Yvonne, the Entrepreneur

Yesterday I arrived at the Chikondi Community Center a bit earlier than usual. The sewing room was empty, the morning air cool. I was headed to the office to sort a bit in preparation for the day’s product workshop ahead, but right as I turned away from the sewing room, I heard one of the ladies, Yvonne, call my name. “Amy!” she exclaimed with a huge smile on her face, toddler strapped to her back with her sewing materials in hand. She went on, “My business is doing very good!” I thought that tidbit was enough to warm my soul on a cool Monday, especially since I’ve come to realize that it takes quite a lot for women to open up to me about their daily lives- a cultural norm. Women are encouraged to just go with the flow and keep their opinions to themselves. But I lingered for another minute to see if Yvonne wanted to share more. And she did.

“It is because of the business plan! I now know how to make a profit!” She goes on to tell me how she’s growing her business because of her microloan and her business education classes. She used the capital to build a small shop outside her home. With an incredible joy across her face she tells me what she’s selling there- sugar, sweeties (candies), charcoal, even bubblegum! She built her stand with her own hands, put to practice what she learned, and is reaping the reward of a successful business.

So naturally I wondered, what is she doing with the profits? The true test to see if the 6-hour seminar I taught last week made a lasting difference (because admittedly, I returned home feeling like I failed to communicate much of anything).

And I was bursting at the seams with her response. She invested profits back into her business and purchased materials to start a popular popcorn business at her stand. She’s diversifying her product offerings based on what her target customer wants. How incredible!

Yvonne grew up in some difficult circumstances, which prevented her from completing a secondary education. But she didn’t let that be the end of her story. She taught herself English, and how to read and write. And she’s soared in our skills training class as a passionate and skilled designer, seamstress, and now entrepreneur. Yvonne is writing a new story for herself and her family through our program, and we are so inspired by her.

Zambia may be full of obstacles and setbacks, especially for vulnerable women and children, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Opportunity is knocking. People are capable and eager. And education truly is a weapon that can be used to change the world, one stitch at a time.

Thanks for joining us. You are making a difference. With Chikondi, Amy