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Entrepreneurial spirit rewarded in Rwanda

A tailor who specializes in wedding dresses and a woman who runs a fruit production business have won a business plan competition that is part of an entrepreneurship program in Rwanda organized by the William Davidson Institute (WDI).
Placidie Murebwayire is congratulated by Goldman Sachs officials after winning one of the two top prizes in the business plan competition. (Photo by Guy Meadows)

Placidie Murebwayire, the dress designer, and Henriette Nyirantwari each won $2,500 grand prizes in the competition that concludes the six-month Goldman Sachs Entrepreneurship Certificate Program. There also were five "runner up" winners who each won $1,000. The cash awards were sponsored by WDI.

After the competition, the 30 women enrolled in the program graduated in a ceremony attended by several Goldman Sachs officials. In all, 59 women have completed the program.

Goldman Sachs has renewed the program for another year. Later this month, another 30 women will start the program. The women, along with 30 others who will start in February 2010, were selected from more than 900 applicants from across Rwanda.
Entrepreneurship program graduate Anastasie Nyirabukeye, sporting a U-M T-shirt, leads Goldman Sachs officials on a tour of her lumberyard. (Photo by Guy Meadows)

The six-month program, organized and designed by WDI in cooperation with the School of Finance & Banking in Kigali, is designed for women from Rwanda seeking to expand their small businesses. Sessions are held in the areas of marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, legal aspects of running a business and operations.

Networking events are an integral part of the program, with participants visiting successful Rwandan enterprises to learn about best practices.

During the program, a faculty member visits each of the women to get a first-hand look at the business and provide hands-on advice. Additionally, each participant is matched with a mentor from Goldman Sachs who coaches the women one-on-one throughout the program via an online tool.

The program is sponsored by Goldman Sachs as part of its 10,000 Women initiative, which aims to give 10,000 women around the world a business and management education over the next five years. The sponsorship means that all participants attend the program tuition-free.

Nyirantwari, one of the grand-prize winners, started a fruit production business in 2006 with an investment of 200,000 Rwandan francs ($359 U.S. dollars). Now she earns 250,000 Rwf ($449 USD) per month. In order to meet the demand for her fruit products, she plans on buying modern machines. She needs to learn how to manage her business well and how to get a bank loan.

Murebwayire, the other grand-prize winner, has been running her tailoring business, which specializes in wedding dresses, since 2004. Placidie started with an investment of 50,000 Rwf ($898 USD). She now earns 300,000 Rwf ($539 USD) per month. She would like to learn how to better market her business and increase her sales.

The five runners-up are:

• Peruth Asimwe, wedding dress designer

• Peace Mukankusi, supermarket and wholesale shop

• Esther Nishimwe, office supplies and bookstore

• Chantal Umutoniwase, retail clothing

• Peace Uwasenga, pig farmer.

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