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.

Discipline and dreams

Thanks to business management classes offered by Urwego, Antoinette has grown into a more efficient manager and now employs eight community members. She has also learned loan and money management skills through her loan officer, who encouraged her to have a plan before borrowing money, which Antoinette considers “the greatest instrument of my success.” Antoinette is an inspiration to the other members of her trust group, who admire her for her discipline and look to her for business advice. She shares her knowledge willingly and offers support in other ways as well, buying from members’ stands and allowing them to put down payments on clothing, because “if they look good, no one will hold them back from an opportunity because of their appearance.” She generously helps fund local community development projects, such as roads and schools, and is eager to accept everyone with equality and respect. Antoinette dreams of the day she can build a multi-story building in Musanze to house all three of her businesses and rent space to others. In the meantime, she continues to work toward that goal with entrepreneurial diligence and integrity.

Giving back to God

Antoinette’s spiritual life is flourishing, changing the way she views her relationship with God. With her servant’s heart, she assisted in building her church, where she regularly attends services and weekly prayer meetings. Today she understands the value of tithing, saying that “giving my tithes and supporting my church as needed is my duty.” Already a faithful church-goer, Antoinette has seen God’s hand in her life in introducing her to Urwego. “He has blessed me a lot,” she says, “and to give back I must work for Him because all I am and all I have belong to Him.”



As Christ’s followers responding to His great love, HOPE International seeks physical, social, spiritual, and personal restoration in places of brokenness. Through Christ-centered economic development, we empower men and women to strengthen their families, build their businesses, and unleash their dreams.

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