourage young entrepreneurs to push onwards. For me, business gave me a sense of identity.”
(Courtesy of Milena Veselinovic and Marc Hoeferlin: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/11/africa/uburanga-skincare-rwanda/index.html)