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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog

#back-to-school, #artisans, #indegodiaries, #education, #inspiration

Entrepreneur Spotlights!

Many of our artisan partners are becoming entrepreneurs—pooling their resources (like income earned from Indego Africa orders!), getting creative, and using the knowledge and skills they have built in our education programs to start new businesses in their communities.

With myriad challenges facing entrepreneurs in Africa and across the developing world today—such as lack of access to capital and business training—we wanted to know how our partners are overcoming obstacles and generating economic growth in their communities. We were curious to hear how they are thinking about their businesses, products, and services and what they are doing to make their entrepreneurial endeavors a success.

Keep reading to see what they had to say and please consider contributing our Back-to-School Campaign to support education programs that are making entrepreneurship possible in Rwanda & Ghana! 

Felicité, Leadership Academy Graduate (Rwanda)

Owner of a clothing shop in Bugesera, Rwanda.

“I have a small shop where I sell clothes. I started the business in March 2015. Through Indego Africa orders, I was able to earn money that I saved up in my local community’s savings group and later I decided to invest it in my business. The Leadership Academy helped

me get the knowledge I needed to run my business. I learned how to source materials and how to record transactions

properly and to calculate profit and losses.

While at first I was just selling kitenge (traditional Rwandan women’s clothes) the items I offer have evolved over time. I now sell men’s clothes like shirts and trousers, and I keep increasing the inventory and the variety of products when I get extra income.

It’s important for me to keep evolving. In the future, I want to carry different household items because they are needed in my area and not many people sell them so I will be able to profit.”

Noah Opoku,

Basic Business Training Graduate (Ghana)

Sells handwoven slippers made from kente cloth

“I first learned how to weave from my brother, and I decided to start making woven shoes out of kente cloth. I design and make the shoes myself, and I try to make them different than the traditional slippers you might find at the market. For example, I make customized shoes with buyers’ names on them, which students love in particular. 

When I first wanted to start my business about a year ago, I faced some challenges. I did not have enough money to buy my raw materials in bulk and my skill of making kente slippers was not perfect, and thus I was slow and the quality of my work was not the best. But now, I have really improved and have begun using new strategies to make a profit.

The lessons I learned at Indego Africa’s Basic Business Training program were really helpful for me. Learning about quality control, samples, and customer requests has helped me package my products nicely so that my customers are satisfied with what they purchase from me. The program also helped me to be more innovative, and now I have added keychains and bracelets made from kente thread to my product line.

I also started adding pens as part of my product packaging and this makes people more interested in buying from me so that they can get a pen as a freebie. I opened an account on Facebook to help me with marketing my products.

In the next five years, I want my business to be well established with several branches in the region and across the entire country.

I would also like to train other people and employ them to work with me.”

Bahizi Emmanuel,

Technology Training for the Workplace Graduate (Rwanda)

Aspiring entrepreneur 

“I would like to start a catering

business. I grew up seeing my mother do that and it allowed her to pay for me to go to school. I want to start it because I have experience with this kind of business and have worked with my mother baking cakes and other kinds of food. Here in Kigali, we do not have a variety of restaurants downtown and people have to leave their offices for lunch, which can be difficult sometimes. My food would also always be fresh which is different from what many businesses serve. 

I can use the Technology Training for the Workplace skills I learned from Indego Africa to help me manage my business. I now know how to use MS Word and Excel to keep records of my business. I will use Word to write a business plan and Excel for projection calculations of future profits or losses. I can also use the PowerPoint skills to make presentations of my business to potential investors.

I think a successful business owner is a good planner, implementer and manager. He or she is the one who is able to attract clients, understand their needs, and deliver.”  

We are excited to see our partners using their education—whether it’s Basic Business Training, the Leadership Academy, Technology Training or another one of our programs—to start and grow new businesses in their communities. We love hearing what lessons stick with them the most and how they are using skills learned to be more strategic, innovative managers and business owners. 

As we seek to build more entrepreneurs and business leaders in communities across Rwanda and Ghana, we hope you’ll consider supporting our Back-to-School Campaign to keep our education programs going strong!

To donate, please click here

#indegodiaries, #inspiring

Creative Inspiration: What’s On Our Desks

Indego Africa was founded in 2007 with a simple idea: empower women artisans in Africa by showcasing their beautiful craft and investing in the power of education. We team up with groups of women in Rwanda and Ghana to sell products that are designed in NYC and handmade in Africa—combining traditional techniques, local materials and genuine artisanal skill—all with a creative voice of playfulness, an appreciation of color, and a desire to bring beauty into the world while uplifting communities at the same time. We invest all of our profits from sales, along with donations, into education programs for the artisans who handcraft our products. Our courses range from business management and entrepreneurship to leadership training, skills-based vocational education for younger women, and more!

originally posted on theoryofplace.com

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I love the mission of Indego Africa. Can you explain to readers why this purpose is important to the communities you work in? 

