In this blog, DOT Rwanda's Faith Mbabazi sits down to talk with the owner of Carl Pastries and winner of DOT Rwanda's National Business Plan Competition, Clarisse Murekatete. Clarisse shares how DOT's StartUp! program and joining the competition has helped her achieve her vision at a very young age.
Getting a small business off the ground is always a difficult task, especially when you are in school and come from a family that does not have the financial resources to support you. These were the obstacles that DOT Rwanda’s first ever national Business Plan Competition winner, Clarisse Murekatete, faced.
Owner of pastry company Carl Pastries, Clarisse explained that, "Putting yourself out there and working under pressure is the key to growing as a business and as a person. I believe you create opportunity by putting yourself on the line, taking massive action, pushing hard, ready and willing to make mistakes by learning, practicing and adjusting."
Clarisse, at the age of 23, has worked hard to establish her own business and said that from a very young age she and her three friends wanted to use their skills and profits to make a real difference in their lives and for their families.
"My DOT Rwanda business coach advised me that no matter where you are in life, find something you are passionate about to start with, even if it is just an idea. That will help you make a difference in the world," Clarisse said.
Clarisse and her three friends, who have Agri-Businesss backgrounds, conducted market and product research with support from the National University of Rwanda in the beginning of 2014. What they found was that making pastries out of sweet potatoes was extremely nutritious, especially for pregnant women, because of the rich Vitamin A found in sweet potatoes. This was an opportunity that had not been exploited in Rwanda.
Despite having little business experience and no money to invest, she hoped joining DOT Rwanda’s StartUp! training would increase her knowledge.
"I was a 22-year-old with no money, no big business, no distribution channel and no skills. It's amazing how much one decision can change your life. The quick decision to enrol for DOT Rwanda’s StartUp! program helped me eventually get the cash capital I needed, and gave me and my team a wonderful learning experience." With her new capital, Clarisse has ordered a pureeing machine that creates large amounts of dough in a very short time. Clarrise also plans to purchase a pasta extruder in the future to be able to make spaghetti out of sweet potatoes.
Clarisse said that, as with many young entrepreneurs, it has been a challenge to access enough capital to purchase equipment that would ease processing as well as improve the quality of her products, allowing her to scale. “I had been producing my merchandise manually, but thanks to the cash award worth 700,000Rwf from the DOT Rwanda Business Plan Competition, I've been able to purchase a mixer which has helped me increase my pastry production.”
Staff uses the duff mixer that Clarisse recently purchased
When Clarisse launched Carl Pastry in 2014 January, she had only four staff. Today it has grown to eight full time staff and the company has nearly doubled profits from 2014.
"It felt so great to create products people love. I felt like my vision was in motion. It was real and I wanted more. Every coin went back into growthm and winning DOT’s Rwanda's competition represented a chance to really scale my vision and make it real."
Staff preparing some of the pastries for sale
Clarisse’s future plans include opening a coffee shop in the same place where her pastries are sold. This will include making renovations to make it suitable for her mostly young clientel. Clarisse also hopes to expand to supermarkets and small shops in the suburbs of Gikondo area.
We look forward to helping Clarisse leverage the DOT Rwanda networks available to her for mentoring and support as she grows her business in the most strategic and socially conscious way.