Business lessons come from everywhere - from mom-and-pop companies and trendy tech startups to non-profit organizations and global conglomerates. Some powerful lessons can even come from single moms living on less than, in some cases, 50 cents a day in Uganda, Africa.
BeadforLife is a non-profit, fair-trade organization that creates sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty. One of the many parts of their program is teaching these women to make products, like bracelets, necklaces and more (like those pictured below).
Another program aspect is the how to conduct market research. This knowledge helped "beader" Teddy Namuyiga expand her opportunities beyond Bead4Life to help support her three children, one with special needs. After joining the organization, Teddy was able to save enough money - after living in extreme poverty for years - to invest in a cow in just three months. From there, she used her market research to identify a need in her community. She kept saving and was able to invest in a large water tank. Prior, there was no water in her neighborhood, it was being collected a long distance away so she bought a tank that she fills with a truck that distributes water and later she got piped water. Addressing customers in a humble and friendly way has helped her get good prices for her water, chickens and pigs.
Diversifying helps her balance losses and profits. In a case where one business is down she can always earn from another. Teddy has several businesses that have increased her income. When she sold her chickens, she had her piggery project and water to fall back on.
During the rainy season she doesn't sell that much water but is able to manage with the other businesses. As one might imagine, Teddy faces unique challenges as a woman business owner in Uganda. Teddy feels more vulnerable to theft/robbery. She says she is always in constant fear her chickens will be stolen as men would take advantage of that since she is a woman. Like working mothers worldwide, it is also a challenge for her to balance family needs and business.
Teddy is serving as an inspiration for many though. When Teddy came to the United States for the first time as part of Bead4Life's Opportunity Tour, she inspired an 8-year-old named Emma. After meeting Teddy and another beader, Emma wanted to sell more at her bead parties to help more women. One year later, she is still doing parties and taking the beads to shows at just 8 years old.
"I think Bead for Life teaches Emma that she can make a difference," said Kathy Cramer, Emma's mother. "Not only in the Ugandan women's lives but in her own life as well. Bead4Life doesn't just teach women to make the beads, they teach them to be self-sufficient and Teddy has proven that it works!"
For more information, check out the program's timeline below:
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