No matter the culture, the country, or the business sector, the entrepreneurial spirit is universal.
It is equal parts unbridled optimism, staunch determination, and sheer madness. On Wednesday September 14, 2016 we (Business Impact NW) were invited by the SBA to meet with eight women entrepreneurs from all over Africa to share our work through the Washington Women’s Business Center. I saw in the work and the passion of these women entrepreneurs each of these qualities exemplified. There is an implicit understanding that no one will love their business more than they do, there are no days off and there is nothing else they would rather do. Madness.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to these amazing women and share a little bit more about the businesses they own:
Ms. Fatima SAWADOGO ZOROM from Burkina Faso is the owner of Fat-Fat Creation, a company that manufactures home goods including bedspreads, tablecloths, and pillowcases. She employs 10 people and is a member of the ‘Association des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises du Burkina’. Ms. Sawadogo Zorom is also a Vice President of the AWEP Ouagadougou chapter.
Ms. Ange Noelle Muco MUYUBIRA from Burundi is the founder of Kaz’O’zah, a crafts-making social enterprise that employs and empowers vulnerable women. Kaz’O’zah Art allows Ms. Muyubira to mentor and empower others, using her business model to improve social conditions. Before founding Kaz’O’zah Art, she started Burundi Tours & Events, a local tour operator and event-planning company that handles the coordination of activities for numerous governmental, business, and individual groups. While managing these organizations, Ms. Muyubira maintains her status as a professionally trained legal interpreter.
Ms. Fatoumata Binta TONGUINO from Guinea began her career as a journalist at Evasion, a private Guinean radio station, and joined the AWEP Guinea chapter three years ago because of her interest in women’s entrepreneurship. When she was younger, Ms. Tonguino was interested in home décor, so she became an interior decorator and started offering her services throughout the city of Conakry, providing much of the Guinean public sector with home and office decoration. Ms. Tonguino acts as the office manager and supervisor of her business and employs 10 young women from different ethnic groups in Guinea. She teaches them the facets of interior design along with sound business principles and customer service skills. Ms. Tonguino works with AWEP Guinea as an export coordinator, handling the documentation, quality control, shipping, and payment during all food transactions between Guinea and other countries.
As Creative Director and founder of Niro Collection, Ms. Jacinta KIOKO from Kenya continues her passion to create and produce handmade artisan products that stem from her quest to represent African contemporary design. She uses culturally rooted skills and locally available resources to make her products. The philosophy of the Niro Collection revolves around people, and connecting innovative and beautifully designed functional products to those who share a passion for art and design. Ms. Kioko’s research and product development processes are based on an iterative approach that combines sketching, discussing and prototyping while utilizing traditional methods of design through technology. She has also lectured at the Technical University of Kenya, Nairobi and continues to provide quality control workshops to the young women at her workshop and on campus. She is also an active volunteer at Cultural Stopovers an initiative to make the variety and wealth of Nairobi’s cultural and artistic initiatives visible. Ms. Kioko collaborates with Kariobangi Women Promotion Training Institute in the development of their “tie and dye” art that is part of a product line carried by the Niro Collection.
Ms. Margaret KADI from Sierra Leone is an entrepreneur and owner of Pangea, a limited liability company which manufactures furniture, home décor, fashion accessories, handmade textiles using traditional gara and batik techniques, and other items. Ms. Kadi’s products cater to both domestic and potential export markets – she has a brick and mortar store in Freetown and displays goods at the Radisson Blu hotel in Freetown. In addition, she currently works on a small consignment of goods for stores in Nigeria and London.
Ms. Maisson Mohamed Zeinelabdien HASSAN from the Sudan is the CEO and founder of Fandora, a fashion company promoting locally-made goods using 100% Sudanese inputs. A social enterprise based in Khartoum, Sudan, it aims to conserve Sudanese culture, heritage, and the ancient legacy from old civilizations through the design of accessories (jewelry, shoes, and bags), blending authenticity and modernity. Ms. Hassan utilizes local materials including leather, sackcloth, wool, and sea shells to produce new designs every six months. Relying on her experience as an entrepreneur, she has supported and mentored those who have participated in her program to develop crafts and create their own businesses, contributing considerably to the emergence of woman and youth entrepreneurs.
Ms. Adjoavi Lenina CODJO from Côte d’Ivoire created her a boutique and brand, Ets Adjoa Sika na Mawu, selling fashionable clothing, accessories, and home décor items. While managing her own company, Ms. Codjo is the Marketing Assistant Manager for the company Grand Market Modern.
Ms. Hildigard MUFUKURE from Zimbabwe is the Director of the Lupane Women’s Centre (LWC), a craft making membership organization made up of rural women. The organization’s crafts are sold within Zimbabwe and beyond its borders to neighboring countries as well as in Europe and Australia. Their exportation of products to European countries is a testament to the quality crafts produced at the LWC; a quality which has come with years of experience, improved quality, and product range. As the Director of LWC, Ms. Mufukure promotes the organization’s strategic plans, financial planning and management and seeks markets for the Centre’s craft products. Located on the Bulawayo – Victoria Falls highway, the LWC is strategically positioned to attract tourists and has led to the Centre exporting its crafts outside Zimbabwe. However, LWC’s products have not yet gained a foothold in U.S. markets, which remains a goal of the organization. Ms. Mufukure is a leader in this organization that has women’s entrepreneurial skills at heart. The craft making wing of the LWC is run as a for-profit business in which women who make crafts retain 85 % of proceeds from sales of the craft with the remaining 15 % retained by LWC for social programs and not for profit projects that the Centre runs, including traditional weaving and programs for girls. As a business, the craft making arm of the LWC participates in Zimbabwe’s largest trade show, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) where it has won the prize for the best craft exhibition in the last two years.
We would like to extend a big thank you to the SBA for inviting us to meet this inspiring group of women who have shown us the power of putting your heart and soul into your entrepreneurial dreams. Through dedication, passion and a commitment to enriching their communities, these women inspire us to dream big, and give back.