Boshirwa Melchisedeck

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda, the Burundian lady who makes handcrafts from water hycinth

Kathia Gretta in won Boss Lady Challenge competition organized by Econet Wireless

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda is valiantly forging her way into entrepreneurship. After winning the “Boss Lady Challenge” competition organized by Econet Wireless, she right away set up her own company Hycinth Art House. Her company is fully involved in the transformation of water hyacinth into various products such as placemats, baskets, desk organizers, and vases. Kathia Gretta plans also to start producing chairs and tables soon.

Miss Kathia Gretta Iradukunda had had the idea of ​​starting her own business since 2019. But she did not want to reveal it to anyone. She had only told one of her friends about it. In December 2019, when BujaHub organized the first edition of Women Entrepreneurs Circle, she thought it was a training. But when the session begins and each participant present what she does, she was obliged to reveal her entrepreneurial idea. “I was a scaredy-cat, I who hadn't started yet. However, I dared to share my idea for the first time,” she reveals.

Kathia Gretta 's company's products

From water hyacinth to entrepreneurial opportunity

Passionate about entrepreneurship, Kathia Gretta used to participate in training sessions about entrepreneurship and leadership when she was still a student in Public Health at the Light University of Bujumbura. This is how she will find herself in a WhatsApp group named Burundi Awaken Youth where they shared entrepreneurship ideas. “One day one of the group members talked about how we can make sanitary napkins from water hyacinth. I was blown away how a harmful plant like the water hyacinth could really be useful. I started to do research. I couldn't manage to find anything about sanitary napkins. However, I discovered that we could weave. Suddenly, I liked this”, she tells.

Kathia Gretta 's company's products

In March 2020, Kathia Gretta was lucky to take part in the Boss Lady Challenge competition organized by Econet Wireless. “I participated in the competition and I won BIF 2,500,000. This helped me to create my company Hyacinth Art House which focuses on the transformation of water hyacinth. My main objective is to contribute to the protection of rivers and lakes, in particular Lake Tanganyika since the hyacinth is very harmful and proliferating. If we let it multiply without finding solutions, we will think of it whilst it will be too late,” she says.
At the time she created her company, Kathia Gretta faced quite a few challenges, especially the lack of local artisans who could weave the hyacinth. “I was even lured twice. I placed an order against payment of an advance but the order was never made. This is how I decided to work in collaboration with well-organized cooperatives”.
She adds, “today I work mainly with a cooperative in Bubanza. But, here too, we come up against the cramped space for drying. Fortunately, I had the support of the environmental activist Albert Mbonerane and the « Cercle Hyppique »committee of Bujumbura who lent me a large space”.

Kathia Gretta 's company's products

And now, she’s proud!

Nowadays, Kathia Gretta is proud. “There is a big change. Previously, my business had not yet found its shape and the beauty of the products was not really appealing. We had not found salable prototypes yet. But now, we’ve started selling our products,” she rejoices.
Kathia Gretta's company produces placemats, baskets, desk organizers, and vases. Very soon, chairs, tables are going to be produced too. Most of the customers are more young people and especially Burundians living abroad. "We also hope to interest hotels, houses decoration, companies, ... »
Kathia Gretta advises young people, especially girls, to train themselves in entrepreneurship by participating in conferences to benefit from the experience of others. « Don’t be afraid to share your idea without and never be ashamed to tell your challenges. That's how you're going to find people who can support you. Finally, you have to participate in competitions because it allows you to  enrich your ideas. Above all, never give up, never get discouraged. »
The Hyacinth Art House company is located in Bujumbura at « Cercle Hippique.”.

Kathia Gretta and her friend looking for hyacinth at the banks of Lake Tanganyika
Kathia Gretta 's company's products 3

For your information

Second child in a family of five children including three girls and two sons, Kathia Gretta Iradukunda was born and grew up in the town of Gitega. She studied at the International School of Gitega before going on her studies in public health at the Light University of Bujumbura. She was part of the children journalists’ program of UNICEF Burundi. Among her favorite extracurricular activities were traditional dancing and singing in the choir. She is now an eco-entrepreneur. She is also a social entrepreneur in the field of protection and promotion of children's rights.

Kathia Gretta in won Boss Lady Challenge competition organized by Econet Wireless
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