“I was idle for two years. I was interested in learning a skill that could help me provide for my ageing parents and younger siblings. My friend suggested that I enrol to a training centre that was located around our neighbourhood, where she taught tailoring, but I could not afford the fees. After a while, she was recruited by Swisscontact to train youth through an apprenticeship program. She encouraged me to apply since the project was footing the costs related to the training. As fate would have it, I was selected as an apprentice. The project disbursed money to our trainer, which catered for the cost of materials and our lunch. Because I lived about 6kms from the training workshop and could not afford the transport to and fro, I spoke to my trainer, explained my situation and she allowed me to use my lunch money for transport instead. I would carry leftover food to serve as my lunch or sometimes skip the meal if I had none. I knew it was a temporary sacrifice I had to make and it would pay off eventually.”
Benelde was trained as an apprentice for one year. She graduated from the program in August 2017. “After that year, I knew I couldn’t just go back to my parents’ home, sit around and do nothing. I did my research and noticed there was only one tailor within my neighbourhood, and her outfits were not good quality. I dreamt of starting my small boutique to address the quality concerns I had heard raised,” she reminisces.
As she had no credit history with any financial institutions, access to financial support became a challenge. Benelde struggled to find a solution until one day, a neighbour decided to order a dress. “My neighbour heard that I was struggling to open shop and she supported me by ordering a dress, bringing her material and paying a deposit of CHF 3 for the resources I would need to sew the dress. I used the deposit to rent a sewing machine for a month and ensured I delivered the dress on time. She was impressed and spread the word. Just like that, my business began growing,” chuckles Benelde.
“I continued to serve my clients and saved as much as I could so I could invest in my business. I joined two mavuno groups where I diligently contributed CHF 1 to each group on a weekly and monthly basis,” comments Benelde.
After a few months, Benelde was eligible to get a loan from her weekly mavuno saving group. She borrowed CHF 103 and bought a sewing machine immediately. She hired a skilled tailor to work for her, who helped her churn out her orders faster. She was able to pay back the loan within a short period and took another loan from a microfinance bank to buy other machines. Today, Benelde owns three machines and has hired two skilled tailors as employees.
Benelde has come a long way from idling around. She has a constant client base. Her work is known for being good quality and being delivered on time. The tips she learnt during the five-day entrepreneurship training have been extremely beneficial. “I learnt how to view challenges differently and identify opportunities within my reach. I, for example, decided to train a young lady who was interested in learning the skill for ten months. She paid me CH 10 per month, which was my exact rent amount so for ten months, I didn’t have to worry about rent. I also learnt how to save and plan for my money, set goals for the future, and even how to approach financial institutions for a loan. I’m proud of what I’m building. My business is growing steadily, and I now believe the sky is the limit.”
Currently, Benelde’s expenses are manageable. She pays rent for her workshop, supports her siblings and parents and attends to her business operating costs such as employee salaries and outsourcing the services of an electric sewing machine. After managing her expenses, she remains with CHF 11 a month which she saves. “My friends are envious of me because I’m now independent and can afford a certain lifestyle. I have had to learn to ignore male attention too and entirely focus on growing my business. I plan to register my business with the local authorities, invest in three more manual sewing machines and employ more staff. With time when electricity has been connected in our sector, I will buy two electric machines which will help cut down on my current operational costs. Once I have increased my resources, I’d like to focus on training more so that I can help change many more lives while my staff focus on delivering quality on time," an upbeat Benelde explains.
Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training in the Great Lakes Region
PROMOST (Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training) in the Great Lakes Region is currently in its eighth year of operations. It is about to round up the third phase of the 12-year SDC programme that aims to support the Government of Rwanda’s efforts to improve access to, as well as the quality and relevance of, its TVET system. The project has a regional dimension and has extended its activities to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. PROMOST is financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and implemented by Swisscontact.