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Maintaining a sense of purpose in this startup era

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We are seeing an increase in startups; many young people are starting businesses in order to innovate and contribute to the country’s social and economic growth, but a sense of purpose must remain at the forefront.

Anyone can start a business and anyone can have an idea, but few people will have a higher purpose than simply making money.

When we examine the mission of Flove, a Rwandan fashion brand, we see that there is more to running a business than just selling products and making a profit.

Gloria Girabawe, CEO of Flove, had a vision in mind when she founded her company. She began as a typical university student, pursuing women’s empowerment courses, specifically gender studies, which she says she was most passionate about because it was fulfilling.

During her university days, she had a brilliant business idea to start a company that made strong leather tote bags that she noticed many students wanted.

She quickly realized she didn’t want to be just another business; she wanted to make a difference in society and achieve the purpose she believes her life is about.

“I asked myself how I could connect it [the business idea] to my passion, which is women’s empowerment,” she explained.

During the pandemic, she read about the alarmingly high number of teenage mothers in Rwanda, and as the statistics showed, many of those mothers would sadly drop out of school, often with their parents abandoning them as well.

According to Gender Ministry data, teen pregnancy increased by 23% in 2021, from 19,701 in 2020 to 23,000 in 2021.

Girabawe considered combining her business ideas and assisting these young mothers who were in difficult situations.

“I thought of helping them by linking my business idea with what I love so that I can employ these teen mothers to produce these bags. That’s how I began.”

She began with one tailor during the COVID-19 pandemic and later recruited four more and five others on a part-time basis on demand for two years. They have grown from serving 10 people per month to serving over 300.

Flove, like any other business, faced several challenges, including obtaining a consistent supply of the raw materials she required and expanding her customer base. She did, however, overcome those obstacles through consistency and learning.

Girabawe claims that running a business is difficult, but that if one has a clear goal and purpose, they can succeed. It served her right to have a purpose at the start because it was what kept her consistent in her efforts to achieve her goal.

“That is why I like to advise people; if you start a business, don’t do it because your colleagues are doing it or because it’s trendy,” she said. “Do it because you have a reason to do it.”

“So, business isn’t easy, but it’s doable if you have a reason to do it. I believe that young people are capable,” she said, adding that “I believe we can achieve whatever we set our sights on.”

Straight out of Twitter