Ntakirutimana Diogene, also known as Chaguwa, is a vendor in Kigali. He is running an over 10 million business that initially started with only 50 Rwf coin.
Diogene, who did not go to school, has a store in the famous Rubangura House in Kigali. As a matter of fact, he was a street kid. He vowed that hard work, giving value to work and both time and funds management were crucial to his huge success.
Interestingly, he used to sleeping on shoes in a barber shop – in Nyamirambo. That is what he told Inyarwanda.com’s reporter who visited him.
“I lived in a barber shop. At around 10pm when the shop was closed, I would sleep on my shoe. Then, I would wake up early and clean the place for they – owners – would come as early as 8am in the morning. Even while they would be cutting hairs, I was the one in charge of ensuring that the place was neat. They did not give me food or anything; they just gave me shelter, and I would clean the place up.” – N. Diogene
He sold sachets, eggs, etc… with progress, he was selling shoe laces
Diogene affirmed to having started selling at the age of 9, at the time he came in the Capital city, Kigali. He started selling sachets – before they were banned in Rwanda. “Upon reaching Kigali, I sold sachets – small and big – in the bus terminal in Nyabugogo. The capital was not that high because 300 Rwf would work,” said he when talking to Inyarwanda.com reporter.
He also said that his business evolved to the point where he was selling boxes instead of sachets. While he was progressing, so met struggles and obstacles. He stated,
“Selling boxes was not allowed, and the Police did not tolerate any such act. The Police would track us down, take our boxes away and jailed us in Gikondo; however, I never gave up, for I would be released to only go out and buy more boxes. The time came where I had to change my business, so I started selling eggs to the point where I sold shoe laces.”
Though it is hard to believe, Diogene told us that the shoelaces were vital to his current success.
“After the eggs were shoelaces. I went to a friend of mine, who sold postal cards, and asked him if he could give me space to sell my shoelaces. Fortunately, he did, and I started my business – I had 1800 Rwf only. I persevered until where you see me now; I cherish shoelaces and will always sell them for they have helped me reach far.” -- Diogene
The shoelaces business, Diogene’s most cherished business
Nail polishes and other beauty products are ascribed Diogene's success.
“At the time, we paid a rent of 500 Rwf to be in the terminal, my friend and I. As my friend had more money than I, he would pay 350 and I, 150. Realizing that team work is something valuable, I started a cooperative along with two of my friends who also had small businesses as I did. We contributed a coin of 50 Rwf each per day. I was the leader of the cooperative. We had to pay the money promptly at 5pm. If you used to paying before 5, I would call you Chaguwa, and if not, I would call you Magaze, and that is where my nickname of Chaguwa came from. I always told people that hard work and perseverance are key to success. In our cooperative, we valued 50 Rwf as any sum of money, and that made all the difference. At the end of a certain time, we had 900 Rwf for us to use as we want. The cooperative helped us, and we still have it today.” – Diogene
With the evolution of time, they contributed a daily amount of 100, then 300; 1,000; 2,000; 3000; 5,000… until today where they contribute 15,000 Rwf. Also to note is that the cooperative has added more members – called Chaguwa by the leader.
“Young people now secure loans from banks, as they do not have collaterals. However, they can team up in cooperatives, and whichever money they can have at the end of a certain period, and value their work and progress because they will reach a point where they will be successful, but they have to invest energy and time into that.” – Diogene
He continued and told us that after the shoelaces, he went on to sell wedding gifts, then earrings and women’s shoes. He did all this with a clear vision of leaving the street life for good in mind.
This is the machine that he used to make gifts with and it still a cherished business collection and memory for the businessman
Though he enjoys his success, Diogene admits that the start was rough and hard.
“I would usually keep the money I would get from the cooperative for future plans. I went in town one day and met this Chinese who worked at place called “the 1000.” He quickly became my friend, as he also was my customer. He – the Chinese – reached a point where he could not make profit anymore, and he came to me for help. He asked me to find a person who could buy his entire business. The authority had lately told us – vendors – that they are about to phase out the building we worked in. I had over a million on my bank account. Thus, I decided to move my business in Rubangura House.” – Diogene
Diogene, while moving in Rubangura House, decided to team up with a business friend of his. The latter told him to pay the rent for him and pay him back. Diogene agreed, but his friend later told him that he is no longer coming for business, as he had secured a place on the second floor. The space was huge for Diogene, so he moved in with his home furniture to fill out the space.
