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.”