Meet the Young Entrepreneur Helping Other Women Achieve Their Dreams
Immaculee Ndagijimana is a tailor in Rwanda who is using the skills she learned through the STRYDE program to teach other women about the power of entrepreneurship.
Before the shop even comes into view, you can hear it. The distinct hum of sewing machines filters through an open window, melting into a chorus of snipping scissors and muffled laughter. Inside, a seemingly infinite assortment of fabrics line the bright blue walls. Immaculee Ndagijimana sits behind a sewing machine, meticulously arranging fabric and thread until they are transformed into a vibrant dress.
Like many young people in Rwanda, Immaculee once struggled to find work. In a country where the mean age is just under 23 and 78% of the population is under the age of 35, employment opportunities for young people, particularly in rural areas, are extremely limited. The government estimates that over the next five years, over 125,000 jobs will need to be created every year just to absorb new entrants into the labor market.
After considering a few different career paths, Immaculee decided to become a tailor. However, she was barely making enough money from her business to cover basic costs, and as a single mother of one, she knew she needed to figure out a better way to provide for her family. Eventually, she decided to join a youth entrepreneurship program called Strengthening Rural Youth Development Through Enterprise (STRYDE), a partnership between TechnoServe and the Mastercard Foundation. Immaculee is one of 65,000 young people across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda who, since 2011, have received training and support through the STRYDE program.
With the extra money I earned, I was able to improve the condition of my parents’ house and pay for my siblings’ school fees.
– Immaculee Ndagijimana
Immaculee’s tailor shop is now so successful that she trains 15 to 20 women each week in dressmaking. “After the STRYDE training, I secured a contract to train some of the participants for a small fee of $70 for six months,” she says. Within the first year, she trained the first cohort of 46 participants and a second cohort of 67 participants. The income she generated from these trainings allowed her to expand her shop and buy more supplies, such as clothing, sewing machines, and thread. “I was also able to improve the condition of my parents’ house and pay for my siblings’ school fees,” she adds with a smile.
Immaculee represents the increasingly large number of young Rwandese women who are eager to become financially independent. The single mother attributes her improved business acumen to the skills she acquired through STRYDE trainings, including topics that ranged from goal setting, to advertising, to personal effectiveness. “My newfound self-confidence enabled me to win STRYDE’s business plan competition and take home $580, part of which I used to register my business,” she says. Before STRYDE, Immaculee had accumulated no savings as a small-time tailor. Today, she has her own bank account and makes monthly deposits. She has saved over $650 so far and continues to grow her savings each month. She has also been able to pay off a bank loan of $232.
One of the ladies I trained gained enough independence to walk out of an abusive marriage and get a small job as an apprentice at a tailoring shop.
– Immaculee Ndagijimana
In addition to running her business, Immaculee continues to train many local women, sometimes at no cost. She plans to expand her business and establish it as a registered company that has a positive impact on the community.
It gives her great pleasure to see some of the women she has trained start their own businesses – sometimes even out of their houses – and transform their lives. With a regular source of income, these women gain economic independence and no longer have to rely on their spouse or family for financial support. “One of the ladies I trained gained enough independence to walk out of an abusive marriage and get a small job as an apprentice at a tailoring shop,” she shares with pride.