Immy Kamarade, Managing Director & Founder, Dallas Investments Ltd, & Chairperson Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs 2012

Words of Wisdom: “If you love your neighbour there is nothing good you cannot do. We all were able to love each other we can share what we have. Share words of wisdom, love each other and work hard.” – Immy Kamarade

Interview with Immy Kamarade, Managing Director & Founder, Dallas Investments Ltd, & Chairperson Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs 2012

Immy Kamarade, Managing Director & Founder, Dallas Investments Ltd, & Chairperson Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs 2012

Immy Kamarade is the founder of Dallas investments Ltd., an import and export company in Rwanda. Immy is also very active as a board member for several associations.

Immy is the elected President of Rwanda Women Entrepreneurs’ Chamber of the Private Sector Federation;  EAWiBP’s Executive Committee.

Other notable roles:

Private Sector Federation of Rwanda (board member); the Organizing Committee of the International Women Coffee Alliance Rwanda Chapter (President); Women Co-operative (Abaryoshya Kawa) in Muhura, Eastern Province (President); Women Business Leaders Association of Rwanda (President), National Agricultural Export Board (board member). She is also the founder and current Chairperson of Benishyaka Association in 1994 an organization that focuses on care and support for widows and orphans.

How does she do it? Why does she do it? Watch, Listen or read her interview to learn from this African Leading Lady.

Watch a short 5 minute promotion video on Immy Kamarade interview:

Benishyaka Association:


Immy Kamarade, Managing Director & Founder, Dallas Investments Ltd, & Chairperson Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs 2012

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom!

Being in the import and export business, what do believe to be the biggest opportunity for Rwandans in export?

Rwanda has just started in export and it is very important to Rwanda. We export mainly in coffee. Coffee brings one of the biggest foreign exchange in this country.  Export is the future of this economy.
Other products to export:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Handcraft

Where do you see the biggest export opportunity?

Europe, US and Asia as one of the big opportunities.

Do you recommend exporting to other African countries?

Africans don’t drink a lot of coffee. They drink tea. However, a lot of the countries also produce tea. In the Western world they don’t produce a lot of tea, yet they are the big consumers.

You have said  that the agricultural sector has potential to flourish into an economic engine of the country if fully financed … what do you think needs to happen beyond the financing?

When you look at the agriculture sector it is where the biggest number of opportunities lies, especially for women. So if that sector is promoted and given subsidies because it is the highest risk business to be in, it needs subsides, promotions and development so it can be as productive as possible.

Does Rwanda offer any subsidies?

Yes, with coffee if you put coffee roasting station, the government will look for the site for you, offer some training and help us to market the coffee.  This is how they help us to promote the coffee.

We can always look to government for help, however, as entrepreneur you need to do a lot of this yourself. What does a grower need to do to access more financing to help be more productive?

People need to learn how to do things on the right scale, not hand to mouth.

What is stopping people from flourishing besides the financing?

The knowledge to produce on a large scale.  That is where cooperatives come in. Cooperatives can add a lot of value.

What are some of the challenges with cooperatives, and how to overcome them?

  • See if people have the management skills. When people come together there often at different levels and can be hard to management their production.
  • Often people start to grow their business and it becomes so hard to manage the monies.
    • The Government is also trying to assist manage the bigger scale productions.

What was the catalyst to become involved in so many different boards?

When you look at our lives here, especially African Women, not all of us had the opportunity to go to school, not all of us had the opportunity to gain exposure, not all of us had the opportunity to exploit our talent and wisdom.

The moment I realized God had made me to be among the few I new I needed to share it with others.

You are giving back to a lot of other people because you are on so many boards. You are a President on three of those boards, how do you manage the boards, being a member on other boards, owning a business, and have 5 children?

I do trust in God a lot. I believe I can just be available, and God can use me the way he wants. I think it is strength to get us where we are going. I often say yes and rarely say no. I do work hard. I sleep few hours. I wake up early. I am strict on my time.

What benefits do you get by being involved in associations?

