Alexander Bell Nshimiyimana—Designer—Entrepreneur

Alexander Bell Nshimiyimana

Kimironko Market—Kigali, Rwanda

Alexander grew up at his mother’s shop in Kimironko Market surrounded by beautiful fabrics and the whir of sewing machines. At first, Alexander was bored at the market and disliked being there. Nonetheless, throughout the years, Alexander couldn’t help but be curious.

He soon taught himself how to use the traditional sewing machine, sitting at tailor’s tables when they would leave for a few minutes. At the beginning, it was just a joke, for fun. One day after school, Alexander was playing with friends when he realized he had ripped his pants. Alexander was ashamed and too scared to show his mother. He went to a tailor he knew well and asked for help to fix the pants.

The man, a family friend, was going to charge him 50 francs for fixing the pants,
but at 10 years old Alexander didn’t have 50 francs (equivalent of 5 cents USD). Instead, he waited for the tailor to leave and sat at the machine and fixed the pants himself.
In the months and years following, Alexander began spending more time running around the market exploring new ways to get involved. He started by collecting small scraps of ibitenge (African fabric), sewing them together to make small purses, wallets, and bow ties. When tailors in the market discovered that Alexander knew how to sew they would hire him to sew 10 bow ties for 100 francs. This was exciting for Alexander, who was in fourth grade at this point. He could go to the tea shop to buy a small mandazi (doughnut) and show off to his friends that he
was making money.

Soon, Alexander was making large quantities of small accessories to sell to local shop keepers. As he increased the volume of products he could sew, Alex used the profits to go to and from secondary school in Ngororero and Nyaruguru Districts.
Even though secondary school took Alexander away from Kigali, he used his vacation time to design new outfits and improve his skills. He started bringing new styles to wear on the weekends at his school. He first was well known for patchwork print pants and even teachers started asking Alexander to make them clothes. Suddenly, Alexander had become a fashion mogul.

His promising small business venture took off in 2014, when he met Peace Corps Volunteers working at his school in Southern Rwanda. That year, Alexander was invited to participate in BE (boys excelling) Camp in the Southern Province. This leadership camp is an annual program directed by Peace Corps Volunteers in each province of Rwanda. For the next two years, he attended the camp as a student.

After graduating, he returned as a guest speaker in the career panel at the 2017 BE Camp. Alexander credits much of his success and self-discipline to what he learned at BE Camp. He feels incredibly thankful for the friendships and encouragement from the Peace Corps Rwanda community. Today, Alexander continues to push the limits of design. This inspiring young designer and clever entrepreneur is bound for greatness.

Alexander in a maroon patterned bomber

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