The freedom of speech is one of our utmost rights in the U.S. – one that we often take for granted. Rubens Mukunzi grew up in Rwanda during one of the worst genocides in world history, and decided to use his passion for journalism to try and shine a positive light during an incredibly dark time. He started a newsletter and later a radio show while he was in high school, but the conditions in his home country were not safe for him to pursue his dream of starting his own newspaper.
Rubens came to Buffalo in 2013, and two years later, Karibu News was born. The newspaper focuses on the refugee and immigrant communities in Buffalo, and is available in several different languages.
Last year, he decided to apply to THE PITCH Business Plan Competition to further fund Karibu News and grow his team. Rubens was the $10,000 grand prize winner of THE PITCH, allowing him to expand production of the newspaper to reach thousands of readers each week.
Learn more about Rubens’ motivation to keep his journalistic dreams alive, and the impact he’s made on the immigrants and refugees of Buffalo by giving them a voice.
How did your startup, well, start up?
I started Karibu News in July 2015 with two employees and myself as the founder and publisher. Karibu is a Swahili word that means “welcome.” When I started, I had a little money on my pocket and a small loan from WEDI (Westminster Economic Development Initiative). The beginning was very hard as a refugee starting a business in Buffalo.
What do you do? Your startup?
Karibu News is a multilingual, immigrant and refugee-focused newspaper located in the West Side neighborhood of Buffalo. Its objective is to integrate the refugee and immigrant communities with the local community, as well as educate and inform locals about the cultural and religious backgrounds and lifestyles of dozens of ethnic groups living in WNY.
When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?
When I realized that Buffalo is a city that is welcoming of diversity and when I discovered that there are no multilingual and multicultural newspapers in the area.
What tools can you not live without and why?
My phone, laptop, and my car because I always need to be connected with those that help me run my business. This helps me communicate with others and makes life much easier.
What was some important advice you received when starting up and who told it to you?
Never give up or let people discourage you, keep moving on and working hard, and building trust is the most important thing. I was told this by my advisor, John McKeone.
What has been the best part/worst part of your journey as a founder?
The best part was being able to start a newspaper after only 2 years living in this country. The worst was starting without enough capital to hire and invest in my business.
Goals for the next year? Three years?
Next year, I am planning to keep expanding my business by reaching other cities and having more channels, such as a TV program. In three years, I will have a multicultural and multilingual radio station broadcasting in the area.
Because it’s a welcoming city for refugees and immigrants. I love Buffalo.
How do you do it? What drives you?
I love what I do and I’m very passionate in doing journalism. I love to serve my community and let people feel more at home.
For even more about Rubens and Karibu News, check out his episode on our Latitude podcast!
And if you’re part of a minority or woman-owned business in Erie County, THE PITCH is back with $50,000 in cash prizes! Apply by September 1 at 12pm at this link.