By Pierre Remy Nshimiyimana
“Starting your own business isn’t just a job - it’s a way of life.”
Richard Branson, an author, investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder and Chairman of The Virgin Group, used these words to demonstrate that when you start your own business, it becomes part of your life. So, craft your business to meet your life goals.
Vivens Uwizeyimana is living this out. It has been fascinating to hear his career journey and thoughts on how to reduce the unemployment gap in Rwanda and Africa at large. A graduate of Southern New Hampshire University, Vivens founded and serves as Founder of UmuravaWork. He also leads projects such as Mica Capital and Advance Rwanda. His goal is to make a noticeable impact on Africa’s socio-economic growth and development, starting in Rwanda.
Vivens developed a passion for entrepreneurship early in his life, motivated by his mother who was a local trader of different commodities. Since a young age, he reared domestic animals like chickens. Often, he could not sustain the business, but these experiences provided invaluable entrepreneurship inspiration. Vivens was thinking big about future opportunities and the impact he could create.
This entrepreneurial spirit surged after joining the Kepler program in 2017. A year later he co-founded Advance Rwanda (previously called Impano Developer Initiative), a non-government organization that nurtures vulnerable people and street children and helps them in the areas of health, education and talent development.
He came to realize the big gap facing the African continent relates to employment, which led to the creation of UmuravaWork.
“The local universities are producing graduates who have a huge skills gap and few manage to find job opportunities,” he said. "Various companies look for highly qualified talents but few find them. This demonstrated the need for a service like UmuravaWork, a one-stop platform for various freelancing and consulting services, talent sourcing, staffing, training and tech & soft skills development solutions."
Vivens introduced UmuravaWork shortly after finishing his studies. The company enrolled in the 2021 Westerwelle Entrepreneurship program and through was able to get support in terms of training, creating partnerships, shaping solutions and building connections to investors that can provide financial support. Furthermore, UmuravaWork is going to start the Tony Elumelu Foundation program with an expectation to secure seed capital as well.
“I am motivated to provide skills development programs especially in the technology field in Rwanda and throughout Africa to produce highly skilled talents,” he said.
I was curious to know the biggest challenge and opportunity facing Vivens as an entrepreneur. “The biggest challenge is finding the right partner at right time,” he said. “The biggest opportunity comes from those in my network. These people provide motivation and advice on how to improve. I wholeheartedly appreciate all their support because their inputs have helped me stand on my feet for a long time.”
Vivens is a multitasker as he is working with his team to scale the solution but also serving as an employee at Rwanda Cooperation.
Tips for entrepreneurship
I would like to profusely thank Vivens for his advice for young people like me who want to start their business in the future by solving problems for others in our society. Here are key tips I learned from my conversation.
· Make sure to identify the real problem. Sometimes, what we see are the consequences caused by other problems. When we focus on the consequences, we sometimes do not address the root of the problem.
· Move out of your comfort zone. You cannot know something you do not know unless you go out and search for it. “I encourage youth to try many things,” he said. “Once they see what interests them, they can pursue these passions. When you are passionate about something, you learn quickly and develop.”
· Be disciplined and hardworking. In this story, Vivens failed many times, but his discipline and determination ultimately enabled him to develop the right solution for the right problem. He advises youth to maintain discipline in their journey as entrepreneurs and be ready to face challenges.
· Always be willing to learn. “Your solution will be shaped by incremental changes in ideas and perspectives until it ultimately catches on,” Vivens said. “When you stop learning, you stop moving ahead toward your goals. Therefore, keep learning and improving, whatever the cost.”
· Do your homework. If you want to succeed in life, you will need to prepare yourself. Vivens spent many years analyzing the youth situation in Rwanda before he launched different initiatives and businesses. He patiently explored the right solutions and reached out to different people for advice. So prepare ahead and plan.
Vivens' story offers lessons that I missed most of my life. I wish to start my business as well, but I am always wondering when will I be ready to start it? Which business will I start? Vivens provided direction in answer to these questions: ensure my business will have an impact on society.
I am currently a strategic consultant intern at MTI consulting firm. I continuously encounter different successful models and solutions to society. What they have in common is that they started small, struggled, but continued to stay in operation because their solution was the right one.
In Rwanda and most East African countries, there is a problem of malnutrition. This problem continues despite the government's effort to end it. From my perspective, this problem is not because we can’t access enough food, but it is because of the choice we make around food that misses essential nutrients.
I plan to continue to dig deep into this problem, and with Vivens' support and advice, I will continue to work hard and keep learning. As Vivens’ story shows, when you work on your solution, success will walk in your way. I look forward to following this same path.
Vivens is the Founder of UmuravaWork and he is also involved in other projects such as Mica Capital, which invests in the SMEs. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Pierre Remy Nshimiyimana is a strategic consultant intern at MTI consulting firm and a student at Southern New Hampshire University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in logistics and operations. Connect with him on LinkedIn. He wrote this story after going through the Global Innovators Academy Interview an Innovator experience.