How an agro-food entrepreneur overcame business start-up failures | New times


Starting a business enterprise is not often without challenges and setbacks, especially in the case of start-ups and emerging companies.

While these setbacks may be disheartening for Sakina Usengimana, they served to give her lessons and experiences that ultimately led to her success.

The 28-year-old is an entrepreneur at a company known as Afri-foods Ltd, based in Gatsibo and Nyanza districts – involved in the export of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The company is also involved in contract farming, currently working with more than 500 farmers across the country.

Usengimana plans to start food processing adding value to some of the crops they export.

Having a background in business, entrepreneurship and marketing, Usengimana was not afraid to delve into agribusiness, although it is a different field than the one she studied.

She said after attending Youth Connect training in 2017, she got the idea to start doing farming stuff.

“I was inspired when one of the keynote speakers challenged us to use our natural resources, including the land. I felt it was a great opportunity for me to try my luck, ”she said.

She started out growing tomatoes and peppers, but after a short time everything stopped.

With a production of only 400 kilograms, Usengimana now harvests 300 tons of products.

This she attributed to not having enough skills to run the business.

In 2019, she decides to start over, this time in partnership with her two friends, cultivating the same crops (pepper and tomatoes).

After three harvests, the business again failed because the land they were using did not produce more yields than expected.

“It all posed a bit of a challenge for me because I had used up all my savings, I found myself spending all my paycheck, investing in things that weren’t making a profit, something that almost made me. give up, ”she admitted.

If you make repeated and diligent attempts to fix a leaking pipe it often makes matters worse, maybe it’s time to go online and find a plumber’s number, and that’s exactly what. Usengimana did.

The entrepreneur decided to try again for the third time, but this time with the goal of working with experts in the field she was trying to venture into, as she believed that this also played an important role when he it was about establishing and maintaining your business.

The same year 2019, in August, she remembered and looked for a client and this time started again to start her own business known as Afri-Foods Ltd.

They cultivate chili peppers, birds, avocados, bitter lemon, eggplants, among others.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Usengimana said that at the moment she is enjoying her new career and farming is not only part of her, but also part of her full-time job.

“I like the fact that in a short period of time I have acquired a lot of skills in this particular area which have enabled me to run my business successfully,” she said.

With an output of only 400 kilograms, it now manufactures 300 tons of products, which are exported to the Middle East and Europe.

On top of that, she managed to hire 10 permanent staff and many more who work on a casual basis.

What keeps her going is the fact that her hard work and her spirit of not giving up have yielded positive results.

Usengimana’s company (Afri-Foods Ltd) has also been selected to be one of the companies supplying its products to the Dubai-based Carrefour supermarket, which is a huge success for them.

Another impact, she said, is the ability to attend different exhibitions nationally and internationally, which gives them exposure as a team, including meeting different clients and other experts.

In the future, she plans to start food processing by adding value to some of the crops they export with the aim of reducing post-harvest losses and having a huge presence in the local market.

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