Growing up, Kevine Kagirimpundu had a fertile and creative mind; always wanted to design things. And to further nurture this inborn passion, she went on to enrol the University of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology to study for a degree in creative designs and environmental build.
And thanks for her interest in the STEM field; today she is an inspiration and a reference point to many young girls on how one can use the sciences to become successful entrepreneurs.
Eco-friendly footwear designs
While at the university, she met Ysolde Shimwe, her current business partner. The duo hit it off because of their shared love to for the creative and designing. They went on to co-found UZURI K&Y, an exciting footwear and eco-friendly enterprise based in Kigali and they registered it in 2013. Kagirimpundu is the chief executive officer while Shimwe is the chief financial officer and the co-creative designer. Their combined skills and creativity has made them household names and they currently have no competition in the shoe design industry in Rwanda.
“We used to dream a lot of the future, sharing life perspectives and it was so pleasant how our desires converged to become a common vision. We have invested our time, money and skills learning, and formed a good team to produce our designs from Rwanda. We have developed original techniques to handcraft our shoes, with their unique features and patterns, and a particular way of preparing materials,” says Kagirimpundu
Sustainable environment enthusiast
She is also a strong advocate for sustainable environment and uses her knowledge and passion to educate and create awareness among the youth and women from economically depressed communities. Kagirimpundu is also qualified in business development and leadership skills from highly regarded global entrepreneurship institutions. Four years ago the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative named her among top 10 business heroes creating change across Africa.
Creating jobs for the locals
Kagirimpundu says although they are excited their dream is coming together, they also want their company to play a big corporate responsibility in their locality. They want to create more jobs in the handcraft sector using their workshop located in Gikondo as creative hub. To date they have trained a great team of shoemakers who produce high quality handcrafted shoes for women and men. She says what sets their company apart from the rest is the fact that they use local materials and they also combine their traditional techniques with new ways of application.
Traditional old techniques
“Our products differ from our competitors’ in various ways such as colours, patterns and original concepts, all generated using local materials such as Agaseke patterns produced by local artisans and also showcasing our traditional old techniques into new ways of application. Our products also differ from others in the combination of materials used, which are mixed with African sourced fabrics, as well as using different soles such as TPU, TPR and recycled tires,” explains Kagirimpundu
She is confident about their enterprise’s future because they are a team of young and women who are inspired to achieve more. She also attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to her father who was a business in his own right and also a lecturer at a local technical college. This rubbed off me, she says, adding that her siblings are also creatives.
She says UZURI K&Y aims to create a sustainable company with a social impact while generating profit for investors. They also want to provide affordable, “quality eco footwear to fashion-lovers both at home and globally”. Kagirimpundu says their ultimate mission is to create jobs particularly for vulnerable groups such as women and youth. Their designs are inspired by local heritage and traditions, making it easier to source their labour from among the locals who are familiar with the all over the world. They also want to compete at the international footwear space where Rwanda would not just be put on the map but it will be recognised as originator of fashion items.