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Entrepreneur Program Participant Perseveres

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Emelienne Nyiramana was a 24-year-old student living in a southern Rwanda province when genocide erupted in the country.

She was separated from her family, and for the next two months she hid in neighboring homes and fields from roaming soldiers. After the genocide, she returned to her family farm and married. She was not able, however, to return to school. 

She and her husband moved to Kigali and Emelienne devoted herself to raising her two children. In 2000, she decided to start a business to support the family’s income. She tried several businesses, but none of them were successful. In 2005, with encouragement and support from her husband, she went through technical training in tailoring.

Emelienne said her tailoring business association struggled until they were formed into a cooperative with the support of Indego Africa in 2007. Indego Africa provides training in accounting, computer literacy, and English to handicraft cooperatives in Rwanda. Through market research, product design consultation, and trade partnerships, Indego Africa works with the cooperatives to create sustainable access to Western markets. Emelienne’s cooperative also sells their product at Rwanda Nziza, a free-trade retail shop in Rwanda.

These days, Emelienne has four boys and also is raising an orphan. She uses her income to support her mother, who is a widow, and her sister, a widow who also is HIV-positive. She also serves as treasurer of the cooperative.

“As a child, I thought I would one day be a banker, processing and handling other people’s money,” she said. “Instead, I get to make my own money through the success of this business.”

In July, Emelienne was accepted to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneur Certificate Program, held in partnership with WDI and the School of Finance and Banking in Rwanda. The six-month training program in business management features sessions in marketing, public relations, HR, organizational management, bookkeeping, financial management, accounting, strategies for accessing capital, and Rwandan law code.

The program goal is the completion of an actionable business plan by the end of six months. Emelienne said she learned things she never thought of in the customer care session, and said her favorite aspect of the program is learning from other participants and guest speakers.

She takes what she learns in the entrepreneurship program and teaches the other members of her cooperative. She knows it was competitive to get into the program, and now that she’s been accepted, she feels confident in herself and is encouraged to keep working hard.

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