SME Response Clinic hosts a webinar on practical strategies to deal with stress at Kigali Public Library. 

The SME Response Clinic held a webinar on practical strategies to deal with stress at Kigali Public Library on the 12th of November 2021. The webinar is part of the Building Back Healthier Series that was launched with a talk show on KT Radio on the 18th of October 2021. The series is organized in partnership with the Geruka Healing Centre.

The objective of the webinar was to inform and inspire entrepreneurs to incorporate wellbeing into the daily operations of their businesses and equip them with practical skills to cope with stress. The webinar featured a mental health expert, Dr Jean Pierre Ndagijimana, with two active small business owners, Claudine Tuyisenge and Johnson Runuya. Learn more below.

Dr Ndagijimana kicked off the session with a great example to help attendees and viewers understand how to improve the stress response. Let’s dig in:

Most of us use a fire pit to cook food. When the food starts to boil up, you decrease the intensity of the heat so that your saucepan, for instance, won’t explode. At a certain point in time, you may also increase the intensity of the heat again. This process of balancing the intensity of the heat that goes into your firepit is also applicable to managing stress. As an entrepreneur, this means knowing when your level of stress is increasing or decreasing so that you can think of what actions you should take to regulate your level of stress.

Claudine and Johnson each shared their own experiences – read on to learn more.

Claudine’s Experience:

Claudine Tuyisenge is the founder of KICIRWANDA, a local organization that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. The business works with artisans – 90% of whom are women -based in rural Rwanda who makes handcrafted products to earn sustainable livelihoods. Claudine is no stranger to stress – she shared that in particular, she and her colleagues are always very stressed during the festive season – a season that is important for sales and during which taking a helpful holiday to recharge is not possible. For her staff, the experience of rushing to meet looming deadlines created insomnia and other challenges that made their lives more difficult.

To manage the stress of the season – Claudine introduced a new way of taking orders. To promote a healthy workplace at KICIRWANDA, rather than taking every order that comes in and rushing to complete it, Claudine implemented a process of accepting orders based on production capacity. Now, staff work together toward achievable goals, and it has allowed the business to continue to uphold high standards of quality while caring for its employees. Claudine shared the sentiment behind the process, “It’s crucial to be true to yourself and to your clients. [If you plan well,] you can tell them the timeframe you need to make quality products for them, which is an important element in managing stress.”

Johnson’s Experience:

Johnson Runuya is the founder of Johnson The Baker, a bakery that operates in Kigali and surrounding areas. While lockdown measures implemented in March 2020 forced many businesses to close their doors, they gave some entrepreneurs the time and inspiration to start online businesses. Johnson is among a number of university students who saw COVID-19 as an opportunity – he launched his business’ website just days after the lockdown started and began receiving orders from friends, family, and schoolmates. By April 2020, orders started flooding in as Johnson promoted his business through social media platforms.

Johnson never thought his business would continue after the lockdown was lifted, but instead, it has continued to thrive to the point where he is expanding his operations. While the orders are increasing, this comes with stress. He highlights that a big source of stress is that as a pastry chef, you do not set your own deadlines – customers do – and sometimes those deadlines are as short as one hour. As an entrepreneur, it is difficult to say no to the customer, so what is key is preparation. Having all needed materials on hand is critical to being able to say yes and meet customers’ needs. Johnson also stressed the importance of being kind to oneself – not everything will be perfect every time. To plan for his continued expansion, Johnson is setting up a system through which clients will send orders with a three-hour turnaround time, better enabling the business to manage the number of orders that come in. Johnson is sure this will help maintain his own well-being as well as the well-being of his employees by reducing the level of stress that comes with strict deadlines.

Championing wellbeing is important to a company’s success

“To have stress is common. The only way to have no stress is when we are no longer alive. Stress assists us (including entrepreneurs) in being successful and, in more extreme circumstances, in surviving. The ultimate goal for all of us is to improve stress response. What differentiates how individuals regulate levels of stress includes things like the time period that stress lasts and the techniques one uses to deal with it.” – Dr Ndaagijimana.

Claudette and Johnson are building back healthier by creating self-awareness about their own wellbeing and educating their staff to do the same. By paying attention to their levels of stress, they are understanding more clearly what they are capable of as well as what changes they need to make to be able to deliver on time. And, as a result, both have seen positive impacts, including increased productivity and better workplace environments.

Visit SME Response Clinic for tips for entrepreneurs to sustain their wellbeing and optimize mental health at the workplace, and join us for our upcoming webinar, “Building Back Healthier: Practical Solutions for Improving the Wellbeing of Women Entrepreneurs” scheduled for 08 December at 2 pm Rwanda local time at Kigali Public Library, and on our Facebook and YouTube channels.