  • Benishyaka Association – We have educated over 10,000 Rwandan orphaned children. I have had the pleasure of seeing these children grow up and many go to university and having good jobs, supporting themselves, their mothers, brothers – personally it is powerful. It motivates me. It shows of possibilities. We are building our nation. I building a future for myself, my children, my nation, for the continent. All of these things make me want to continue.
  • Business Associations – no financial benefit, but it is all about community development. At the end of the day, we are also building people and their purchase power of my business. It won’t work today, but it will work in 20 years.
  • There is learning. We learn from my colleagues. Many of them a lot of experience. I learn leadership. I develop my mind source.

For women, what advice would you give to them to get involved in boards?

  • To develop yourself.
  • We learn from board members. Leadership skills.
  • Exposure to others and situations. It is good for women to get that type of exposure.

For women your time is always limited.

Sometimes it can be hard to do it all, but women need to know life is life, and if you work hard you can do what ever comes across your path.

What are some of the challenges to being on the board?

Being a board, especially the President, there are strategic targets you need to achieve. As you say, you aren’t being paid that means you have to work hard to make an income elsewhere so that you can run the board. You have to achieve your targets. As the leader, people look to you to ensure they are achieved. If you have a good team, this team will make you feel appreciated. If you have a bad team it can be challenging. But what ever you have it is on your head.

You have to work so hard with limited finances, and yet you have to achieve your targets because you accepted the leadership position.

You are treat being on the Board like a job, do you find that some people take the volunteer positions and don’t treat it like a job but just a volunteer initiative?

Many associations fail because of the board. The association represents the beneficiaries. If the board doesn’t go in the agreed direction it will fail.  I have learnt from leading the board it must always be progressive.

Which board that you have been on that you felt you moved things forward the most?

There is a lot to achieve in one year which for some boards. So the one I served the longest on Benishyaka Association and therefore achieved the most there.

Rwanda Women Entrepreneurs’ Chamber of the Private Sector Federation

Everyone women who is an entrepreneur can register. What we do is show them the advantages of the association, what we can do for them by doing it in hopes they will eventually become a member. We start at the grassroots. We promote if we come together under women chamber, we can come together, learn how to do things differently, share ideas. First we give them our products then we recruit them.

Is there any concern that as you recruit people who have limited business experience that there will be a big gap with people who have more business experience and no longer feel they are getting what they want from the Chamber?

We thinking of training according to different business skills and business levels. But we think that people that have reached a certain level should come down and help mentor those who are trying to come up. The one who has achieved should help the other ones and women are will to do it. It is not like a gap. Instead we are going to help the small one to connect with the more successful business owner.

The Chamber is designed to connect the women and then we can create specific trainings for them.

What do you think women bring to boards that may be lacking if they are not present?

I have come to realize that women have good leadership skills. They touch the ground, in homes, they go to see their Grandmothers. When they give advice they give real live Rwandan advice. More practical.

What are some skills that you think make women good leaders?

  • Women are good listeners
  • Most of the time they are fair to the people they lead
  • Women take responsibility, or they have no problem sharing the responsibility with the people they are leading.
  • They will admit if something is over their head
  • They will empathize if you are sick. They are flexible.

Do you have any advice to get involved in boards or associations?

You need education. You need to have some knowledge to be on boards, as you are a policy maker. So many women are getting educated in Rwanda – schools are full. I am not saying you need tons of degrees, but you do need the kind of training that improves on knowledge. It doesn’t matter what you are taking.

Do you have advice on how to get on a board?

Most boards you are elected on, so people will have to have confidence in you. People watch how you lead your life.

A relationship needs to be established over time.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs when they are starting their business?

If you are starting business you need to be:

  1. Be determined
  2. Work hard
  3. Be honest
  4. Start small, think big.
  5. Learn about finances

Take a step…success is ahead

What are tactics to start a new business business?

Good to do something you have passion for – that is best.

Go to a friend who has experience. That is what the chamber can provided – the challenges and opportunities.

What tactics should women implement if they have a more established business?

Be aware of your weakness. The business becomes bigger and the management becomes harder. In the developing world we don’t even have those highly qualified managers.

