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Starting a side hustle in Rwanda: A conversation with a Rwandan entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship has been highly glorified, having a 9 to 5 job alone doesn’t cut it anymore; especially for the ambitious youth in Rwanda looking to make a dent in the universe (or at least in their bank accounts).

We had a discussion with Nadine Uwayezu, a young woman working 9 to 5 but also has small businesses on the side. She is the imaginative and enterprising owner of ‘Own It’.

Her small business is a haven for those seeking locally made, high-quality silk products like bonnets, pillowcases, sleepwear, and hair accessories.

Own It sells different hair care products

Our candid conversation with Uwayezu uncovered the inception, the grind, and the blossoming of her side hustle amidst a global pandemic. It all began in 2019 during an entrepreneurship course. “My group was given 50$ to make a profitable business. We made home decor from wood and strings; I enjoyed the process and the thrill that came with that,” she shared.

But it was her innate love for natural hair and the desire to help others embrace theirs that gave birth to ‘Own It’.

While one might think it’s the economy pushing youngsters towards side hustles, for the dynamic young woman, it was a blend of passion and a bold desire to create something meaningful.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I was bold – bold enough to start something without a certainty of success yet give it my best shot and see how it turns out,” she expressed earnestly.

Navigating the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship, especially in the middle of a pandemic, is nothing short of daunting. However, as she puts it, “It’s hard to be certain that a business will thrive especially in the middle of a pandemic but how would one know without giving it a try?”

Own It is an online business and that means Uwayezu can do most work from anywhere without it affecting her 9 to 5

But how does one identify the right side hustle? Uwayezu found a gap where community needs intersected with her hobby of natural hair care. She observed a lack of service-centric approach among other businesses selling hair products. “Own It is unique in providing services alongside hair products,” she quips.

Running a side hustle while keeping a 9-5 job can be a draining task in modern days. Own It, being an online business offered Uwayezu the flexibility she needed.

She said, “I usually schedule days at which I post content to engage with customers- mostly 3 times a week during my lunch break. I am very intentional about checking my business page every time I pick up my phone to be on the lookout for orders and other inquiries.”

Own it offers a a variety of products

So, how can young Rwandans hatch their own side hustle? According to Uwayezu, it starts with identifying gaps or creative solutions, aligning these with personal strengths and passions, and not waiting for a massive capital injection to kickstart the venture.

“Startup capital can be as small as 300,000 Frw and work your way up and I highly discourage taking out loans before experimenting with the feasibility of the business,” she advises.

She also accentuates the importance of seeking help and mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs and exploring incubation hubs and accelerator programs for small businesses.

To all aspiring side-hustlers out there, in the poetic words of Uwayezu, “If all had failed – I would say that I had tried my chance and did something I enjoy for the greater good.” Indeed, sometimes the journey is the reward, and every experience is a stepping stone to the next big venture.

Uwayezu Nadine started Own It to help people embrace and properly take care of their hair

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