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Bead for Life Participant: Don’t Keep Your Money, Invest It

A co-founder of Bead for Life and its participants talk about the business training program.

In 2009, the PBS NewsHour profiled a group, Bead for Life, that trained Ugandan women to start businesses by rolling beads made of recycled paper and selling them as necklaces and bracelets.

The women not only learned the craft of bead-making but also were enrolled in an 18-month-course covering business basics, such as bookkeeping, customer service and marketing.

Last year, the Boulder, Colo.-based Bead for Life went even further and opened the Street Business School — separating the business training from bead-making in order to reach more women, according to executive director and co-founder Devin Hibbard. “We feel that our core strength is offering entrepreneurial training to help women take small businesses, or not [yet] existing businesses, and scale them up. The training that we provide in the 18-month model is terrific, but we’re limited in the number people that we can serve by the beads that we sell.”

One of the graduates of that training is Grace Teddy Namuyiga. She started with a small chicken farm and now owns four small businesses in Nabbingo, a town in central Uganda. She shares what she learned, and the hurdles she overcame, with current students at the business school. “I always tell them to first make a market research. Businesses differ from the locality. So, it’s not necessarily farming. After that, you start the business, slowly with the little money you have.”

That mentorship is invaluable, said Hibbard. “There’s something about having someone who’s coming and encouraging you, and supporting you, that is transformative to women. They know that in a couple weeks, they’re going to meet with their coach and say, ‘here’s what I’ve done or haven’t done.'”

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