Written by Devin Hibbard
Co-Founder and CEO, BeadforLife and the Street Business School
Can a business school help one million women in the developing world lift themselves out of poverty? The Street Business School, a tested and effective entrepreneurial training program in East Africa, plans to do just that.
Eleven years ago, three American women with no business training started BeadforLife, a fair trade organization in Uganda that paid women living in poverty to make colorful earrings, necklaces and bracelets out of recycled paper. On the surface, that sounds just like many other social-venture creation stories. What makes BeadforLife's story unique is that these founders knew from the beginning that they didn't want these jewelry-makers to become dependent on them or the organization for their future economic well-being.
What if paper beads stopped being fashionable and marketable? What if the organization had to leave Uganda for some reason? What if the skills these women were gaining were insufficient to allow them to be remain financially independent?
Entrepreneurship was the answer. As soon as a woman enrolled in the bead-making program, she started getting trained to create a business that would be sustainable in the local economy. The program was called Beads to Business -- something the founders thought of as "transformational trade."
Read more from Hibbard here on Street Business School and BeadsforLife