Imagine We, a local social enterprise, recently opened a co-working space that has so far brought together six start-ups in one setting to share experiences and keep all afloat.
Located near Kacyiru Sector office in Kigali, the space dubbed “Imagine Nation” seeks to help small and medium enterprises overcome challenges that fail them in the first three years of operation.
The five companies in Imagine We’s co-working space laud the new working approach and urge other start-ups to emulate the model.
The five include; Acacia Book Café which sells gift items in a coffee shop setting; Bag Innovation, founded by a Swedish national who prepares university students into becoming consultants; Elcon Media which deals in producing documentaries and animation; Ikobe Communications focusing on storytelling and Awesomity Lab which creates websites, software and applications.
Speaking to IGIHE last Friday, Imagine We’s founder Dominique Uwase Alonga said she realised the need for facilitating start-ups to grow and opened doors for them in June, considering that she had a very big space at her premises.
“It is about two months since we opened this co-working space but I have realised that such space is highly needed because I had received five new entrants within the first month while I expected to receive the first company at least after six months. We are now six companies in these premises,” she said.
Companies in the space are gaining clients from one another because visitors to one take a tour all around, sharing experiences, helping one another with skills and equipments as well as a significant reduction on operational costs mainly on house rent and utilities.
Each company pays a monthly rent of between $50 (around Rwf41,000) and $200 (Rwf165,000) depending on the size of the room a company needs.
“Starting companies often suffer from financial constraints, lack of clients and partners, and limited capacity in institution management especially because we are all young. All managers of these six companies are aged less than 30 years. Working together has got us solutions to most of these challenges,” says Alonga.
She added that the space is temporarily closed in order to harmonise the co-working conditions and build up firm systems before receiving new entrants in the next two months
The six companies in ‘Imagine Nation’ space have started a joint radio talk show project on how to start a company in Rwanda and it is being executed by Elcon Media, one among the six.
Yvès Honoré Bisemage, one of Awesomity Lab founders said their operational costs have reduced and clients doubled since they joined the co-working space last month.
Natasha Umutoni, a founding member of Acacia Book Café said they have also gained clients and operational costs reduced up to 30% since June when they got into Imagine We’s Imagine Nation.
Alonga advises young entrepreneurs to get together, avoid expensive offices and equipments in order to first develop themselves instead of trying to look bigger than they really are.
Having opened in January 2015 with the aim of encouraging Rwandans to read and write, Imagine We has reached out to 6000 people, opened libraries in 20 schools and University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), trained many language teachers and published two books. It is publishing three more books and opening libraries in three hospitals including CHUB in this August.