Since obtaining the results of our pioneer program and realizing just how far our participants have come, I realized it is high time to turn the new knowledge and skills the ladies have learned into action. When I arrived the energy was still high, and women happily gathered together to create and share their stories with me. But as time went on, it was apparent that many of them were losing luster- what was it they were creating for? I saw this as the perfect opportunity to hold a meeting about business and marketing to help them answer that question for themselves. I grouped the team leaders together and on a Saturday morning we got down to business.
We laid out the important questions – what is the ultimate goal of the center? How do you see it functioning? The answers were fantastic – these ladies see The Glow Effect Center as evolving into the largest trading and learning center outside of Masaka, generating employment and interest from outside the community. They see it as a hub where all are welcome to learn and create, including the disabled. Because the center will be met with much success, the trained will become employees and employees will generate further revenue, which will further improve the capacity of the center as an artisan cooperative, an organic market, a fashionable salon and a tailoring shop. As they envision it, all of these factions can work together to hold community events, such as weddings and other celebrations.
As they were telling me about all of these fantastic goals, I saw the possibility in all of them, and I saw the possibility in most of them, right now. We narrowed down everything they can start marketing right now and talked about how we can do that. Hats, bags, a few hairstyles, some crops, mending services… Enough to start generating interest and income. What are our target markets? As of now, the village and others in close proximity. Mostly women, with children. How do we reach them? Spread the word, take the products to a market, create a place where products can be sold on site. As the women participated in this meeting I could see their eyes light up with new possibility. Though they had been practicing new skills and producing products, even selling a few from time to time, and telling me that one can start a business with whatever they had, they hand’t really envisioned that that could apply to them, at this very moment.
The next day we cleared out the dusty storage office and the gritty practice salon and made it presentable. It was a days work, cleaning every surface of every item, throwing out old trash, rearranging furniture and making room for products. It was a cathartic experience as all deep cleans are, and as the office turned from dusty storage unit to boutique and the salon was organized and began to sparkle, we knew we were closer to our goal.
I had done what I could do incite enthusiasm and encourage entrepreneurship, but it was time for the team leaders to gather their groups to talk about what steps they would take to turn their hobby into a business. This is a meeting I would be witness to but not be a part of. In development we are not here to dictate, we are here to guide. We are tending to a garden of growth, watering it with encouragement, pruning it with direction, weeding it to dispel notions we know won’t work, but the garden will grow on its own and sometimes it is best left alone to flourish until it needs our attention again.
The ladies self organized and created a game plan. For hours, they sat, brainstorming, having diplomatic discussions about the best way to go forward. I sat back, listening to them in their local language and beaming with pride. Though I didn’t understand the words I understood that they were full of self expression, full of confidence and full of leadership- all qualities they had learned were inside of themselves in the last few months of the program, and I knew they have what it takes to be successful.
In the end they decided to focus on one item or one skill for the month, then they would regroup and talk about how it went and how they will go forward. Since the meeting, the ladies now flock to the center with purpose. They are industrious with competition though are still having fun. The hairstylists plait hair while the one being plaited makes a hat. The tailoring group is busy stitching and restitching and has new focus. They are showing up on time and their work has new meaning, and I can’t help but sense success is around the corner waiting for them.
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