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Rusia Orikiriza; Paper maker

By Agnes E. Nantaba

Growing up in a poor family forced Rusia Orikiriza to work hard at an early age. Sometime back when the government imposed a ban on the importation, sale and manufacture of plastic bags, she saw an opportunity in recycling agricultural waste to make paper bags as an alternative. While the world’s paper bag industry uses wood-based paper, Oribags Innovations, her company, makes bags from traditional materials like banana fiber and cotton waste.  Orikiriza founded Oribags Innovations with capital of $300, which was largely generated from her previous jewelry business.

“For over two years, I operated with no profits and I had to struggle to maintain the business,” said Orikiriza. She has since won several awards for her efforts including the 2009 Rising Star Award from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Young Achievers Award (Business and Trade) for her innovation.

Success tips; start small, appreciate networking

Six years down the road, Orikiriza has learnt a lot in terms of business management.  “To start a business, you begin with what you have as you appreciate that mentoring and networking are vital, but also, it is better to start small. The skills you develop as you overcome the challenges of growing your business are priceless,” she says. She notes that there are enormous indigenous opportunities in the communities that can change people’s lives especially women. Her vision is to see Oribags become the leading producer of environmentally-friendly products and services in East Africa by 2020, a dream she has started realizing with the growing market.

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