From sales to salons
Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity with the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s winner and four honorable mentions to the blog. Today we celebrate Antoinette Aisha Uwimana, honorable mention from Rwanda. Antoinette Aisha Uwimana of Musanze, Rwanda, wakes every morning to the responsibility of supporting 10 people—among them three orphans and her widowed sister—and to do so, she runs not one business but three. The proud owner of a retail store, dry cleaner, and bridal clothes and wedding decoration rental store, Antoinette models entrepreneurship and determination, having built her business from a small, home-based operation selling tomato sauce. She recalls how she got her start traveling across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo to buy two bags of tomato sauce at a time—all she could afford with her limited capital. In 2002, Antoinette used a $50 loan from Urwego Opportunity Bank, HOPE’s partner in Rwanda, to jumpstart her business. She quickly put the loan to good use by renting a salon and purchasing salon products. With her profits, Antoinette invested in her own salon and then realized there was a larger market for clothing. She started selling clothes door-to-door, but with hard work she was soon able to open a retail store. As she saw other needs in her community—for wedding clothes and dry cleaning services—she expanded her offerings. As her businesses have grown, Antoinette has used her profits to purchase a home, a car, and land for a future business building, as well as send her children to better schools.
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