Rwanda: School Dropout Finds Niche in Shoemaking Through YouTube

It is not common practice for one to leave his or her salaried job and opt to go into business, but for Potien Mvugiki, a 28-year-old shoemaker, that was the chosen path.

Mvugiki walked away from a restaurant job where he worked as a waiter to pursue a career in shoemaking and opened a business in 2018 which has been growing steadily, he says.

Starting the journey

The professional shoemaker, Mvugiki started out like most cobblers, making little income from clients who would bring in their shoes to him for repair.

"In 2013 due to financial difficulties, I dropped out of school after completing Ordinary Level, but because I did not have much skills then, I started working a cobbler, it is from there that I got the idea of making shoes", he said.

With time, Mvugiki realized he would not be able to raise enough funds from just repairing the shoes, as it could not fetch him considerable income.

Being very expensive for him to attend a vocational school, given the size of his income from repairing shoes, Mvugiki in 2015 embarked on educating himself through taking on online lessons on YouTube on how to make shoes.

Mvugiki said that the tutorials played a big role in exposing him to how to make different shoe types which he says has been one of the things that helped him build his business.

Considering, he was undertaking self-study while carrying on with the job, he had an opportunity to practice and apply what he learnt every day.

It took him 6 months for him to master all the practices.

In the process, Mvugiki had to quit the cobbler job to one that would enable him raise capital for his business concept.

He got a job as a waiter in one of the restaurants in the city which he quit in late 2018 to embark on his business idea of making shoes.

Mvugiki who did not disclose the amount the starting capital said he was able to raise just what was enough to set up his business idea.\

Workers at the Nice Dream Candles Ltd engage in the production of mosquito repellent candles. One can light for between six and seven hours and costs Rwf250

Considering that most people are not satisfied with what is always on the market, Mvugiki saw this as an opportunity to produce customized shoes matching people's tastes and preference.

Mvugiki revealed that he picked interest in the idea from one of the online tutorials.

He said that his uniqueness to the local shoemaking industry has been bringing in good returns and by reinvesting the surplus revenue, Mvugiki has been able to scale up his business.

To build customer confidence, from the start, Mvugiki, rented a single room and registered his business under a brand name Nap Leather.

Going Forward

In efforts to make it easier for people to identify and choose their best shoe style, he provides his customers with a variety of shoe styles.

He sells his shoes between Rwf 5000 and Rwf 50000.

Mvugiki, also said that producing customized shoes and leather sandals has enabled him to concentrate and deliver the best to his clientele.

With this, the number of customers has been growing steadily leading him to expand his business by employing three more workers and rent more room for his production unit.

"The market is growing because I receive orders from event planners especially footwear for grooms and groomsmen," he said.

Considering that, some of his products are expensive to some customers, Mvugiki also hires out shoes to those who would like to wear them but cannot afford to make an acquisition.

Mvugiki revealed that although his business has been growing, he is still facing a few challenges such as access to affordable raw materials as most of what is available is imported.

He also faces a problem of skilled labour, very few people consider the trade a profitable job, which reduced the number of people with interest in the area as a profession.

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