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MY ENTREPRENEURIAL ACCOUNT

Most successful business persons rarely count the details of their daily hassles. Yet victory is often the outcome of a sequence of success and failure, the latter serving as a springboard from which one learns and leaps to a bigger height. As I explained in my previous article introducing my blog, I intend to share the ups and downs I go through in my business life.

I started my company, TEMACO BUILDERS Ltd, in 2011 (the then name KIVU Treasure co ltd) with an Indian partner who had promised and committed to link our business to India-based companies that would provide us with the requisite machinery assets. This partner was a simple mason, I had approached and realized he had skills I needed. Due to total trust I had in him and my big excitement to finally start a business, I nearly spent all my savings and other financial contributions from my parents trying to purchase office items and paying rent for a nice office space, which was my contribution into the business. This excitement did not last for very long, as a few days after the launch of our company, I was informed that my business partner had left Rwanda – India-based concrete production company he was working for had sacked him and had to leave the country, without my knowledge, carrying away the essential contributions he had pledged to bring to our venture. His uncommunicated departure sunk our business idea and left me flat broke, to the extent that I was unable to afford even a two-way taxi trip (around USD2) to the office I had just equipped and paid rent for. My financial situation continued to degrade day after day, and I decided to go back to my parents’ house, leaving the apartment I could no longer rent.

During my stay at the fold, I better that my parents did not understand the reason why I was clinging on a business idea which was standing no chance whatsoever to become a reality. They were totally failing to comprehend my motivation, which had even prevented me from applying for a job so as to benefit from the security such an arrangement provides. When they failed to persuade me to abandon my business dreams, they started to advise me about any possibility of me doing business. They made me understand that the only way to resume business was to secure a considerable loan from either a local commercial bank or a micro-finance institution. As I was very committed to my business idea, I tried to put together all needed application documents for loan, approached all local financial institution, but got rejected by each of them. I even became an acquaintance of most bank staff after making several loan application attempts which all turned down. Today, I fully understand those commercial institutions: I had a great business idea, was full of energy, but OWNED NOTHING else! NOTHING! None of bank accounts had a zero balance, I had no assets, no referee, NOTHING! Rejections were not only from banks. Even potential clients were unable to trust me.

I didn’t give up! Luck knocked on my door 7 months after my worst bad news: I received a phone call from a friend of mine who informed me of a tender related to the production, supply and installation of paving blocks issued by one of the local petrol stations. I met the owner who invited me to a site visit session and asked me whether I had the capacity to undertake the assignment. I confidently replied: “yes, I can do it”. During the site visit, I simply realized that the opportunity had attracted bidders I was unable to compete with, and was deeply disappointed. My company was still away back from an infant stage. On my way back home, a smart idea crossed my mind: I thought about offering to the procuring gas station pavement blocks that do not simply meet their requirements, but rather those that match international standards. I called upon a friend of mine who was working for Rwanda Bureau of Standards (Rwanda Standards Board today) who helped me to request an analysis of a sample of the soil of the yard that the petrol station wanted to pave. Once the soil was analyzed, I produced 3 prototypes customized for that specific type of soil as per standards. Overall, I made 3 trials until I had 3 best quality prototypes, which I brought back to my friend at the Rwanda Bureau of Standards for solidity testing. After this certification process, I took both the soil test and the prototype solidity test results to the office of the petrol station owner and requested to meet him.

As if the refusals I had previously been subject of were not enough, his Personal Assistant (PA) simply declined my request to meet her boos, with no tangible reason. By chance, the son to the petrol station owner who worked as his father’s company marketing manager was passing by and he listened to my discussions with his father’s PA as I continued begged him to let me meet his boss. The son came towards us. When I showed him the laboratory test results for both soil quality and my prototypes he was very excited and immediately drew me to his father’s office. My proposal struck a chord in the heart of the boss, he was very impressed and decided to hire me through a single source, with advance payment of 50% of the total contract money. BUT! Remember that I had NO reference! Thus, he accepted to hire me not directly on a site in Kigali but in the province. I felt like daydreaming. But it was real, I had my first contract.

This was my very first starting point in business, with nothing else but an advance payment I got and an empty office space. Coming from where I was, I was ready for whatsoever can happen in this world, except failure. For my first assignment I hired machines and recruited the best experienced and skilled staff available on the market and had only one motto: “doing the right things right in order to offer concrete at its best”. I didn’t want to do business in the concrete industry. No! I wanted to be the best.

While undertaking this petrol station assignment, I not only worked like a dog but also worked like a charm. For this tender, I got a net benefit of USD 4,000. As the quality of my job went way above the client’s expectations, I was given even the Kigali site. In addition, he referred me to other interested clients. This is how we started grabbing our market share. Although TEMACO Builders is still a relatively small company, its future is promising.

Today, we employ twelve permanent staff, including myself, who provide for both strategic leadership and operational guidance to the company and ensure the company pursues her sustainable s growth path. We also have a pool of 40 casual workers.

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