From Nursing to Business, This Woman Never Stops Caring for her Patients

Venantie Mukarivuze is a trained nurse and mother of three. She also happens to be an award-winning entrepreneur who imports and distributes pharmaceuticals through her company Biopharmacia, which is based in Kigali, Rwanda. Her journey from healthcare professional to entrepreneur was one that came from a desire to ultimately serve her patients as best she could.

Venantie worked in a hospital operating room for five years and saw firsthand the level of quality of materials that the hospital received. She thought there was room for improvement and that she might be the one to make it happen.

“I used to see the material and consumable,” she says, “I used to see what was of quality and what wasn’t of quality. Sometimes it was annoying when you asked for something and they brought you something that was not appropriate.”

Despite lacking experience in business, sourcing the correct and highest quality products in healthcare was a challenge that Venantie was willing to take on.

“I thought, why not create a small company? At least, I would make sure that quality products would be delivered. My company relies on quality and, since I am a nurse, I am demanding it,” she said. “I love the job because I trust the products.”

Even though she knew the type of products needed to deliver excellent care, going out on her own wasn’t easy.

“Being a nurse, working in an office, in a hospital is very different from a private company,” Venantie explained. “The first couple of years, it was a little difficult – as difficult as [it is for] someone who does business, but easy because I know the products, especially consumables and the material. Here, I was comfortable.

Getting funding to purchase the right products was a challenge though. “I was limited,” said Mukarivuze. “I would keep the purchase order for four or five months. So, it bothered me. You have a purchase order; you are waiting to get paid before they [banks] can give you more funding. It’s hard. The problem when we were working with banks was that we were asking for mortgages. They lend you a house but when you start, they don’t trust you and they only give you a credit.

Mukarivuze went to Kountable, a global trade marketplace, to solve her difficulty with product financing and what she got was so much more. Her relationship with Kountable wasn’t based on debt — the company didn’t give her a loan. Instead they partnered with her in the deal, purchasing the products for her and assisting in the entire procurement process.

“Before Kountable joined us,” explained Mukarivuze. “I used to work with financial institutions, but timidly because they are very demanding. With Kountable, what I saw was a partnership. I can’t say that they are a financial institution because they have a team, because of the approach. They are [instead] partners. I call them partners.

“[Being my] partner, it has helped me a lot. Once I started this partnership with Kountable, it opened my eyes and I grew more confident. At the start I was doing some small quotes but now I participate in bid solicitations.”

The kind of confidence and support that can come from strong partnerships in business lead to Biopharmacia’s growth in more ways than one.

“This has allowed me to increase my revenue.” she said, “and to diversify the range of products we offer.”

Biopharmicia’s impressive multinational OEM list includes Covidien, VWR and Becton Dickinson, among others.

“I started with two or three partners but now I have five,” said Mukarivuze. “With Kountable — we’ve been together for two years — and with our increased confidence to collaborate with other partners, we have had to move.”

The nurse turned entrepreneur gestured to the new storage space she stood in, filled with endless shelving of top-end medical product, and smiled.

“Here,” she said, “as you can see, it’s big, it’s spacious.”

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Predictability in Trade — One of Many Kountable Benefits

Meet Patrick Higiro, CEO and Founder of RugeroMed, a medical supplier that operates out of Kigali, Rwanda. Since partnering with the global trade network Kountable in 2014, growth for this company has been marked by better financing options for the procurement of top-quality medical goods, and with that, bigger contracts, an increase in employees, a larger office space, and more predictability that secures repeat customers and overall business growth.

“We are known in the market for making excellent products,” said Higiro. “We had customers behind us, but the challenge was, of course, the financing. I remember the first deal was about a few thousand (USD). Right now, the business has grown 10 times [that].”

Today, as a trusted distributor, RugeroMed supplies the largest hospitals across Rwanda with medical equipment such as catheters, syringes, operating gowns and cardiovascular surgery packs. This year, they plan to expand into other countries as well.   

Higiro explained that one of the reasons the business is growing is because of the “back up of Kountable finance.”

