The taste of business incubation.
He was arrested twice by the outgoing Burundian regime and released without trial. His only crime was his perceived alliance with the opposition. Fearing for his own life and that of his young family, Didier Ndayishimiye, a firstborn in a family of five and a lawyer by profession, fled to Rwanda and joined a refugee camp in Kigali in December 2015.
Life in the camp was not easy for the 39-year-old father of four, given the unprecedented sudden change in his social and economic circumstances. Because of his refugee status, he could not find a job in Rwanda to supplement the inadequate food rations from UNHCR. Luckily, a Rwandese friend he had once met while in Burundi introduced him to a private cookstove fabrication enterprise in the heart of Kigali city. For three months he learned how to make an environment-friendly cookstove from scrap metal and clay powered by a mobile phone battery or solar.
He rejoined the refugee camp and immediately established “Machenga Cook Stove” to produce and sell cookstoves majorly to his refugee community. His Rwandese friend was gracious enough to lend him some little money which he used to buy equipment and stocks of scrap metal. Business was good at first and he managed to put back a smile to his family albeit temporarily. As fate would have it, in 2018 UNHCR stopped distributing charcoal and firewood to refugees in Rwanda, replacing these two common sources of fuel for households with gas (LPG). His business crumbled quite literally! It soon became clear to him that his continued stay in Rwanda was no longer tenable economically speaking. He quickly plotted his next escape- this time to Kenya.
He arrived in Kakuma in May 2019 and joined our business incubation project (funded by UNHCR to support the development of startups in Kakuma and Kalobeyei) in January 2020 to launch his “Machenga Cook Stove” enterprise in Kenya. For over six months he had tried to restart this business on his own but failed. Having just arrived in Kakuma, he experienced challenges in finding premises to set up his workshop, sourcing supplies (scrap metal, etc) as well as finding customers. He needed some help to get things going. AAH-I allocated him one of the business stalls at Kakuma 3 incubator center and guided him through the process and steps of setting up a business in Kenya besides providing him with social capital in terms of networking opportunities with his fellow incubates within the incubator and externally who go through the same doubts and difficulties.
Sharing experiences with his colleagues in the incubator about startup challenges has helped Didier in overcoming them. In the process, his cookstove has been received extremely well in the Kakuma market. Several households love it because it is safe (can be lit by children without getting hurt), environment friendly (build with harmless clay), saves time (improves and accelerates the cooking process by a solar propelled fan) saves money (reduces charcoal consumption by 60%) and comes at an affordable price of (USD 8) only and in a variety of colors.
In less than six months in the business incubator, he has been able to increase his production from 4 units to an average of 30 units per week. He has also been able to engage the services of two employees in product development and production. Occasionally, his wife works for him too. On the marketing front, he has established linkages with Bamba chakula traders in Kakuma and Kalobeyei who currently double up as his stockists and/or distributors. Boda Bodas also continue to benefit from his business as transporters of raw materials and finished products.
“My vision is to transform cooking into an efficient and pleasurable process in an affordable and environmentally friendly manner,” he said.