Covid-19 has seen many students redundant at home, but two friends, Anastasie Umutoniwase and Mia Benitha Iradukunda, aged 20 and 22 respectively, decided they were going to use the time to their advantage.
Umutoniwase is business management student at University of Kigali while Iradukunda is a computer and software engineering student at University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology.
The two went from just being high school friends, to housemates and eventually business partners.
“We have been friends for a very long time and had been thinking of doing business together. We discussed a number of business ideas but most of them required a lot of time and start-up capital. Covid-19, however, was a wake-up call because we realised we could use the time away from school to earn some money. We decided to go with laundry business, it is affordable and easier to set up,” Umutoniwase explains.
For Iradukunda who came up with the idea, the venture was ideal since it was a skill they both had and could use to benefit others.
“As girls, we are taught that cleanliness should be a part of our lives and that we should wear clean clothes and look good at all times. We realised we could use the skill to help other people who do not have the time or the means to do laundry,” she shares.
With their savings, they purchased a washing machine and some detergent which they set up at home. They then set out to learn some of the techniques of the laundry business by visiting laundry shops.
“It’s not easy coming up with start-up capital as students, but once you set your mind to do something, there will always be a way. We already had an idea of doing business together so we began saving and utilised the resources we had,” Iradukunda says.
In September, they began conducting business, ‘Home Delivery Laundry’, at their home. In order to get clients, they market their services through social media, while friends and family help in spreading the word.
“What makes us standout from other businesses is that we pick laundry from people’s homes, and in two hours, we return it clean, ironed and folded, so our clients don’t have to move from the comfort of their homes. Despite the hard times we are in, people staying home while others are unemployed, we have been getting some clients and so we are positive that the future of our business is promising,” Iradukunda says before Umutoniwase chips in:
“Being friends and business partners is good for business because we share ideas but also work together; when one is cleaning, the other is ironing or hanging clothes. With Mia attending day time classes and I evening classes, it will be easier for us to alternate when we resume classes.”
Their business although new is not without challenges, especially because their concept of pick and deliver is new to the market.
“Some people are not comfortable with the idea of someone picking up laundry from their homes but we don’t have to enter their homes. We employ someone who picks the laundry from your doorstep so there is no need to enter your house. Most people also think only suits, duvets and the like are the only things taken for laundry cleaning, which is not the case,” Iradukunda says.
“Another challenge,” Umutoniwase adds, “is that our business relies on water but we deal with a challenge of water shortage sometimes, but we hope to find means to solve the problem with water storage so we can deliver our clients’ laundry on time.”
They hope to grow their business further and open up other outlets around the country, as well as employ other people.