As part of their entrepreneurship and business class, Akilah students collaborate in small groups to start a business on campus. Working together, partners Florence Mukundwa and Anita Umutoni, Akilah Class of 2012, realized their enterprise had real potential that they could try out after they graduated. Florence explains: “This was the course that opened our minds to first think about starting something.” Soon enough, the two had invested their savings — 50,000 Rwandan francs each — to expand their class project into a full-fledged business.
As Aniflow Standard — named for the two founders — these two entrepreneurs produced and sold made-to-order bags, bed covers, curtains, and clothes using African kitenge, a colorful fabric. They had three employees to tailor the order and advertised on their own website, on Facebook, and through word-of-mouth. Aniflow “was famous”, Florence tells Akilah. “For over two years, our business was booming.” As the market for goods made from African kitenge grew, however, so too did costs. When the cost of taxes, materials, and renting sewing machines became prohibitive, the two entrepreneurs decided to put Aniflow Standard on hold.
Did you know?
80% of businesses don’t make it past the first 18 months. It takes time and the determination to try different approaches to learn the keys to success — just ask the world’s most renowned businesspeople, like Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
Florence, however, is quick to note that “it was great!” She loves being a businesswoman and bringing designs to life with beautiful African patterns. Moreover, by providing jobs, Florence says, “[her] business improved lives and contributed to [her] community.” She plans to save money for capital to come back even stronger. This time, however, she plans to do some things differently. Learning from experience, she plans to invest in purchasing sewing machines rather than renting. She also wants a shop location where tailoring and sales can happen side by side and new customers can discover their work.
“I encourage students at Akilah to value all the opportunities they get and to be ambitious while they are there.”
Florence believes in keeping your eyes and ears open to new opportunities, because there is no time like the present to build on good ideas. “I encourage students at Akilah to value all the opportunities they get and to be ambitious while they are there, because there are so many and if you don’t catch them, they disappear.” Aniflow Standard may not be active right now, but Florence has hope that by saving money and continuing to build on the skills she gained at Akilah and through her business, opportunity will strike again. And you can bet she’ll be ready.
After graduation, Akilah students embark on exciting entrepreneurial and professional pursuits — and have valuable successes, stories, and lessons to share. Follow our alumnae after they leave Akilah on Medium or here on our blog.