January 2, 2012
Written by: Anna-Lisa Bowans
As we wrap up 2012, we at Be! Fund are taking a few moments to reflect on all the work that our team and our entrepreneurs have achieved over the year. This year, we invested in 12 new entrepreneurs, including 9 women. Each of these women entrepreneurs came to us with a solid business idea that would solve a problem in her community and the daring to board the entrepreneurial roller coaster to success.
And really, 2012 has been an overwhelming success for our women entrepreneurs. Yellawa has now taken her specialty pickle business to scale and has created three jobs for young women from her Dalit community. She is a role model for local women proving that even the youngest can run their own successful and innovative businesses. Kavitha is an expert at making Jowar rotis (staple bread in North Karnataka). These rotis are in high demand in her area and she is supplying them to many hotels. Kavitha employs four women from the Dalit and Devadasi communities—empowering women from communities so bound by caste that women are rarely allowed to work outside their homes. Each woman earns Rs. 2,500 per month ($50) that they use to support the education and health of their families. Mageshwari harnesses the sun’s power to bring light to homes of her community and is a constant innovator—always developing products to meet the needs and pocketbooks of her customers. Her community faces constant power cuts, but now over 750 children study in tuition centers in 5 KGF villages every night by 60 solar lights made by Mageshwari. Mageshwari’s business has also helped more than 100 homes light up at night with solar energy.
As an early stage entrepreneur, there will certainly be challenges along the path to building a sustainable business. Jayanthi, who creates beautiful candles from recycled church wax, lives in a slum with contaminated water often making her daughters and mother fall sick. Lakshmi, who makes recycled paper bags, has had to take time off from her business to help her family through some legal troubles. Our women entrepreneurs constantly inspire us not because they don’t face challenges because they are able to build successful business in spite of them.
The stories of the positive impact of these businesses go on and on. This year’s women entrepreneurs span the age group from 20 to 35 years old; they received investments ranging from $560- $3,200; they live in urban slums and rural villages. Each business is unique to the woman running it and the community where she lives and the people she serves. But all of our women entrepreneurs have one thing in common—the commitment to establishing and running innovative businesses to solve problems in the communities where they live.