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A company born from a crib: Nishimwe’s journey to creating Wood Habitat

Nishimwe went to find a baby crib in 2015, when she was about to give birth, as most mothers do. She wondered if she could design her own, little realizing it would be the start of her entrepreneurial journey.

After only a few years, everyone in Kigali’s Muslim community knew who Nishimwe Paradine Imfura was, and most of them were obsessed with her furniture designs, which she displayed beautifully in her ‘wood habitat’ shop.

As she reflects on her journey from looking for a simple crib to opening a very high end interior design shop, she says she began in the most humble and unexpected way.

He stated, “”I went to a regular carpenter in Gisozi, showed him my designs, and he helped me,” she explained as we talked.

“When he saw the type of designs I created, he requested that we collaborate frequently.” she explained “Friends and family began to notice what I do, particularly what I had done with my nursery, and they would ask me to assist them in designing theirs.”

She was a 21-year-old mother at the time, and this was just a hobby she enjoyed because she also worked another job.

But her work was being recognized in unexpected places. People would contact her to design furniture for opulent hotels such as the Akagera Hotel simply because they had seen her work with nurseries.

She approached her carpenters at the time to collaborate on this project, which proved to be a success.

“That’s how we got our first client, who also referred us to other clients,” she explained.

Her company grew after that because it was both innovative and creative, something new that many Rwandans couldn’t believe was made in Rwanda.

It wasn’t all roses

Life is not always perfect, and her path was not without thorns. She did face difficulties.

She was a young mother who worked two jobs at the same time. She was also frustrated by the lack of necessary equipment, such as machines, as well as the fact that she only had one qualified carpenter.

This, however, did not deter her. Her attitude was to deal with whatever came her way; giving up was never an option.

“When you start a business, you will face difficulties. I was a young mom, a woman, and I had to take on many responsibilities while also dealing with challenges, but I had to keep going and learn as much as I could.”

Nishimwe claims that she met the BPN agency, which assists entrepreneurs, and that the agency assisted her in determining what she wanted to do with her business.

She then decided to resign from her job and devote her full attention to her business. It felt like her “calling.” That’s why she put her heart and soul into it.

Wood Habibat now has an atelier in Masoro’s industrial area, where they work on a variety of wood designs and products.

Creativity is bargaining power

When Nishimwe first started, her clients would tell her what they wanted, but she quickly realized that she needed to be creative and innovative in order to attract and retain as many customers as possible.

“”When we first started in 2016, the clients were the ones who told us what they needed, but we soon began to propose other unique items with good quality at a reasonable price,” she explained.

She is convinced that people buy her products because of the creativity and the purpose behind them; as she stated, customers do not buy because of the price “They buy from us because we believe we have a responsibility to make people’s homes feel special. Somewhere they can be happy.”

A male dominated world

When Nishimwe first started, her clients would tell her what they wanted, but she quickly realized that she needed to be creative and innovative in order to attract and retain as many customers as possible.

Nishime, 29, believes that having goals and doing things transparently helped her as a young woman to dominate in a male-dominated job.

She encourages women to do what they want and to seek out opportunities to make their own decisions.

“Women have the right to choose what is right for them, and we must respect that,” she said.

When Nishimwe first started, her clients would tell her what they wanted, but she quickly realized that she needed to be creative and innovative in order to attract and retain as many customers as possible.

Some may still be unsure about how and when to begin, but Nishimwe believes they must take the plunge and learn as they go, as she is doing.

Wood Habitat began with one employee and has since grown to 58 full-time employees. She receives between 40 and 60 clients per month, primarily from businesses, hotels, embassies, and individuals.

The company has collaborated with major corporations and hotels including One and Only, Singita Hotel, Choose Kigali, MASS, New Life Church, Question Coffee, and the University Global Health Equity and others.

Nishimwe got the idea for Wood Habitat because she needed a customized crib for her baby.

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