But what is “Kountable finance?” A loan with a reasonable interest rate?

Turns out, something even better. Kountable’s business model isn’t based on loans and making profit by interest rates. Instead, the multi-national trade partner buys the goods needed to fulfill large contracts and even assists in the delivery logistics of those goods, insuring high-quality products get to the end customers in RugeroMed’s case, Rwanda’s biggest hospitals who need them. After the trade is complete, Kountable gets a percentage of the end customer’s final payment.

The real key for this supplier to go from a day-to-day survival mode to measurable growth was from its ability to predict product needs and stock goods.   

“With Kountable,” said Higiro, “we are able to save small money to buy stock with it, and it helps us to be competitive on the market. It’s also helped the client to operate, because for healthcare, some of the items are critical. The clients cannot afford to be out of stock.

“Logistically, we are able to compete with any company locally because we keep most of the critical items ready [in] stock. Because of Kountable, we have big plans to also keep more products ready [in] stock. That’s the challenge locally. We all import; we’re not manufacturing locally, so the stock is the key to compete locally.”

Having product in stock is a huge advantage. These days, RugeroMed asks its clients to anticipate their need for a supply, so the company can anticipate too.

“There is efficiency behind it,” said Higiro, “and also there is confidence that goes with it, because we can now deal with any clients, small or big.”

In addition to efficiency and confidence that comes with a trade partnership with Kountable, there is also the perk of repeat business and better pricing.

“We’ve had a lot of discount[s], because the supplier now is confident that I will pay on time,” Higiro said. “Also, it gives us the power to negotiate when we are buying or when we are making orders, because there is trust behind it.”

Trust, transparency and collaboration is at the core of every Kountable trade. This is made possible partly because of the technology the company uses — an app for both desktop and mobile (Android and iOS).

“Before the app,” said Higiro, “everything was dependent on emails. Sometimes people would delay to respond or to give you feedback, but as we talk now with the app, it is user-friendly.

“You can upload documents easily,” he said. “You can also make chats; you can get feedback live. If there’s something that’s missing, you can type and interact on the app. That is very good because it allows you to know the status instantly, and it allows you to communicate what is missing and the status of the project.”

Higiro described the app technology as “a remote office,” saying that you don’t need hard copies like before and that trade documentation can be processed anytime and and any place.

If the Kountable app is a remote office, then the network itself might be the global trade solution for growth in emerging markets. Enabling entrepreneurs to predict product needs and fulfilling them is just the beginning. 

Encartar Diagnostics Ltd. Finds the Way to Scale

Director and Founder of Encartar Diagnostics Ltd., Jimcartar Njagi, has been in the medical supplies business for nearly a decade, and in that time completed many large-scale equipment deliveries to hospitals. When a United Nations tender came across his desk to put medical equipment in 14 health facilities and dispensaries in Kijado County, his company was the natural pick. This was the type of deal that could really scale his business to the next level, something Njagi has been struggling to do despite his previous contracts with the Ministry of Health and other non-governmental agencies.

Njagi explains that the obstacle to scaling really lies in the access to financing. “Today in Kenya you must have property or assets if you want to get financing. This is a big challenge because most of the young entrepreneurs don’t have all these things.” He adds, “even the people who have been in the market for long don’t, [so] you may get a project that doesn’t suit your security.”

That’s what happened to Njagi when he took his contract to the bank in search of financial help in procuring the goods. He was turned down for a loan because he didn’t have enough collateral for a deal this big. Njagi didn’t give up though and went in search of another solution.

Similar to the time he learned that the gauze available to first responders was not as effective as it could be in stopping bleeding, Njagi wanted to find a solution, a better alternative.

“When we looked at the First Aid kits we had in our country or even in the world, we felt they didn’t serve the purpose of rescuing the patient. We lost a lot of patients from bleeding, nothing else, [so] we were looking for a product that could stop that bleeding immediately.”

Through his own research he found Quikclot, a trauma gauze that helps the patient clot faster because it is impregnated with kaolin, explains Njagi, which is a mineral that accelerates the body’s clotting ability.

