Happy 20th Birthday Street Business School!

Happy 20th Birthday Street Business School!

On April 9th we will celebrate 20 years of amazing work, opportunities and challenges, and so much success.   For this milestone, we are delighted to share the memories and perspective of our Co-Founder, Torkin Wakefield.

From an Intention…..

In January 2004 I spent an afternoon with my dear friend, Ginny Jordan, and my adult daughter, Devin Hibbard, who had gathered to wish me well in my move to Uganda.  My husband, Charles, an AIDS doctor, had accepted a position to work in Kampala, Uganda and we were leaving soon for him to take up his post.  I didn’t know what I would do during this time, but I was sure I could find something.  As the three of us sat together, we talked about doing something together that could be helpful in Uganda.  Perhaps I could keep my eyes open for an opportunity that we could collaborate on.  We lit a candle to signal our intention and a few days later I was off to Uganda.

To an Opportunity….

On April 9th, 2004, we met our destiny in the form of Millie Grace Akena, who was sitting on a dusty path near her home quietly making paper beads.   She and her four daughters were living in abject poverty, having been chased from their village in northern Uganda by a rebel army.  Millie told us that she worked in a rock quarry for a dollar a day. With that, she could feed her children green bananas.  

To boost her a bit we each bought several of Millie’s necklaces.  That was the beginning of BeadforLife, which over these 20 years has become Street Business School. In the early years, we experimented with a variety of poverty eradication strategies including:

  • Supporting girls’ education.
  • Supporting vocational training for unemployed youth.
  • Building “Friendship Village,” a community of 134 homes all owned by women who had been in our bead-making program.
  • Developing entrepreneurial training for women.

To a Focus….

Over time we realized to increase our impact that we needed to focus; we gradually finished up our other endeavors and leaned into entrepreneurial training…our Street Business School.  Over the past decade, we have created a world-class entrepreneurial curriculum and school.

Once we had a proven curriculum and dynamic teaching methodology, we developed strategies to further our impact. Currently, we have partnered with over 270 organizations that have taken the SBS curriculum to their communities.   These non-profits are in 35 different countries!

To a Movement….

Our primary goal to empower women to raise themselves out of poverty has not changed throughout our evolution.  For the past 20 years, we have been working tirelessly to help women especially, and also men, leave generational poverty behind.  We have grown in ways that we never could have dreamed of.  I know that when we lit that candle 20 years ago, we did look into the future and could feel you and so many others who have become the Street Business School Family.   We thought about the unseen co-workers and families we would eventually reach.

Let’s APPRECIATE and CELEBRATE the Street Business School Family which has made SBS what it is!  Everyone’s hard work is so appreciated!

Our SBS Family: 
Our 20,000 Bead Party hosts and all their guests (probably hundreds of thousands of people).
The young people we sent to school or training, now nurses, computer programmers, shopkeepers, hair stylists etc.
The volunteers on three continents who helped with the beads, fundraisers, legal matters, and countless other activities.
The 1,000 people who live in Friendship Village.
All the women, men and their children we work with.
Our large and small partners in 35 countries that are now incorporating SBS into their own programs.
Our staff members over the 20 years, each one in their own time putting their shoulder to the wheel.  
Members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board.  
Our enthusiastic, generous donors, supporters and friends who make our work possible.

And let us be grateful for all the unseen miracles that happen beyond our knowing, spreading ripples of goodness and success at leaving poverty in the dust, which is where this story started 20 years ago. While we have changed how we go about eradicating poverty over these exciting and challenging 20 years, our values have not changed.  Here they are proudly claimed by SBS.

What a privilege to have been able to do this work together. CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY STREET BUSINESS SCHOOL!  I can’t wait to see what we will do in the next 20 years!

Torkin Wakefield,

Co-Founder and Board Member, Street Business School


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