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She invested 30 million RWF and her venture is now valued at 500 million RWF: Uwimana’s journey in the hospitality industry

Uwimana Marie Florence grew up dreaming of becoming an accountant, influenced by her father. However, due to a variety of life circumstances and cultural encounters, her goals shifted, leading her to a career in hospitality.

In 2016, she ventured into the hospitality industry by establishing the Tea House Boutique Hotel and Restaurant, initially focusing on lodging before expanding to include restaurant services, starting in Kimironko.

Just a year after opening, the business showed significant progress, prompting her to open a branch in Gisimenti, offering long-term services.

Preparing for a considerable time, she embarked on this project with an initial investment of 30 million RWF. Nearly eight years later, her venture is now valued at 500 million RWF.

In an exclusive interview, Florence shared, “I saved diligently; the money didn’t come from elsewhere but was what I had saved over five years.”

“I began by assisting in restaurants, working daily after my classes, and during holidays, I worked in hotels, also as an assistant, for five years. I never knew I would own my hotel one day. At that time, I had many dreams while saving without a specific plan for the money. I worked every day, unaware of leisure activities. Of course, there was other support, but not financial since it was my savings.”

Florence decided to start this project after identifying a gap in the hospitality industry, “We saw that hotels started pricing at about 70,000 RWF upwards, lacking affordable lodging with professional services. So, we thought to fill that middle gap. I started after working for an Italian family for five years, already familiar with hotel work and passionate about cooking and hospitality.”

It wasn’t easy from the start, as Florence faced many challenges and obstacles, but she remained undeterred.

“The main challenge I found in this industry was the dominance of men, and it still is, probably because this work requires much dedication,” she said.

Florence believes the low participation of women in this field is because “As someone who has been in this industry for a long time, finding a job sometimes means you could be asked for various favors, and there are things women might find challenging. This didn’t discourage me; instead, it motivated me to contribute to filling this gap, thinking that having a project led by a woman could provide peace and encourage calm work.”

“Now, the challenging part seems to be balancing home responsibilities with work. For instance, I often plan the next day’s work schedule in the evening to avoid forgetting,” she stated.

She encourages girls and women aspiring to join this profession to believe in their strength and to demonstrate it, maintaining a spirit of continuous learning, as knowledge is key to advancement.

“Now is a great time, especially with the internet, allowing for constant learning and self-improvement.”

Florence also mentioned that anyone with a goal can achieve their desires, urging girls and women to venture into male-dominated fields, asserting they are capable of performing just as well.

“You don’t know what the future holds, but it is shaped by your actions. For instance, I used to do painting, and now, I’m primarily in charge of decorating the buildings we operate in. No job is to be looked down upon; everything you do should be done willingly. Girls and women should have big dreams, be willing to commit, love what they do, and always be eager to learn.”

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