From Forbes Magazine, writer Carol Hymowitz tells us more about the selection process. The jewelry made by these women can be purchased at the Bead For Life website, you can also look for information on how to sell the jewelry yourself.
The nonprofit, like many international aid organizations, understands that one of the best ways to alleviate poverty in developing nations is to help women become entrepreneurs whose incomes can lift the entire family's standard of living. But BeadforLife, which was founded six years ago, also has learned that some women are far more adept at running businesses than others, and that it must identify early on those most likely to succeed if it wants to achieve good results. The group has created an 18-month entrepreneurial program that targets women who are ambitious and innovative and helps them launch profitable ventures.
"Instead of just doling out money, we want to identify women who can use the bead-making skills we teach as a stepping stone to do something more," says Torkin Wakefield, co-executive director of BeadforLife.
Most of the women BeadforLife works with have never held a steady job, had a bank account or completed grammar school. Some have AIDS, malaria or other debilitating diseases, and many have several young children who depend on their care. "We are working with the poorest of the poor," says Rashmi Nakhooda, coordinator of the entrepreneurial program.
But their chances of success depend on the same traits as entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or Shanghai, Nakhooda adds, namely "having a dream, a focus and being extremely hard-working."
When 96 women showed up for a recent orientation workshop the nonprofit had publicized, they were first given an arithmetic test. "If they can't do simple addition, they can easily incur a loss and not even realize it," says Nakhooda. The test was the simplest hurdle, however. Those who passed were interviewed over the course of several days about their experience, about how they handle conflicts, (such as sorting out quarrels with children) and how they've made life choices. Each was also asked to describe her business goals and how she aimed to achieve them.
"One woman had no idea why she was at the workshop, so we ruled her out. But another who couldn't walk, who was in a wheelchair, was determined to find a way to earn money, so we asked her to stay" says Nakhooda, who moved to Uganda from India 14 years ago and used to teach in a Kampala business school. Over three days, the group of 96 was winnowed down to 50 women.