With the profits we are making we are only able to pay 10,000FR. We have to improve management as we developed.

What are some of the pitfalls you see women business owners have in growing their businesses?

  1. Maintaining that growth. Women have a lot of responsibilities as they grow their businesses.
  2. Also when they grow they often don’t have the knowledge to manage the larger finances.
  3. Other external factors also contribute to their growth or lack of it – inflation, market demand and other external factors that can make it challenge to grow your business.

Lot of the women have not been trained. In the West there are people that predict the inflation rate, exchange rate and other external circumstances. We don’t have that expertise.

What is the most significant impact that you feel that you have made in your career?

I started with one person in business, as my business has grown I now I am making an impact on  many people’s lives.

If there are couple leadership skills that you feel you have learned from being on Boards, what would they be?

  1. Being a good listener. If your managing people you have to sit down and listen to them. You don’t make decisions for them, or make policies. You need to talk to them. Bridge the gap between the management and the stakeholders. We do this in the board, and then you have to apply this philosophy also in business.
  2. Share responsibilities and opportunities. If there is training internationally, as the leader you should share it with others. It gives people ownership. The leadership should own all the ideas. Everyone contributes to the direction of the organization and the board.

If there was one thing you could attribute your success to what would it be?

Faith in God. With that kind of faith you can make it. It is not me, it is the one who created me. I am trying to work towards what the one who created me wants of me.  Plus hard work, but even that hard work comes out of faith.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

Working with different people. People have different attitudes and beliefs. You find you are doing what your employee is should be doing. The challenge is getting the right people, with the right tools at the right time. Finances to get those people can be a challenge.

Has there ever been an initiative that just didn’t work? Why didn’t work, what would you do different?

Not really, especially when working on the board, I listen to what people want. I don’t implement until people own an idea. I will leave an idea until they feel they should be part of that idea.

In business we have put products on the market that haven’t worked – when dealing with petroleum sometimes we buy one day and prices go up. It is such a flexible market, which is difficult to control.

In coffee production, I have learned how important it is to process with a contract. Not to just go and buy and buy and buy. One day I did this with an unsigned contract, the prices just dropped. I thought I would just concentrate on the processing and when I have everything lined up I would sell. The contract allows me to sell all the coffee, rather then keep a lot of processed coffee without a market.

Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of you when you push the edge of your comfort zone). What is something that you are uncomfortable doing, but you need to continue to do, in order to make you as successful as you are?

There are times to work so hard for coffee.  I will go to villages for a week or two, I don’t feel that comfortable, but it is important to do because it makes me interact with people, it makes them own the business that I am doing, it changes the way they harvest the coffee.

It is the life there that is uncomfortable. There is no power. You can’t put a coffee washing station in a comfortable place. It location is always in a place where the water can flow from the mountains to washing station. It is always away from where other people stay.

What is one thing you would do differently to achieve the success you have achieved?

The one think I cannot do now is having infrastructure to my business. Having a proper road, having electricity.  Those are something I would put first to make my business a success.

What does success mean to you?

Achieving my targets.

How would you define leadership?

Having ability to convince people to follow your advice and ideas. At the same time is incorporate their ideas. At the end of the day everyone feels invested.

What is next for you?

See how I can maintain the growth of my business.
In the chamber how we get women together and work on their ideas.

What is one thing you would like to do that you haven’t done yet?

To get my business where I want it to be. Get the high level management. Process to best way to gain access to the market.

We would like to help orphans to go to school and help them sustain themselves – beyond what the government can do.

For the chamber to get each women to financially sustain her family. We don’t need to beg from others.

Reflective Realizations by Immy Kamarade

Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old daughter?

They love people, be kind, be patient, hard working, you have to pray. Where there is love, everything is possible.

Words of Wisdom from Immy Kamarade

If you love your neighbour there is nothing good you cannot do. We all were able to love each other we can share what we have. If we can love each other and work hard and then try to get knowledge and wisdom. When you have any kind of training you need to repeat that and provide wisdom. Share words of wisdom, love each other and work hard.


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