Bpeace Blog Briefs

Stories of bravery, transformation and impact.


Thinking big: Beauty school in Rwanda

[caption id="attachment_180" align="alignnone" width="491" caption="The holders of the dream: Jeanne and Sylvie"]Jeanne and Sylvie[/caption]

Bpeace Fast Runners Jeanne and Sylvie have a dream: The Beauty School of Rwanda, a first of its kind vocational school bringing a future to the youth of Rwanda.

One of the first businesses to emerge when war ends is the business of beauty. Women return to the feminine community gathering in small salons to reconnect and feel good again. Rwanda has been no exception. Four of Bpeace's Fast Runners run bustling salons. These salons are so busy that supply cannot keep up with demand. Despite high unemployment rates, salon workers are often not Rwandan. Without local training, owners are left to import skilled labor from nearby countries.

We started this process by taking a critical look at their space and begin to explore how the space next to Jeanne's salon can be renovated into the school. It's currently being used as a restaurant, but with a little bit of imagination, we envision a beauty school coming to life.

Not your typical conference roomHow many line items in a thatched roof?
Monday morning: Time for feedback and agreement on the school’s financial plan.

Alix has spent months fine-tuning the plan with input from Jeanne and Sylvie. Alix usually brings her finance skills to bear on projects for multinational clients, and found that working with these two was a breeze. With only a few exceptions the plan was on track. We added a few items and increased the amount needed for several others. Just like in the States, everything costs more these days. Unlike the States, the meeting took place at Sylvie’s amusement park. Sylvie, Susan, Alix, Malyse, Jeanne and Barb all sat inside a thatched gazebo by the pool! What a setting to go through every line item on the budget!

Fast cultural understanding
Lunch from Sylvie’s restaurant: In typical Rwandan style, we waited 90 minutes wait for food, and then had about two minutes to eat before we had to leave for our next meeting, at the Ministry of Gender. The food was amazing, and made us wish we had more time. We picked up the Bpeace Program Manager Richard and dashed to the ministry, laughing the whole way--you have to have a sense of humor about the uneasy juxtaposition of Africa's relaxed pace and our packed Bpeace schedule. We taught our driver John-Paul the quintessential American saying: “time is money”. He got it. He drove so fast in response we decided we had to teach him another expression: “Arrive alive!”

Women so get it.
At the ministry (15 minutes early, natch!), we were greeted by four government women, all holding high-ranking positions and a no-nonsense attitude. Eight of us crammed into a small office. Bpeace shared our Rwanda background, and support for the beauty school. Jeanne spoke genuinely about her motives for the school and long–time desire to help orphans. The women from the ministry had a million questions, and couldn’t be more supportive of our work and the school. They explained that the project aligns with each and every goal their ministry and government has for development projects. It was clear that we have a strong project and advocates in the right place. Their support will give us credibility as we move forward in becoming licensed, attaining non-profit status, and in approaching potential local funders. We will be following up with them in the coming weeks on a series of next steps.

Rwandan entrepreneurism is boundless.
Glowing as we walked out of the meeting, none of us wanted to head home. Jeanne suggested we visit the site where she plans to move the restaurant (the one that is currently in the location where the school will be). Her new site is actually a large home that she owns and rents to a family. It has a terraced garden with a sweeping view of Kigali. (See me with Jeanne, above.) She plans to host weddings there and while it needs work, we all agreed it’s a likely moneymaker. We’ve learned that Kigali has an endless supply of weddings!

Just like in the U.S. we ended our day with a little shopping. We stopped at a modern grocery store that sells everything from electronics to toiletries to wine, 24 hours a day. A few years ago this shop could not exist, let alone succeed. But the growing economy is birthing all sorts of new businesses. Next door we got our “latte fix” at a hip cafe called Bourbon Coffee Cafe. The young baristas and laptop-focused clientele were reminiscent of Starbucks, except the coffee was better! This is Africa and the coffee is very LOCAL. Founded by a young Rwandan, one cafe has turned into a small chain.

This is Rwanda. Good things are happening here.

--Bpeacers Barbara Bylenga and Alix Samuelson, September 2008

Piqued your interest? Read the entire September 2008 Rwanda Mission blog here.

Building a brand, Rwanda style

Building a brand requires a logo, clear messages and a marketing strategy all built on understanding your target consumers. Yet as competition is heating up from neighboring African countries, these marketing basics are rare in Rwanda. Enter BAM (Bpeace Action Marketing) a pop-up team of skilled marketers (many of whom are alumni of multinational ad agency McCann-Erickson) who over the next two weeks will create brand identities, marketing plans, brochures and signage.

[caption id="attachment_191" align="alignnone" width="512" caption="The blog editor (Kate) demonstates a lack of incredible lack of vanity in posting this otherwise fantastic picture of a truly beautiful team. Left to right: Susan, Toni, Marie, Sabra, Richard, Susan, Athena, Kate, Cass "]The blog editor (Kate) demonstates a lack of incredible lack of vanity in posting this otherwise fantastic picture of a truly beautiful team. Left to right: Susan, Toni, Marie, Sabra, Richard, Susan, Athena, Kate, Cass [/caption]

I'm leading this, her 4th mission to Rwanda. One of the first items of business for Athena Katsaros, Marie Greener and Toni Maloney will be presenting seven Bpeace Fast Runners with new logos. They are landing with a portfolio of 51 customized options created by 8 graphic designers. Sabra Richardson will bring depth and value from her knowledge of the Fast Runners and her business consulting background. Cass Greener will be taking photos essential to the marketing materials we will be creating. Susan Ilyin has marketing research experience and lived in Rwanda for several months last year. Our Rwanda Program Manager Richard Niwenshuti will be trying out his new marketing sea legs after a couple of marketing intensives in New York.

