IN MARCH THIS YEAR, Hense Teta Musana’s project, which is about producing environment-friendly paper cups, emerged the Most Innovative Project. As a result, she was made the brand ambassador of Bank of Kigali for a period of 12 months with monthly wages of Rwf500, 000.
The ‘Most Innovative Project’ prize was one of the new prizes that were introduced in the Miss Rwanda beauty contest this year to give young women a platform to share innovative ideas that can make an impact to the community and the nation in general.
But people did not know whether the 22-year-old has successfully turned the project into a potential business that can benefit the community.
The New Times has, however, established that the beauty queen’s project is yet to start operations.
Musana told this publication that her project was delayed because she wanted to first take ample time to work on such a ‘big project’ before starting its implementation while also looking for authorization documents needed to start manufacturing paper cups in Rwanda.
“You can’t just import machines like that; I had to first ask for authorisation to import them. There are some documents that I had to find first before I start to get the manufacturing running,” she said.
It was in the midst of the pandemic that the idea came to Musana’s mind but she always thought it was too difficult to achieve due to lack of support.
“It was a project that I wanted to work on even before I joined the Miss Rwanda contest. I really didn’t know how exactly I would come about because of constraints associated with financial support. I shared the idea with my mother but the budget was obviously too high to bear with,” she said.
She had no one to support her project during the pandemic until she realised that Miss Rwanda would be the best platform to showcase what she can do best should her project win the vote of confidence from the pageant’s jury.
The jury eventually agreed that Musana’s project emerged the ‘most innovative’ of all projects presented by the contestants who participated in Miss Rwanda 2021.
Apart from being announced as the brand ambassador of Bank of Kigali for a period of a year, the bank also pledged a whopping Rwf24 million to support the beauty queen’s project while she, through the bank’s partnership with Inkomoko, acquired a six-months of training, consulting, and business advisory for her to get ample understanding of the project and the impact it will bring to the community.
As she prepares to start operations in January, Musana hopes that establishing the paper cup factory will bring the importation of paper cups to an end while also creating eco-friendly packaging towards the prevention of environmental pollution.
She told The New Times that she has already ordered a manufacturing machine that will be used in the production process of the paper cups.
The beauty queen turned entrepreneur has been discussing with concerned government institutions over the possibility to import the manufacturing machines and other raw materials, tax-exempted, since she wants to import them for the purpose of contributing to bring solutions to the environment
The machine she ordered has the capacity to produce at least 70 paper cups every minute.
Going beyond paper cups
With the project, Musana dreams of bringing more eco-friendly packing solutions to Rwandans as she targets to extend the manufacturing process to other packaging products.
“I am starting with the grant I have but, as long as revenues grow, I will be expanding the project from manufacturing paper cups to other environment-friendly products,” she said.
According to Musana, the paper cups are not only environment-friendly but they are also aimed at promoting hygiene among the community that gets used to exchanging cups during parties.
“You know when you are bringing a project like this; you have to be sure that it is bringing solutions to what people need. I think it will be a good alternative for smoothies and other drinks at different gatherings and parties,” she explained.
“So I was kind of looking at solving what we needed here in the country. The paper cups on the market are not made here in Rwanda but imported and I want to bridge that importation gap,” she added.
Learning from Miss Rwanda
Musana wants, through the project, to stick with the Miss Rwanda pageant’s routine mission to empower young women through its annual beauty contests.
As a young woman who acknowledges the beauty pageant’s efforts in using its platform to empower young women in one way or another, the beauty queen wants to employ only women in her project as a way to give back to the community.
“It’s through Miss Rwanda that I got support for my project and, through their girl empowerment drive; they are contributing to national development. I also want to borrow a leaf from them and play my part in empowering more women,” she said.
Given the fact that her project is just starting, she plans to start with at least 10 employees, all women, a number which she hopes to increase as the business grows.
In future, Musana wants to not only see her project contributing to creating an eco-friendly environment but also expand the supply of her product from the local market to the region and international market.