Njagi has the tenacity of a successful entrepreneur. First, he’s able to identify the problem facing his business or community; then he doesn’t stop until he finds a solution.

When inquiring about his other financing options, he came across a colleague who suggested Kountable, an alternative to traditional financing in trade. Unlike other financial institutions, Kountable doesn’t give loans. Instead the company buys the goods needed to fulfill the tender and partners with the supplier to help deliver those goods for the end customer, in this case the United Nations.

Njagi describes the company and partnership: “I think it is a flexible financing institution. I would advise everyone to use Kountable. When I first presented my deal for the United Nations, I was just asked to bring my credentials: Do you have an office? Do you have a local purchase order that you are working on?

“Once you have the deal, there is a process to upload all of the documentation, the registration documents, your pin, NPOs, suppliers and working timelines.”

Njagi says that Kountable’s request for documentation and working timelines also helped him do a better job in communicating expectations of deliverables — it helped him do better business.

“The uploading of the working plan,” says Njagi, “answers when is the money coming, when I am getting the goods. Then there is the issue of the distribution, and we also have the goods insured, which we didn’t have before.

“It helps you understand what you might need from your client in the future,” says Njagi. “Even the customer feels good in the end.”

Partnering with Kountable was a gamechanger for Encartar Diagnostics Ltd. Not only was Njagi able to complete the company’s largest contract to date — he was able to land more.

“Financing is an issue because it stops you from moving forward,” he says, “even if you have a security and a deal, once you have another deal you cannot proceed; you have to wait until this first deal is paid.

“When it comes to Kountable, the deal is endless. It doesn’t matter how long or how many deals you have. Complete this and another deal comes — you just pop into their office, or upload your documents and you can advance.

“I would advise my other entrepreneurs, if you have been really looking for growth and a financial partner, I recommend Kountable.”

Since partnering with Kountable and completing its contract with the U.N., Encartar Diagnostics Ltd. has landed two major contracts with the Kenyan Army. Through these tenders the company continues to supply the lifesaving gauze Quikclot among other vital medical equipment and consumables.

Africa Medical Supplier Grows by 177% in 1 Year

Africa Medical Supplier sets out to change the standard of care in Rwanda, but faces countless challenges securing funding.

Based in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa Medical Supplier is one of the continent’s leading medical SMEs, specializing in the import and distribution of pharmaceutical products, medical technologies, and medical consumables like rapid diagnostic tests. AMS works with hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics around the country, serving Rwanda’s urban and rural populations. In just over fifteen years, one man’s mission to change the standard of care for Rwandans has become one of the country’s most important, vital companies.

AMS won a government tender to furnish multiple hospitals with neonatal units. The first challenge was how to procure them. The second was the extremely short timeline for delivery, installation, and training. Because traditional lenders move slowly and require sufficient collateral, they were not an option for AMS. The entire project was in jeopardy because traditional funding models were failing enterprises like AMS.

Kountable’s agility and partnership helps fulfill AMS’s tenders quickly and reliably.

Kountable was able to review the terms of the project in short order and quickly arranged for its funding. Thanks to Kountable’s agility, AMS was able to make the necessary arrangements to fulfill its responsibilities and furnish the hospitals with the much-needed technology and training. “The length of time for the decisions we made on that deal was really short,” says Mr. Shema. “The response was on time, the supplier was happy because they were getting direct payment from Kountable, the shipment was fast, everything was okay.” Years after the fact, Mr. Shema still thinks about his initial experience with Kountable. “That was really something,” he says. “When I visit all those hospitals, I’m proud.”

“Before I started this company, I had a pharmaceutical company; we sold drugs to patients and to retail stores,” says Fabrice Shema, CEO of Africa Medical Supplier. Back then, Mr. Shema noticed how difficult it was to find certain medical equipment and supplies in Rwanda. “I want a blood pressure machine, I need to call a friend who is based in the U.S. or in Europe to get it,” he explains. “My mum, she has diabetes so she needs to test herself. She has a small device at home but you cannot get the strips locally — you need to call someone in Kampala or Nairobi.