She bid farewell to a bank job to make signature perfumes: My dream was bigger than my job

By Alain Jules Hirwa
On 17 December 2019 at 04:58

Sifa Chantal had a dream of self-employment which she woke up and walked about to pursue. She started out as a teacher in 2013 at Ebenezer School where her salary was around Rwf 40,000. Later, after working as a customer service manager and later on an e-banking admin at Access Bank from 2014 to 2018, she quit. At the time, her net salary was Rwf 295,000. In September 2018, she founded Charehan Ltd, a company that makes perfumes and sells other different commodities.

Mid-height, short-hair and light complexion, Sifa expresses a personality of friendliness, an immensely likable character with an open mind that never ceases to question and caution. And she’s knowledgeable on a wide spectrum of topics.

Her palatial home in Rebero Sector with a lush green-designed compound bespeaks royalty of a person that loves and creates good things.

She and her equally outgoing husband receive me with a cup of coffee, which we sip as she relates to me how she has, over the years, created signature scents for the Kigali perfume enthusiasts.

Sifa, who holds a Masters degree from Kigali Independent University says that even though she worked as a teacher and a banker, she always felt her ambitions and ego would only get met and massaged if she got self-employed.

She says; “I had a lot of dreams. While sitting in a bank, I’d feel I was in the wrong place. I compared my dreams and my job; my dreams were bigger than my job. I found them different. I quit the job. Even though I had no other job, I had ideas.”

After quitting, Sifa looked at all possible opportunities in Rwanda and realized that creating fragrances would make a good business, more so because it fell in line with the country’s policy to promote Made in Rwanda products.

Besides, Sifa is a fan good scents. The combination set her on the path of making perfumes.

Since quitting her job, Sifa never worried about the capital, even though many of her friends told her that the lack of it was a problem.

She believed in ideas.

Through training by a French company called AFRIBON and later the European Flavors and Flagrances (EFF), she learned how to mix fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds to make perfumes.

She also acquired knowledge and skills in marketing perfumes. In 2019 she started a perfume signature that she branded HODI, HODI for men and HODI for women. She started small, testing the waters, getting feedback on how people would receive the product.

When she started, she had Rwf 5,000,000 from her accumulated savings. When she started, early in 2019, she started using small samples of about 2 kilograms of raw materials. She got the raw materials from AFRIBON, EFF, and Syria.

She says, “Up to now I am making perfumes for men and women. They are perfumes with a diversity of scents and natural aromatics. They are so special and unique to Rwanda because of different compounds that make them.”

Some of the challenges that Sifa sees in her business and Made in Rwanda, in general, is that there are still some Rwandans who underestimate products made inside the country and buy pirated products from abroad.

She says: “I don’t criticize commodities that come from abroad, but people should always wonder if a certain product is original or counterfeited. For us, our product is original. We don’t pirate.”

She adds that Rwandans should not underestimate their own products. “We Rwandans should love our products instead of hating them.”

With an air of jovial and endearing aura, she brings forth both HODI for men and for women. We spray the perfumes on our clothes, surrounding ourselves with a nose-courting pleasant mini-breeze. A sweet and soft fragrance that gladdens our small environment.

She says that she is in the process of purchasing better oils for mixing compounds that will produce even more nostril-arresting scents.

As we close our conversation, she delightedly tells me that her dreams go further to owning a cosmetics industry. She also believes that she will achieve all her dreams because “everything is possible,” as she puts it.

As of now, Sifa has the ability to produce 50 bottles of hundred-milliliters of perfume and always ready to serve her customers downtown Kigali at CHIC building, door A OO9 of the ground floor. She plans to officially launch the HODI brand in three months’ time.

Since quitting her job, Sifa never worried about the capital, even though many of her friends told her that the lack of it was a problem
Sifa looked at all possible opportunities in Rwanda and realized that creating fragrances would make a good business,

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