Our mission is to help women lift themselves and their families out of poverty, all while building the skills to grow their own businesses and become entrepreneurs. By working with us, women in Rwanda and Ghana are able to earn steady income which helps them support themselves and their families. When we first started, many of our artisan partners couldn’t afford basic necessities. Today, they are able to provide food, clothing, housing, and health insurance for their families, and send their children to school. 91% of our artisan partners are moms and they are passionate about educating their children—about helping them build brighter futures and achieve their dreams! This year, 92% of our artisan sent all or most of their children to school versus only 57% in 2008.

This year, 92% of our artisan sent all or most of their children to school.

Educating themselves is also very important to the women we work with. The vast majority (95%) of our artisan partners did not graduate from high school and many have struggled over the years to know how to manage their businesses or make them profitable. Our education programs help women develop the knowledge and skills needed to run an artisan business—like bookkeeping, invoicing, and budgeting—while also teaching them how to think bigger, tap into new markets, and create growth. Over the years, we have built out advanced business courses—like our Leadership Academy—that provide our partners with opportunities to take their education to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

What 3 major tips/advice would you give readers who want to become social entrepreneurs? 

Be prepared to work hard and, when you start to gain success, to work harder. Being an entrepreneur can be isolating, daily tasks can be mundane and big decision-making can be overwhelming. Combining all that with trying to balance a "social good" mission with profit-driven business norms can make your head spin. Sometimes the only way to get through the overwhelming to-do-lists of entrepreneurship is to put your head down and work hard. You may come out on the other end feeling just as overwhelmed, but you’ll also feel very productive. There's something comforting in that. 

Remember that if you are trying to grow a business, in most instances indecision is worse than an imperfect decision.

Trust your gut. Running a business is like parenting. Only you know what is best for your child or your business. Don't second guess yourself. And remember that if you are trying to grow a business, in most instances indecision is worse than an imperfect decision.

Don't forget to have fun and be proud of the work you do. After a long day or a challenging project, step away from the computer, pat yourself on the back for a moment, get some sleep and wake up reinvigorated. It’s okay to press pause every now and then to remember why you decided to do this work in the first place. 

Please tell us more about the impacts you've achieved and what readers can do to take action?  

When we first started, most of our artisan partners were earning 25 to 50 cents per day and struggling to make ends meet. This year, 89% of our partners earned more than $1.50 per day versus 2% in 2008! While we still have farther to go, this increase in income is contributing to healthier, happier families and communities across Rwanda and Ghana (more details in our 2016 Social Impact Report).

Further, our education programs are not only helping women better manage their businesses, but also promoting entrepreneurship and economic growth in their communities. For example, more than half of our Leadership Academy graduates have started own businesses so far, hiring 10 additional people—with more to come!

This year, we also started a new skills-based artisan Vocational Training program for young, unemployed women in Rwanda. The program gives them an opportunity to intern with our partner cooperatives, learn their artisan techniques, and also participate in our Basic Business Training program. Within six months, 100% of the participants were employed as artisans! It was amazing to see such a huge transformation in their lives, and we are excited to continue to grow this program in the future.

There are lots of ways for readers to take action and get involved with what we’re doing. You can shop our products, make a donation, join one of our Regional Boards (volunteer groups in cities across the country), or start by following us on social media and learning more about the amazing women we work with.

What is one item every social entrepreneur should have in their office/workspace?

An inspiration board, scrap book or box of things that triggers happiness, creativity and good thoughts. Photos, magazine clippings, quotes from books, trinkets from travels, past work products you are proud of—anything that can recharge your battery when you are running low. You don't have to stare at them everyday but have these collections handy to pull out when needed. I think it’s important to have something tactile (i.e. not electronic) to pick up when you are feeling uninspired. P.S. - Even if its a screen grab or something someone wrote you in an email, print it out so it feels less like online "clutter" and more like an important personal effect. 

#artisans, #indegodiaries, #inspiring, #education

Technology Training for the Workplace: Empowering Rwanda’s Youth

As technology spreads across the globe, it brings with it possibilities of innovation, economic growth, inclusion, and better quality of life.

Yet, in Rwanda, and across the developing world, many people lack the technological skills needed to participate in this increasingly digitized economy. Our new Technology Training for the Workplace (TTW) program in Rwanda was created to help close that gap.

 

Launched in June 2016, our TTW workshop provides young college graduates in Rwanda with technology training, job application guidance, and business soft skills, such as time management and office communication, to help them enter and succeed in the workforce.

The workshop focuses on college grads (unlike our other education programs!) because most job candidates need an advanced degree in order to be considered for office positions in Rwanda.

