They met while on duty but working for different companies. In their conversation, the two young women realised they had a lot in common, especially career wise: both have a passion for events management. Both are events management professionals.
Natacha Haguma and Jeanine Karangwa were at the time employed by different firms, but in events management departments. Haguma had previously worked with Private Sector Federation (PSF), while Karangwa was at Symposia Consult.
This exposure gave them the opportunity to gain experience and exposure in events management sector. After their chance meeting, the pair decided to form a joint partnership, giving birth to General Logistics Services in 2010.
“We realised there was a big gap in this field and, therefore, decided to explore it using our expertise and contacts,” Haguma says.
The two women entrepreneurs are all graduates events management, with Haguma having also studied public relations.
Though the new firm owners and managers did not know where to begin, being in good books with their previous bosses landed them their first gigs, as well as recommendations.
“Our first contract was with PSF, my former employer. We were tasked to conduct road shows to sensitise people about the activities of the federation countrywide,” Haguma says.
“We did our best to ensure that we performed beyond expectations…we wanted the job to work as our stepping stone to getting other deals,” she notes, adding that the trick worked.
As a new firm, it was not easy to convince companies to give them jobs, with many saying that was an unnecessary cost.
“However, we continued engaging them and, overtime, most of the companies that gave us chance to work with them have continued to seek our services,” Haguma says.
She says the PSF job tested their resolve, noting that the campaign required a lot within a short time, including hiring part-time workers, outsourcing equipment, tents, lighting, and seats, among others.
Karangwa says they are driven by desire to offer quality services. Honesty, integrity, networking and delivering services as planned has made them keep contracts coming in over the last five years they have been in the business.
The duo has been able to land key contracts from major institutions, like GTBank, Equity Bank, Rwanda Bankers’ Association, New Faces New Voices, and are the organisers of the bi-annual Egypt and Middle East Expo, and do some work for Rwanda Development Board. Haguma attributes their success thus far to the trust from clients and their quality services.
Haguma says the sheer drive to do the best keeps them motivated every day.
“This has helped us to deliver quality services, earning us more contracts,” she adds.
Karangwa says that whenever there is an event in a certain area, they hire youth from the locality for the part-time work.
“Many young people have benefited from such opportunities. We have retained those that have excelled during such short stints on the team,” she adds.
Initially, it was hard for us to convince companies on the need of engaging professionals to organise their events, says Haguma.
But we overcame this hurdle thanks to the recommendations we got from those who gave us jobs. Getting committed workers is also tricky in this field.
“It is hard to get people with the right expertise or willingness to learn. Many young people we hire think the work does not require commitment,” Karangwa says.
Of course we don’t tolerate this attitude and have to let them go, but this disrupts our operations as we have to employ part-time workers to bolster the team. We also do not own equipment and have to outsource, especially public address system, tents, music systems. She says they plan to acquire their own equipment soon, noting that outsourcing is not sustainable “and one cannot assure quality with outsourced equipment”.
The pair seeks to work with international events management companies to widen their experience, saying they learnt a lot from their last collaboration with African Events, which organised the African Games last year in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo. Karangwa adds that they will start taking some of the events they organise to the provincial capitals to deepen market reach and raise awareness about the sector.
“The events management business is growing every day, and Rwanda has a lot of opportunities that players can exploit to further grow the industry,” Karangwa says.
“This is the reason why we are competing to take over as organisers of Miss Rwanda 2017, which has been organised by Rwanda Inspiration Backup for the past many years. I am confident we will win the contract,” she added.
Women should not fear to engage in business, especially starting and running their own enterprises.
“We shouldn’t only be known as good house wives, but also successful entrepreneurs in Rwanda and beyond “because we have the potential”.