Hard Work and Hustle: The Necessity Entrepreneurs

Hard Work and Hustle: The Necessity Entrepreneurs

Hard Work and Hustle: The Necessity Entrepreneurs

When I say the word “Entrepreneur,” who do you think of?  The image in my mind is a guy, in high tech, with the initials MBA behind his name! You know… those risk takers with access to loads of capital and who are working toward scaling their ideas into multi-million dollar firms.

I’m guessing that very few of us conjure an image of a woman, and certainly not an African woman running a small street side business. And although I am an entrepreneur, who grew BeadforLife into a million dollar business, for years I never identified with the word, and I know many, many others (including SBS clients and organizational partners) who are running successful non-profits or small businesses, who don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs either.

What is an Entrepreneur?

I think it is time to reclaim the term Entrepreneur, because at the end of the day, women living in poverty make the very best entrepreneurs. A true entrepreneur is any individual who is willing to launch a new venture and accept full responsibility for the outcome, and has the motivation, drive, hustle and desire to do whatever it takes to make it work.

At SBS, we see these entrepreneurial characteristics every day, in the women who are leaving poverty behind by building successful, sustainable small businesses. They are “necessity” entrepreneurs, with really no other choice but to create opportunity so they can feed their children, support their families and lift themselves out of extreme poverty. And believe me, when you are doing something so you can feed your kid that night, you will do whatever it takes to make it work!

The entrepreneurial mindset is also something that is desperately needed in Africa.  According to McKinsey, “By 2022, Africa will add another 122 million workers, but only 54 million new jobs.” For most of these young people, creating a livelihood in the informal sector will be the only way to support themselves. I’m really proud that our proven SBS social franchising model is perfectly positioned to share and scale entrepreneurial training to help lift more women out of poverty than ever before by providing them with a way to make a sustainable living.

Women have hustle.

And these women have hustle. At SBS, we see them working from sunup until sundown, taking advantage of every opportunity. The desire to succeed and build a future for themselves and their families propels them to think outside the box, do whatever it takes, and make it happen. These are women like Mary Naiga.

I first met Mary in 2005, when BeadforLife partnered with a local HIV clinic near Kampala. Mary had contracted AIDS through her husband, who abandoned her, at age 25, with three small children. Mary and her kids lived in a 4-by-7-foot shanty, and she earned the little bit she could by carrying a plastic basin down the street and begging her neighbors to let her do their laundry. She earned enough for only a single meal — more often than not only enough for her children. And while Mary had access to life-saving AIDS drugs through the clinic, she refused. She had heard that the drugs would increase her appetite and wanted to make sure she had enough food for her children.

Mary and Street Business School

When introduced to BeadforLife & Street Business School, Mary saw the opportunity to escape poverty and worked as hard as she could. She saved her money and started a small business, growing that over time into several other businesses. Today Mary has transformed her life. She takes AIDS drugs and her health has improved dramatically. She built a new brick home on three acres of land, and started her own farm, where she has three employees growing cash crops including corn and sweet potatoes, which she sells in the local market to add to her growing income. Mary took every opportunity that she was given and can now put food on the table, send her kids to school and think about what’s next.

I have Mary’s old plastic wash basin sitting in my office and I look at it every day. To me, this basin serves as a reminder of the importance of what we do at SBS—reclaiming the mantle of Entrepreneur and giving it back to the women who really earn it through hard work and hustle.

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