How selling fruit led to a full scholarship to Babson College

February 5, 2014  |  
In the Press

This article was written and featured in The New Times Rwanda, a daily national newspaper based in Kigali, Rwanda.

In May 2011, Rosine Ndayishimiye and 10 schoolmates initiated the first ever entrepreneurship club at their school, Lycee de Kigali.

“We wanted it to be a practical tool to the Entrepreneurship course that was by then taught in theory,” she said and added: “With the help of our senior advisor and teacher, Mitesh Patel, we launched the club. Four months later, we started a business of selling fruits—avocadoes and bananas. We started with an initial capital of Rwf28, 000 (approximately $43 USD), and scaled to profits of more than a million a year (approximately $1550). EWe started by doing it ourselves, but as it grew, we employed someone.”

Just before this venture, Ndayishimiye had attended the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (BELA), an event she credits for setting her entrepreneurial mindset in motion.“Our school was given an invitation and I was lucky to be one of the six students selected to represent Lycee de Kigali high school in the BELA 2011,” she notes.

Upon return from that week-long entrepreneurship workshop, she and 10 other like-minded students immediately got down to work. “We did a mini market research among students by giving them questionnaires to answer. Our research revealed that students needed healthy and cheap appetizers with which to supplement the school food. We then asked for permission from the school administration, pooled resources and started the business.”

Each member came up with an initial contribution of at least Rwf2, 000 (approximately $3), and together, they managed to raise a total of Rwf 28.000 ($43). “At the beginning, we used to sell between 16-30 avocadoes per day. Now the club sells at least 200 avocadoes. That is profit of Rwf 1 million RWF per month,” she says.

Ndayishimiye notes the venture was (and still is) not just about the money: “Our club also had a social aspect, for instance, we were able to organise an anti-smoking week at the school last year, with the help of the World Health Organization. This was still in line with our vision to help people live a more healthy life, which is why we went into the fruit business in the first place. We also made visits to established businesses like Bralirwa and Bourbon Coffee, just to get mentorship from their staff.”

She notes that the club has since grown from the initial 11 pioneer members to 50. “It’s serving very many people with a bias for entrepreneurship, not just the initial members.”

Thanks to her efforts exhibited through the school entrepreneurship club, Ndayishimiye was selected from more than 1,200 applicants to be one of 23 Bridge2Rwanda Scholars. And through her hard work and perseverance, she has now managed to secure a full scholarship to Babson College in the US, for which she leaves next year.

Ndayishimiye received the good news about her scholarship on December 3, and had this to say: “Today, I got an admission and a full scholarship from Babson College, ranked number one university in the world in Business and Entrepreneurship!”

She went on: “It is an exciting opportunity not only for me but also for my country. I plan to study Entrepreneurship and Environmental Sustainability. At the end of my education at Babson, I want to come back and help my country in helping youth create businesses that are profitable and environmentally friendly.”

After her secondary education at Lycee de Kigali, Ndayishimiye enrolled for the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program. Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program is a gap year program that helps the best-performing Rwandan students win scholarships in top tertiary institutions in the US, Canada and in Europe. 

“When I was done with high school, I heard of Bridge2Rwanda applications from the Babson Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center, and I immediately applied since it looked like a great opportunity for me. In March this year, I was privileged to be one of 30 students selected from 1200+ applicants,” she says excitedly. 

She has also been active on other fronts: “For two years , I have participated in Rwanda Global Entrepreneurship Week activities as a co-organizer of GEW at Lycee De Kigali and as a trainer. We trained secondary school students in business idea generation and organized rocket pitch competitions. Some of our trainees have already begun the process of starting their own businesses. The whole idea is really to inspire persons from all walks of life to see the hidden potential in entrepreneurship, and also to realize that it is always possible to begin from somewhere, with or without money. In our case, we started our school entrepreneurship club with a net capital of Rwf28, 000.”

After she has attained her degree, she hopes to build on the entrepreneurial foundation already set with the school entrepreneurship club. She reckons that being one’s own boss comes with a host of benefits: “Being self-employed gives one the independence and flexibility in his decision making. Though it might be challenging, it gives one employment and other people too. It is not just one person to benefit, but the whole country; it reduces unemployment and hence other people’s suffering is eliminated or reduced.”

She is acutely aware too of some of the negative sentiments that such a career move is bound to attract, and drawing from her own experience says: “For someone who did science in A-Levels, it is hard to understand how I can settle for Entrepreneurship and business. Some people think that I should study and do medicine. For instance, people, especially students, consider that selling avocadoes is a dirty job that I and my friends should have left. But I believe that there is no dirty job or business as long as it serves people and gives profits.”

Who does she look to for motivation? “Jesus inspires me very much. He undertook His great mission selflessly for the wellbeing of others. I emulate Him by doing all my best for others, not for recognition, but for the fact that they deserve to be treated well. Nelson Mandela, Mitesh Patel, and my parents also are my great role models. Every day that I wake up, I take some time to pray, think about what God has done for me, and plan for the day. I read an article or a book. I prepare myself and then go to school. When I go back home, I greet everyone and ask about how he or she feels; I feel that it is important for me to relate well with my people. I exercise and then have super. I pray with my family, read the Bible and go to sleep.”

Currently, she is also involved in community work with the Christian Youth Organization for Physical and Spiritual Development (CYOPSD), a non-profit organization that helps improve the financial plight of Christian youths and students by furnishing them with entrepreneurial mentorship and business trainings.