Setting up a business venture is not often without challenges and set-backs, especially in the case of start-ups and emerging ventures.
While these setbacks can be discouraging, to Sakina Usengimana, they served to equip her with lessons and experiences that eventually led to her success.
The 28-year-old is an entrepreneur with a company known as Afri-foods Ltd, based in Gatsibo and Nyanza Districts – involved in exporting fresh vegetables and fruits.
The company is also involved in contract farming, currently working with more than 500 farmers across the country. Usengimana plans to commence food processing by adding value to some of the crops they export.
Having a background in business, entrepreneurship and marketing, Usengimana didn’t have much fear when immersing herself into agribusiness, despite being a different field from what she studied.
She narrated that after attending youth connect training in 2017, she was inspired to start doing agriculture stuff.
“I was inspired when one of the key speakers challenged us to make use of our natural resources including land. I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to try out my luck,” she said. She started with growing tomatoes and pepper but after a short period of time, everything came to a halt.
From producing only 400 kilograms, Usengimana is now harvesting 300 tonnes of the produce. This, she attributed to not having enough skills to carry out the business.
In 2019, she decided to start out again, this time partnering with her two friends, growing the same crops (pepper and tomatoes). After three harvests, the venture failed again as the land they were using failed to produce more yields as they had anticipated.
“All these were a bit challenging to me because I had exhausted all my savings, I found myself spending all my salary, investing on things that weren’t making profits, something that almost made me give up,” she admitted.
If you make repeated and sedulous attempts to fix a leaky pipe it often makes things worse, it might be time to go online and find the number of a plumber, and this is exactly what Usengimana did.
The entrepreneur decided to try out again for the third time, but this time round with the aim of working along with experts in the field she was trying to venture into, as she believed this plays a big role too when it comes to establishing and sustaining your enterprise.
In the same year 2019 in August, she recollected herself and sought for a client and started all over again this time round coming up with her own company known as Afri-Foods ltd.
They grow chillies, bird eye, avocado, bitter lemon, eggplants among others.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Usengimana said that at the moment, she is enjoying her new career and that farming has not only become part of her, but also her full-time job.
“I like the fact that within a short period of time, I have gained much skills in this particular area that has seen me run my business successfully,” she said.
From producing only 400 kilograms, she is now doing 300 tonnes of the produce, which are being exported in the Middle East and Europe.
In addition to this, she has managed to hire 10 permanent staff and many others who work on a casual basis.
What keeps her going is the fact that her hard work and the spirit of not giving up yielded positive results.
Usengimana’s company (Afri-Foods ltd) has also been selected to be one of the companies supplying its produce to Carrefour supermarket based in Dubai, which to her is a huge success.
Another impact, she said, is being able to attend different exhibitions nationally and internationally, giving them as a team exposure including meeting different clients and other experts.
Moving forward, she plans to commence food processing by adding value to some of the crops they export with the aim of reducing post-harvest losses as well as having a huge presence in the local market.