“I pay the school fees of my siblings’ and friends’ kids. Even here [at Rubangura], I have given free space to some of my former street friends’ businesses to operate. I have done all this with a unity aim. I have been blessed to have bought a parcel in Kicukiro…I have more than 10 million worth of capital. I tell people that most of my money really comes from my visionary mind.” – Diogene
Diogene is a 2Pac's fan. This poster is in his business closet
Ntakirutimana Diogene posing in his business
A neighbor taught him to read and write
Though he did not go school, Diogene knows how to read and write. He told us that he stepped in class once, and after he told his parents that he won’t go back to school. His parents then sent him to herd the family’s cattle.
So, where did he learn to read and write?
The credit goes to none other than his friend Ndungutse, who was also his neighbor. The latter would teach the former after coming from school each and every day. Now, he is considering learning English in order to sustain his business due to the fact that he serves people who only speak English some time. So, it is better to learn English for the sake of the business according to Diogene.
The youth should value work no matter what the job is
We write these news so that people reading them can gain a lesson or advice. Speaking of advice, Diogene advised, peculiarly the young generation, to not classify jobs into strata; every job counts.
“Young people see all these beautiful and tall buildings in town and think they are offices, but they are wrong. These buildings are commercial ones. A good business is not a business that started with a high capital, for you can lose everything. The reason why this happens is that people, starting with a huge amount of money, tend to buy unnecessary things for the business to run, and they end up losing all their money for nothing good, really. But, if one could start on a low capital and grow his business from scratch – that is a promising and thriving business. Here, the business person will know how to manage his funds and won’t waste any coin for nothing.” – Diogene
Diogene addressed to young people, saying that they should not think that a successful business is the one that starts with a large capital; he went on claiming that he does not know any successful business that started on large capital venture.
“You [youth] should give value to work, enormous value; every job earns money. The first wealth is not money but a good and visionary mind. Educated people should take a further step in applying what they have learned to thrive. Let us say, for instance, that you can establish a school that will teach illiterate people, cannot you succeed?” – Diogene
“Teamwork is crucial to succeeding as young people. As an example, you can create a cooperative, like we did and still do, and work together as a team. In that way, I promise you, there is no limit for you. Let us be concrete here. Let us say that you each contribute to buying a motorcar. Wouldn’t you make considerable profit off of that motorcar instead of going asking for loans in banks? It is a shame seeing a young man with let us say 10,000 Rwf, deciding to go in a bar to buy beer when he could spend it for something more productive; I never relied on any help but my mind. I had a clear vision of where I wanted to be at a future date, and that made all the difference. Do not be a burden to anyone but you.” – Diogene
Music has caused chaos among young people
Now and then, we see the youth striving to being like those silly artists out there, and they feel like it is the best thing that there is to do.
“Artistry – music and other arts – is a good thing, but it has been sullied by people who do not care its mission at all. The consequences are now the young people are aspiring to becoming next to nothing. They [young people] want to live a lifestyle they cannot afford, buying expensive clothes and jewelry or something of that kind. Trying to live as these corrupted stars that we see out there. That is a wastage of energy and time that could be used in building something more beneficial.” – Diogene
He continued urging the youth to manage their funds and money at the best ability to not regret later in their lives.
“If you work hard for 30 years, you will enjoy the fruit out of your work. But if you waste even the little you have, you will regret it for the rest of your life. The bottom line is that you should not emulate wasters to not later become like them.” – Diogene
Please contribute if you can by telling us more about a person who has succeeded in life having started from scratch, send info at firstname.lastname@example.org, we will reach out for him/her. Share inspiring stories.
The original story was published by Christophe Renzaho in Kinyarwanda and translated in English by Tony Karera