Prayer before anything: advice from a Rwandan entrepreneur

Vincent Habiyaremye has a knack for taking broken or seemingly worthless pieces that many of us might discard and transforming them into something functional and whole.

Fifteen years ago, he used those skills as a carpenter, going door to door in his community in Rwanda to find odd jobs and provide for his wife and children. But his days were long and the demand for his services was sporadic.

Vincent dreamed of moving beyond the fluctuation of day labor. He dreamed of supporting his children through school so that they could one day pursue their own dreams. He dreamed of using his God-given gifts to build beautiful things in his community—and creating a business that would empower others to do the same.

Funding his dream

Vincent needed startup capital. But it was difficult to find someone to lend to him because all the local banks required collateral, which he lacked.

“It was a struggle,” Vincent shares. “I had an idea in mind, but I had no resources to support my idea.”

When he heard that Urwego Bank, HOPE’s microfinance institution in Rwanda, could grant him a loan if he joined a solidarity group where members cross-guarantee each other’s loans, he jumped in. In 2007, Urwego granted Vincent his first-ever loan of 50,000 Rwandan francs (the equivalent of about $50 U.S.) to invest in his dream.

He used his first loan to buy timber to make chairs and other goods. Once he repaid that, he quickly took out a larger loan—and progressed from there.

Vincent’s carpentry business has flourished as he’s continued in relationship with Urwego over the years. Eventually, he grew the business into a wholesale supplier of timber, tires, cement, and metal to Rwandan builders.

Investing in his community

Vincent’s construction company has grown to serve his whole community.

“All homes in the whole district use our materials to build their homes,” Vincent says. “Our business is very well known and supported by [the] government; we also participate in every activity [the] local government calls us into.” For instance, when the Rwandan government decided to build more schools, his company helped provide the construction materials to build schools in multiple districts.

Vincent has also contributed generously to his church’s building project and built a home for two children from his church who lost their parents.

Through the hardships, I have trusted God to build my wealth, and I vowed to Him that whatever I will benefit, I will use it to inspire or support others.

Equipping the next generation

Vincent now employs upwards of 30 people, empowering them to use their skills, learn from him, and start their own businesses. He also hosts carpentry and welding workshops, along with training over 20 young people in his community through internships.

His dream is to assist every member of his family to start a business based upon their interests so that they can provide for themselves and their families. One of their five children and their niece, who they raised, have already finished school and started their own businesses.

As he trains up the next generation, Vincent intentionally models a posture of prayer.

“The [Urwego] bank staff prays for their clients in all meetings,” Vincent shares. “I took the same style as the bank and brought it into my staff management. And it has worked amazingly with my staff and family. Praying before doing anything has become our habit.”

Looking for more stories of remarkable men and women bringing change to their communities? Read about how Ghislaine is helping gang members find employment and know Christ in the Republic of Congo.

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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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