Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Larry Page, three individuals who have helped to define culturally accepted, modern day characteristics of contemporary entrepreneurs. Big characters, risk takers, disrupters and pioneers.
As an Innovation Consultant, I’ve always had a keen interest in entrepreneurship. While studying business at university, I was inundated by amazing success stories of young kids who started their own businesses and became millionaires. After graduating, keen to find out more, I started working for a small innovation start-up in central London.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a host of entrepreneurs from across the UK and US. Some have made it big, some have gone on to re-define the rules of their industry and some haven’t quite got there. Regardless of the extent of their commercial success, I knew what it took to become an entrepreneur:
An admirable and typically individualistic selfishness to succeed, a willingness to put everything on the line and a truly remarkable business idea.
That was until I visited Rwanda.
Last summer, I spent 4 weeks running across the Land Of A Thousand Hills, in partnership with the African Entrepreneur Collective, a local Business Accelerator, based in Kigali. Joined by a professional photographer, our objective was to visually and intimately document the essence of entrepreneurship in a country that’s being labelled ‘the world’s first entrepreneurial state’.
What we discovered was remarkable – a radical redefining of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship has been identified as the country’s single greatest lever to economic growth and development.
We visited schools and met with kids studying entrepreneurship (a core part of the secondary school syllabus) and we spent time with ordinary people all across Rwanda who had started their own business with one single motive – to play an important role in driving their country’s development, helping to establish Rwanda as a middle income nation.
From restaurants, to stores, to apps and studios, we witnessed an entrepreneurial revolution. A revolution that is brilliantly articulated by Catherine Honeyman in her book the ‘Orderly Entrepreneur’.
Catherine discusses how Rwanda is pioneering a new approach to entrepreneurship. An approach that breaks stereotypical perceptions of entrepreneurs as extraordinary people, and replaces those perceptions by promoting ‘an ethos of self-reliance, that envisions the ideal citizen as a sort of orderly entrepreneur’.
Our up-coming photography book, ‘Beyond A Thousand Hills‘ will document a series of stories from the entrepreneurs that we met out in Rwanda. We’ll be exploring first hand what it takes to become an orderly entrepreneur as well as the impact from the collective power of a nation of entrepreneurs, united by a patriotic goal to develop their country.
Below shows a selection of some of the entrepreneurs we met out in Rwanda, we look forward to sharing their individual stories with the world!