Francise_w_marie_and_athenaPeaceful branding
This morning, Athena and Marie presented five potential logos to Francoise for her new catering business. When they were laid out on the table you should have seen her eyes light up as she clasped her hands together in surprise and happiness. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Making business dreams real. By the way, her restaurant and catering business is named Amahoro. Amahoro means peace.

News flash: Here's my story
How to describe your business and brand in a headline was our objective for today. And how to use a headline in marketing and to deepen employee understanding was a good discussion. But as we kicked off the Key Message Workshop with examples from ads we’ve seen in Kigali we saw the light bulbs beginning to flicker over the heads of the Fast Runners. Maybe there is something to this marketing thing after all. By the end of the morning, after each woman had developed her own message that she loved -- the lights were shining bright. It was an unmistakable Aha! moment.

Among our favorites :

  • "We make beautiful queens" . . . .Harriette's salon
  • "Plants add life and style to your home and business" . . . .Soline's landscaping and nursery
  • "Your happiness is our only joy". . .Sylvie's amusement park
  • "Fresh milk is always on our uruhimbi" . . .Console's dairy bar.

    [caption id="attachment_193" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Constance picks a logo which has incorporated the "headline" she created Tuesday. Yes, we are that fast. "]Constance picks a logo which has incorporated the "headline" she created Tuesday. Yes we are that fast. [/caption]

p.s. Don't know what a uruhimbi is? It's the traditional place in Rwandan homes where every child knows they will find milk.

--Kate Buggeln for the Bpeace Team, January 2008

Piqued your interest? Read the entire January 2008 Rwandan Mission blog here.

Regis takes Rwanda salons up a notch

Our first corporate sponsor is traveling with us! Regis Corporation, one of the U.S.'s largest operators of beauty salons and retail stores, are training Bpeace's salon owners and 35 of their staff members on color, styling, relaxing and service techniques. Here's a sum-up of their work so far:

[caption id="attachment_206" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Kevin consults at New Generation"]Kevin consults at New Generation[/caption]

Regis trainers Russell and Kevin hit the town visiting all the salons today in preparation for four days of salon training. Both were impressed with the foundation the salons had established. It was a hoot to watch the Rwandan and American stylists find common ground: a girl's vanity, the need for pampering, or the busy mother's need for speed . . .and a man's bemusement at it all. The search for beauty crosses oceans and cultures.

[caption id="attachment_207" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Russell demos shampoo do's (not don'ts)"]Russell demos shampoo do's (not don'ts)[/caption]

Harriette's salon was packed with with hair stylists so eager to learn that Russell commented that the class was easier than those he'd led in the U.S. Stylists from neighboring salons were at the door begging admission. Relaxation and cutting were the topics of the day. Four models left with beautiful new hairstyles.

[caption id="attachment_208" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Laughter helps the message sink in"]BPEACE-DAY3--002912[/caption]

Saturday's Regis training was focused on color and customer service. The first resulted in newly born beauties (with the promise of more to come as a result of the training), the second in a salon filled with raucous noise as Russell and Kevin brought the house down as their comedy act tour came to Kigali. Their role play of salon do's and don'ts brought screams of laughter even BEFORE the words were translated.

[caption id="attachment_209" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Proud and highly skilled, thanks to Regis!"]Proud and highly skilled, thanks to Regis![/caption]

The stylists were so proud to receive their certificates, and our Associates Brigette and Harriette were grateful beyond words. It is hard to describe how powerful the last two days have been. Tomorrow we begin again with Jeanne and Sylvie's staffs.

--Kate Buggeln, on behalf of Bpeace team, September 2007

Our first taste of Rwanda

Wed more dance

Weather in Kigali has been spectacular, and this was one of the best so far. Bright sun, low humidity. Flowers are blooming on walls of wealthier compounds, as well as in the yards of poor offices and homes. The evening air was so lovely that following dinner at Chez Robert some of the group decided to walk back to the hotel. It was a good walk after days of eating Rwandan food and no exercise, but some of us bloggers are now regretting the late night! What were we thinking?

Some of our readers have asked about Rwandan food. It is quite good; we note a lot of French influence. Great sauces are a constant. The goat stew and savory “bananas” are excellent. This Sunday the group has been invited to the homes of two different Rwandans for an evening of traditional food. We can't wait.

Getting future-proof
Cari and Geoffrey visited the crafts training center of the Rwanda Women's Network today; they provide training for victims of gender violence. Cari met the future recipients of 40 donated knitting machines, and all of them danced together. Why don't we do this at home to show our gratitude?

Marla, Ann, and Maureen began the day at Rwanda Private Sector Federation/On the Frontier, meeting with Doreen Kagarama and Info Communication Technology leader David Frenk (ICT is our version of IT). David wrote Rwanda’s 5 year technology plan for the government. Bpeace’s goal was to learn about the direction of the economic sector--we want to be future-proof! This international consulting firm is working with the government to develop the product sector, in particular ICT. They're also focused on ensuring women are able to take advantage of their fair share of these emerging opportunities. We learned a ton about economic development in coffee, tea, tourism, and ICT.

Then we headed to the Women’s Association of Entrepreneurs (AFER). The association will be a key resource for unearthing Fast Runners: it has over 1,000 members. Tomorrow we'll meet with 20 of them for Fast Runner interviews.

--September 2005

Piqued your interest? Read the entire September 2005 Rwandan Mission blog here.

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