However, research by the OECD and The MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank shows that there is a pervasive “skills mismatch” between what young people learn in secondary schools and universities and the skills they need to participate in an increasingly digitized workforce. Many Rwandans remain stuck in low-paying jobs due to limited skills. 

As one TTW student, Doriane, said:

 “Nowadays, Rwandan youth are facing several challenges in finding jobs, but the biggest one is lack of experience. Most jobs available require skills and experience that we don’t have.” 

Our TTW Workshop provides young people with training in foundational computer skills and relevant software programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It also includes job application guidance, such as resume-writing, cover letters and interviews. 

Further, the program emphasizes training in business soft skills, which are critically important but often not taught. Lessons in time management, public speaking, project prioritizing, and office communication etiquette, among others, help to provide young people with a holistic introduction to the kinds of skills they will need in the workplace.

Out of 50 spots available in the first round of the workshop, more than 400 young people applied—a statistic which highlights the incredible need for these kinds of programs in Rwanda, where many college graduates remain persistently unemployed.

We are happy to report, however, that by the end of our first Technology Training for the Workplace workshop, almost one-fourth of the class had secured a job! Many students cited the resume and interview skills lessons as crucial in helping them navigate and excel in the job application process.

Moving forward, we’ll be staying in touch with our TTW graduates to find out how this program has impacted their experiences both in the job search and in the workplace. We’re excited to see these aspiring entrepreneurs, accountants, NGO leaders, and social change-makers put their knowledge into action—paving the way for generations to come.  

*We are eager to continue our Technology Training in the Workforce workshop to help young people enter and succeed in the workforce. However, in order to make this happen, we need your help! Please consider donating today to make a difference in the lives of youth in Rwanda.*  

Donate online here: https://indegoafrica.org/donate

#artisans, #indegodiaries, #handmade

Handspun with Heart in the Hills of Rwanda

Our 2016 Pre-Fall collection is here, featuring beautiful knits handspun with heart in the hills of Rwanda!

Our new line of hand-knit vests was made in partnership with Handspun Hope—a True Vineyards Ministries initiative that helps women in Musanze, Rwanda lift themselves out of poverty by spinning local sheep's wool into high-quality, 100 percent organic merino yarn.

Handspun Hope employs 44 women, most of whom are widows, who spin, dye, and knit locally-harvested sheep’s wool by hand at an artisan cooperative in Rwanda. The sheep are raised on a breathtaking farm, located nearby at the foot of Rwanda’s Virunga mountains. There, the sheep are cared for night and day by a devoted shepherd named Faustin.

Once every eight months, Faustin shears the sheep’s wool (a process that does not hurt the sheep in any way) and brings it to the artisans’ cooperative where the women turn it into yarn. First, they triple-wash it clean and pick out any grass or debris that may remain. They then de-tangle the wool, comb out the fibers, and feed them into a spinning wheel, making one ply of yarn at a time. 

Once the yarn is ready, the women dye it by hand using local plant, flower, and vegetable material—like eucalyptus leaves and onion skins—that they often pick on their way to work in the morning. The final result is soft, high-quality merino yarn that is naturally-made, beautifully-dyed, 100 percent organic, and eco-friendly from start to finish. 

We absolutely love the quality, texture, and rustic aesthetic of Handspun Hope’s yarn and are so excited to launch our new Pre-Fall collection, which features chunky knits, popcorn vests & more, all hand-spun, hand-dyed, and hand-knit by Handspun Hope’s artisans! 

We love supporting this organization which is not only changing women’s lives but creating 100 percent made-in-Rwanda products with a beautiful story behind every stitch.

To shop our Pre-Fall collection, click here.

#education, #indegodiaries, #inspiring, #back-to-school, #vocationaltraining

We’re Going Back-To-School!

At Indego Africa, we invest in the future by investing in education. Since 2007, we have been leading innovative business training programs for women artisans in Rwanda to help them grow and scale their businesses, become entrepreneurs, and drive sustainable development in their communities.

In 2016, we deepened and expanded our education programs, doubling down on the successes of our pre-existing programs—like Basic Business Training and the Leadership Academy—and launching groundbreaking new initiatives to empower youth. 

Our skills-based Vocational Training and Technology Training for the Workplace programs are transforming the landscape of opportunity for young people in Africa. 

While 0% of participants had a job at the start of our Vocational Training program, 100% became employed as artisans by the end. 

To sustain this momentum—and empower generations of Rwandans for years to come—we need your help!

From today through September 22nd, we will be running our third annual Back-to-School Campaign to raise support for our education programs in Rwanda & Ghana! We will be sharing inspiring stories, statistics, and updates over the next two weeks to show you how your support is creating life-changing opportunities for women and youth across Africa.

Click here to donate and make a difference today!