Ubucuruzi bwimibereho myiza

Are you thinking of starting a social enterprise? Learn from Amina Umuhoza, a social entrepreneur making an impact on young women in Rwanda.

Ubucuruzi bwimibereho myiza

As social entrepreneurship continues to grow globally, Rwanda has witnessed many innovative social entrepreneurs offer solutions to the most pressing challenges faced in society. The SME Response Clinic spoke with Amina Umuhoza, Founder of the social enterprise Dukataze, which aims to equip young people with information on reproductive health and economic empowerment.

Through her work, Amina also started Saye Company Limited, a for-profit enterprise that sells products made by beneficiaries of her organisation. We spoke to Amina, who shared some insights about what it takes to run a successful social enterprise. Here are the highlights:

Passion: Being a successful social entrepreneur depends on several things, but passion is one of the most important. As a young woman, she saw her peers suffering from a lack of guidance and knowledge about their reproductive health. Knowing their must be a way to support them, she began to engage in activities that would help her build her enterprise, such as participating in business development training programs for skills development and networking with like-minded entrepreneurs. Passion for her cause is what is behind everything Amina does.

Skills development: For entrepreneurs to succeed, they need certain skills to grow their business, including things like communication, financial management and strategic thinking. Social entrepreneurs need to build their knowledge and experience in an even broader set of skills – leadership, empathy, emotional and social intelligence, creativity and innovation, and grit. When Amina started the business, she applied for business development programs for social entrepreneurs to help learn what she would need in order to grow. Through programs such as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program, Amina acquired skills in areas like leadership, which helped her to assemble  and lead a diverse and skilled team in her enterprise.

Networking: According to Amina, she was only able to learn about different financing and business development opportunities from her physical and online networks. As a social entrepreneur, building a solid network with people working in the same or related industries is crucial. It helps entrepreneurs discover new opportunities, find quality leads, and increase business visibility. Networking can be done in two ways: attending physical events or engaging online with fellow industry players in the social entrepreneurship.

For the full interview with Amina Umuhoza, check the next slide.

Full Interview

Question: Tell us a bit about yourself and your social enterprise.

My name is Amina Umuhoza, and I’m the Founder of SAYE Company Limited/DUKATAZE.

We conduct a number of activities, but the most prominent ones include producing and sharing creative tools such as games and booklets with content about fighting teenage pregnancies and support for adolescents in talking about their reproductive health.

We do it in a fun and engaging way, which helps the adolescents we work with feel free and comfortable. In addition, we’ve got Kigali Menstruation Station located in Nyamirambo, which is a forum where young girls and boys learn about reproductive health without feeling embarrassed. The Station also offers a teen mom incubation program and other services. Understanding that not everyone can travel to the Station, we also offer training to those who are far from the Station. To do this, we work closely with local partners to carry out community outreach programs in districts outside of Kigali and in schools where we have clubs like “Let’s talk about us” (LTAU). So far we have trained 5010 adolescents on sexual reproductive health and also we are currently conducting a training of trainers for 200 students to become peer educators.

One might wonder, how do we manage to do all this? We have a shop that features home decoration items in Nyarugenge City Market called Home Decor, where we produce locally made products. We also have partnerships with international organisations that help us to implement some of our programs such as juno&me from Germany and My Period is Awesome from Uganda.

Question: Where did you get the idea and the initial investment to start the company?

When I was growing up, I realized that teenage pregnancies were common and that more can be done to prevent unintended pregnancies by talking about reproductive health. My idea was to tackle this challenge but in a way that could be sustainable financially and not dependent upon grants or donors.

Where did I get the capital? Initially, I used to write poems and I won different awards. Then, I saved the money I got from those poems and used it for transport to go to different meetings related to my social enterprise.

Later on, I participated in YouthConnekt Awards and was awarded RWF 500,000 as one of the top 30 entrepreneurs. This was my real starting capital.

Question: How did you develop your enterprise over time?

Building a business requires different skills. I started the business when I was 21 years old, with no sufficient skills at the time. But, thanks to different training and incubation programs I participated in, I really learned a lot. I managed to the get the skills I needed and later realized that I needed a skilled team to work with. In addition to those skills, it was important to have passion as well, and I have always felt very passionate about this work.

Question: What challenges did you face launching this enterprise?

The first challenge I faced was the fear of starting something new that nobody else in our family nor my close friends had ever tried. I sought peer mentors to advise me and also joined training programs to learn how to run such an enterprise.

Also, I had no capital, and that was the second challenge. The only thing I had was the talent of reciting poems from which I could get RWF 20,000 or RWF 30,000, which I would use for ticket fees when I was going to seek different partners or use it for internet to learn about different programs by people in the same domain.

Question: What are your plans for the year 2023?

I consider this year 2023 as a year for expansion. We started in 2017, so the enterprise has been running for almost six years. It has been like raising a child, and now that child has grown up, learning to walk by themselves. For 2023, we would like to build partnerships that can help us extend our services to more places (other districts), building on our working proof of concept to serve more adolescents. We have reached eight districts so far, and this year, we would like to reach five more.

Question: What advice would you give to other social entrepreneurs?

I would advise other young social entrepreneurs or those with their ideas in the incubation process to keep up. They are doing the right thing. They may sometimes wonder if they are doing the right thing, but I’m telling them the truth, they are unique.

Whenever you identify a problem in society, and you find a solution to that problem and manage to generate income, there is no greater joy.

Stay the course and try to find role models or mentors from whom you can freely seek advice in difficult situations.

Also, look around for different opportunities, especially through social media used by entrepreneurs in the same industry. That will help grow their enterprise.