Starting a small business while still at school, and winning an entrepreneurship award four years later, there are few people who can boast of that. But 28-year-old Teta Isibo, owner of jewelry and interior design company Inzuki Designs, has done just that.
Isibo started her jewelry business in 2008 as a part time job when she was still completing her studies. "I started it because I loved to create my own designs; it just naturally grew from a hobby to part time and then full time."
Isibo was attracted to what she does because it is a fusion of design, culture, innovation and people. "We are a Rwandan brand with a global appeal. Our products are a mix of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. They are hand-made using primarily local organic materials and produced by cooperatives around the country, mainly consisting of women," she explains.
Apart from its owner, Inzuki has two employees and works closely with about 10 co-operatives as a way of inspiring women to get into entrepreneurship and manage their own wealth. Isibo says she has been blessed to cross paths with lots of women who have inspired her, so if she does the same for others, she takes it as an honor.
The confident designer has faced some challenges in her business but prefers to call them a blessing in disguise. "Challenges are a given, they will always be there in business but I find it incorrect that I face specific challenges as a woman in business."
Isibo challenges women not to limit their ambitions or to give room to self pity because they are women. "The mentality of thinking that you can't make it because you're a woman is for the faint hearted," she says.
And she herself has certainly made it. Recently, she beat three male contestants to win the REAL-Banque Populaire Entrepreneurship Award 2012. She found out about the competition on Twitter and says it was more like training cum competition. "The competition aspect made it even more appealing to me; I enjoy a challenge, so I decided to give it a go."
According to Isibo , it was not easy and she gained a lot of experience in the process. "Public Speaking has never been my forte, so having to pitch my business to a panel of judges and a room full of people was not easy at all. The first time I wrote my business idea and practiced it, it was 18 minutes long; cutting it down to the required 3 minutes without skipping anything important was definitely an interesting challenge."
Her next goal is to open an online store and attract customers from all over the world, promoting Rwandan brands and products. "Rwandan products have big potential. We should be known for our fashion and creativity in the same way as we are famous for coffee and tea," Isibo argues. "Inzuki wants to showcase this to the world."