Interview: Grace & Mathilde – BDC Grads Helping One Another

Cohort 3 Graduate, Grace Mugabekazi, Interviews Mathilde Umurerwa from Cohort 1 for her Business Magazine

*previously published

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Mathilde Umurerwa. I am a proud wife and mother of eight children. Four boys and four girls. I am 37. Plus, I am an entrepreneur! I own a company called Ntuma Supply Home Delivery. It’s a company that supplies fresh food to peoples’ homes. We do the shopping for our customers and ensure that they get fresh fruits and vegetables at their doorsteps. I am a Christian by faith. I serve God in the Evangelical Restoration Church and I am in charge of the children’s ministry. I am also a deacon.

I have eight children. My eldest son, Fabrice has just completed his masters degree in Algeria; Ingrid, my first daughter has just began university at the School of Finance and Banking. Vanessa is studying IT in secondary school at the SOS, and Valentin is completing his 3rd year secondary school at Groupe Scholaire Officiel de Butare.

That’s the older generation. I also have a younger generation: Joshua, is 8 years, Caleb is 6 years, they are now doing their primary school. Then I have Milka, and Gitego who is still a baby.

Can you tell me about your daily life?

I would say my day starts at 3 am each morning! I love to have some time of prayer every morning with my husband. We both love to pray. We also get to talk and share about many things. Then I wake my children and prepare them for school. Once they have left for school, I get dressed and go to work.

But first and foremost I like to read my emails, and communicate with correspondents. I also make sure I listen to the news every morning.

Tell us more about your business.

I started thinking of this business over five years ago. I had traveled to Kenya, Nairobi, and saw how it worked. I got to see people’s lifestyle. They have people who shop for them in the local markets and deliver well packaged fresh foods at their doors. This makes it easier for them to keep the food and cook it. Most people in the city are very busy, so they don’t have time to handle their own shopping.

So when I came back, I started thinking about the business, and started writing about it. I also prayed over it. With time, I got more ideas. I kept writing about it, saving my work on my computer, but somehow felt like it was an unachievabe dream.

So not so long back, I heard of a training school on entrepreneurship – the Rwanda Business Development Center. I took interest and joined. I said to myself, let me go and study because of my dream business. So I joined the course and I loved it! The experience really opened me up.

Interestingly, unlike most of my colleagues in class, I actually came to the completion of the course with the same business idea. Most people’s ideas changed over time. Through the course I added value to the idea, and learned how I can actually manage my business. I also gained confidence to actually launch my business.

As a mom, many times I would walk into supermarkets only to find that fruits and vegetables have gone dry, the fish and the meat aren’t fresh anymore. All these are even highly priced. That’s when I thought – there is a way to help Rwandans eat fresh foods, at a good price which is easily available to them. Look at Rwanda today, many women are studying, at time they work and study part time. This makes them very busy. I studied the women population in my church, we have a very big church. Some of the women are working and studying. We also have a large number of professionals: doctors, engineers, leaders. They spend so much time at work, and don’t have time to go shopping or to find out where they can get fresh foods at good prices. So, I mainly supply items that don’t have a long shelf life.

Another thing I will be providing my clients with is different recipes and cooking advice. You’ll find in Rwanda today that many women don’t cook. They leave their job to their house helps. Yet our husbands want to eat what we have cooked.

Giving an example of myself, every time I cook, my family is very happy to eat the food! They’ll say Mom has cooked today! Even my husband can tell that there is a special hand in there.

So I have also committed to helping women learn how to diversify their meal servings. You’ll find that Rwandans think they have had a good meal when they have had some rice, potatoes, meat and beans! That’s all! And yet there are few items that can be added to the meal to make it different and more tasty.

That’s what my business is. I also hope to set up online ordering for the food deliveries. I’m not yet there but I believe I will get there.

So what it is the process when someone places an order?

To place an order you can send me an email or call me. Then I send you someone to pick the list of items to shop and provide you details of market costs on that day. Everyday I contact suppliers to get updated information on costs.

After getting the order, I organize the orders of people living in the same neighborhood, get the items, clean them up and package them. Some clients want you to cut some of the vegetables, we do that as well, and bring them to you in proper packages.

When we’re done we start delivering according to orders.

So at what point do people make payments? Do people pay on a monthly basis?

Haha … I was getting there! We like to receive our payment per order. We do this to avoid debts and conflicts with our customers. After every delivery we bring a bill for which one makes a down payment. Some customers also pay as they make the order.

This has become simpler with the new money transfer means: the mobile money transfers are helping a lot! I haven’t had any issues with my customers regarding payments.

Mathilde, you share an amazing story: you dreamed of your business, planned for it and today you are actually running it. What has helped you get where you are today? Who are people that have inspired you?

First and foremost, I draw my inspiration from the Bible. I have seen that things work out when you have faith in God. He creates in us the desire and ability to make what we desire happen.

Another important thing is that I have a husband who believes in me and always encourages me. He often tells me: Mathilde, you’re a strong woman! You’re tough! Haha!

Also, I am very ambitious! I never think that I can fail at something. Even when things don’t go as planned, I keep trying until I get there. In addition to that I am perfectionist. I want to do things perfectly.

I have a big family. I want to be an inspiration to my children. So that one day they can say they had a great mom! And I want to build a business that will be a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I want to create a brand just as Colgate, Nido, and Chick-fil-A did!

Besides the business you run today, what else you have been involved in the past year or so?

I came across a very poor population in Kigali where I found children were suffering from malnutrition. I had once worked on a book on nutrition with the Ministry of Health. So I thought to myself that I could use the book to teach the community how they can use the food they already have to feed their children properly.

So I started working with the women of the community at the Jireh Centre in Nyarutarama. I started teaching them how to cook the food. Given that they didn’t have the food, I would bring along the food. What started small, turned into a big ministry.

From this relationship, the women learned how to feed their children using the foods they easily find in their neighborhood: dried fish (indagara), groundnuts sauce, potatoes, rice, etc.

With time I helped my church to mobilize support from the World Food Program – they called it Food for Training.

After this I initiated a training program under which three women were trained in basic weaving skills. This helped them have an income.

Today they are completely different from when I first met them. They have smiles on their faces, they are beautifully dressed, and their children are healthy. They make beautiful baskets, which I buy from them to package for my clients.

I am proud of these two initiatives I engaged in.

My last question is what does it mean to you to be Rwandan?

Ohh… kuba umunyarwanda ni ishema! I’m proud to be Rwandan. Today it’s invaluable to be Rwandan, more so to be a woman, and woman who is willing to work hard and make a difference. I want to be an example to the world that a woman is able to achieve big things and make a difference!

Amen! We are so proud of both Grace and Mathilde, who are truly serving as catalysts of transformation in Rwanda. 

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