By Mark Athuok Ubur
Innocent Havyarimana has an important message to share: “Let’s create jobs for ourselves and others.’’
The native of Burundi is living this out as the founder of KLAP Enterprises, a soap production company based in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. GLAP stands for “God Loves All People.’’
The Genesis of an Idea
In my interview, Havyarimana told me that he conceived the idea of making soap in 2014 and implemented the idea in 2015. The idea was based on the knowledge of chemistry he had learned from Burundi. He initially made the soaps manually, but now is using machines for producing different types of soaps, such as liquid soap, hair shampoo, hand wash/sanitizer, disinfectant, baby soap and bar soap. Havyarimana, who is CEO of the company, also noted that other soaps they are producing are kerol, Dettol, pit digester, jik bleach, jik instant and powder soap.
“Before I launched the idea, I assessed the needs of refugees in the camp,” he said. “I discovered that there was high demand for soaps in the camp because most of the refugees depended on the soaps provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There was not enough.”
Havyarimana mentioned that he was motivated to start the soap project because he needed a job for himself and other people. Initially, he did not have a capital to start the project. Despite financial challenges, he did not get discouraged. He reached out to his classmate in Burundi who provided some money to start the business.
With the 1,000 Kenya Shillings ($10) that he received from his classmate, Havyarimana started producing soaps and selling them in the community – door-to-door. Later, he applied for and received a 50,000 Kenya Shillings loan from Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) to be paid back in three months.
“With this money, I bought a machine to help boost the production of soaps to meet the demand of customers,” he said.
GLAP Enterprises is now selling soaps to refugees and host communities. The company started with just two employees; now it employs over 40 people drawn from across the Camp and host communities.
I was fascinated by Havyarimana’s determination to address community needs and create a job for himself. Here are some of the key lessons from his journey.
· Determination. Pursue your goals despite challenges.
· Job creation is possible. Think of a job that you can create; it is possible.
· Any idea is doable. There are ideas for business all around us.
· There are benefits to being your own boss. For one thing, it allows you to create your own job.
There are several ways I intend to action what I learned from him. Before I venture into my own soap-making business, I will attend a soap making training to gain knowledge and skills on how to make soaps. This training is critical to ensure that I learn the best techniques.
I will take this idea of soap making to my country – South Sudan – where there is high demand for soaps. This is a great opportunity in which I will produce and sell soaps to make ends meet. With these soaps, I can make an impact in the community to change living standards of the community members.
I will consider making soaps as my great contribution toward eliminating COVID-19, a deadly disease that will be with us for an unforeseeable future. Washing hands helps prevent COVID-19. As a result, those that I will employ will earn salaries for their families’ needs. By so doing, I will be complementing government and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) efforts to reduce employment in my country.
Havyarimana is proud to run a company where he is the boss for himself. He is passionate about making an impact in the community through soap production. Despite financial challenges, he was able to realize his dream. Ultimately, like Havyarimana, I too want “to create jobs for ourselves and others while having an impact.”
You can connect with Mr. Innocent Havyarimana on LinkedIn.
Mark Athuok Ubur is a student at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). He is currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts in management, with Concentration in Public Administration. You can connect with him on LinkedIn. Mark wrote this story after going through the Global Innovators Academy Interview an Innovator experience.