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Up Close & Indego

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The Art of The Stitch

On Thursday, June 19th we’re celebrating the art of the stitch – and you’re invited! As you may have noticed by now, we are obsessed with the beautiful hand-embroidery of IBABA – a cooperative of 28 women artisans in Rutongo, Rwanda.

The women of this area initially learned the art of embroidery in the 1970s from a group of Belgian nuns that, eager to provide young women with a source of income, established an embroidery training center and workshop there. For years, the workshop flourished, at one point employing over 300 women artisans. However, its success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide ravaged life in the region and forced the cooperative to disband.

In 2012, the Rutongo embroidery workshop opened its doors again and we could not be happier that it did. Under the leadership of two passionate and determined French sisters, Véronique and Pascale, the workshop – now known as IBABA – is back and better than ever.

The ladies of IBABA can hand-embroider anything – and we mean ANYTHING. It all starts with a design – be it a flamingo, flower, or feather – which the artisans lightly sketch on Belgian linen secured in an embroidery hoop. Once the threads are chosen, the long & complex process of tightly stitching them together begins. It requires an immense degree of focus, precision, and skill, and the finished products are often so good, they appear to be screen-printed! 

We are consistently amazed by the intricate and vibrant work from IBABA – so much so that we chose to put a frame on it! On June 19th we will be celebrating the launch of our framed embroidery collection at the William Holman Gallery in NYC (65 Ludlow St) from 6-9 PM. Come revel in the art of the stitch with us – tickets available here

#artisans, #education, #inspiration, #leadership academy, #impact

so you want to be an entrepreneur

So you want to be an entrepreneur…

How do you do it?

We recently collaborated with Duterimbere – a Rwandan NGO that promotes female entrepreneurship – to address that very question.

Since partnering with us, many women are now earning enough money not only to support themselves and their families, but also to invest in entrepreneurial and income-generating projects of their own (for more information see our 2013 Social Impact Report).

However, building a successful business is no easy feat, and in recent feedback, our artisan partners asked for help in learning the tools of the entrepreneurship trade. So when our Rwanda Country Director met representatives from Duterimbere in Kigali, we knew we had found just the right people for the job.

Duterimbere seeks to integrate women into economic development by stimulating female entrepreneurship and providing education and resources regarding savings, loans, and economic rights. We partnered with them to provide an interactive 5-day workshop for 30 of our artisan partners, addressing the fundamental question: just how do you start and run a successful business?

What we love about Duterimbere’s approach (among many things) is their focus on real-life examples and open discussion. This ensures that workshops serve as useful and practical lessons, rather than abstract thought exercises. In that vein, they kicked off their first session by posing the following questions:

  • how can you be an entrepreneur and also work at your cooperative?
  • what are the challenges that entrepreneurs face?

  • how can you overcome these challenges?  
  • what are the opportunities that entrepreneurs have in Rwanda?

With these questions as a driving framework, participants spent the next four days learning the ins and outs of business creation and management. They worked in small groups to create mock budgets and business plans; heard real-life examples about the value of saving money; and even met with a representative of a local microfinance institution to talk about why and how to take out loans. Participants walked out of the final session feeling well-informed and enthused about taking their cooperatives and outside businesses (+business ideas!) to the next level.

We were thrilled about the outcome of this workshop, particularly because its format closely mirrors that of our soon-to-be-launched Leadership Academy, which will provide advanced business training to emerging artisan leaders through bi-weekly training sessions over six-month cycles. Through this program, women will develop the knowledge and skills they need to flourish as entrepreneurs, drive economic growth at their cooperatives, and become engines of change in their communities. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting initiative!