Rwandan Entrepreneur Teaches Peace Through Business
Emelienne Nyiramana’s story of survival is one that took her from the Rwanadan genocide to compete on the world market as a supplier of couture for Anthropologie, J.Crew and Nicole Miller.
Nyiramana is founder and managing adviser of Cocoki, the Cooperative de Couture de Kicukiro, a sewing cooperative of 29 women based in Kicukiro, Rwanda.
She is one of two Indego Africa artisan partners traveling to the U.S. in June for the 2013 Artisan Trip, a leadership, education, and community engagement initiative for emerging women leaders from Rwanda, according to a report in Huffington Post.
Indego Africa is a U.S.-based organization that connects African women artisans with global markets and education.
Born in 1975, Nyiramana was separated from her family when genocide erupted in 1995. Forced to live in fields, she returned to her village months later to find her father, brothers and other relatives had been killed.
Marrying in 1995, Nyiramana moved to Kigali and tried to support her family on jobs such as raising rabbits, jobs that paid less than 25 cents a day. She tried to start a business selling cosmetics but failed due to lack of basic skills such as accounting, she said in the report.
Things changed for her when she joined a local sewing association and became a successful seamstress. In 2008, she launched Cocoki, a sewing cooperative operating out of her home.
Cocoki’s revenue grew from $1,300 in 2008 to $27,500 in 2012, the Huffington Post report says.
Cocoki has had several large purchase orders through Indego Africa from Anthropologie, DANNIJO, J.Crew, and Nicole Miller. Nyiramana hosted Nicole Miller and Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, at Cocoki.
Nyiramana says she learned how to run a business in Indego Africa’s Hand Up training programs and was accepted for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative, which provides business and management education to female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets.
The training “opened up my mind and allowed me to grow both personally and professionally,” she said in Huffington Post. “I learned the importance of customer care, and I began to take note of what was happening in the world regarding markets and customers. I continued training in entrepreneurship while practicing my English.”
In June, Nyiramana plans to visit New York and Washington, D.C. for the 2013 Artisan Trip. The she plans to travel to Texas, an opportunity she says she earned through the business plan competition she won in Peace Through Business, a training program for women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda.
Peace Through Business is a program of the Oklahoma City-based Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women.
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