W.I.H. is a socially responsible organization that offers a wide range of gifts, handmade,
fair-trade, eco jewelry and accessories from international and local artisans. Our
products are bold, well-traveled, a fusion of cultures and mixed media styles, from
East Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Our customer is a person eager to
try new styles, learn about other countries, cultures, an international traveler at
heart, and a person willing to "vote" with their financial power, spending their money
according to their life values. By buying these products, an entrepreneur in the community
is supported in achieving their dreams.
How it all started: My roommate and best friend inspired me to go to Rwanda in 2008
and work in an UNDESA project, managing databases containing HIV patients' health
data. In Rwanda, I was so fortunate to meet a group of women artisans, some living
with HIV, as one of the horrible consequences of surviving the horrific 1994 genocide
against the Tutsi.
These strong entrepreneur women were able to support themselves only from their handcrafts
income, and send their four or five children to school, and feed a whole family. Their
resilience, inner peace and faith that their hard work would pay off, inspired me
to bring their crafts to the United States, in order to increase their market and
global exposure, and to reaffirm that their work-ethic, patience and faith really
does pay off. That's how I started my art and entrepreneurship project, and I am proud
to say that it is growing stronger each day, empowering women worldwide and creating
international collaborations between artists, through the use of technology. With
access to Internet, the world became much smaller and accessible.
Through my experience with entrepreneurship, and having a Masters in Business, I also
had the honor to coach refugee women through a local organization, and I proudly served
as an AmeriCorps fellow, in my community, in Washtenaw County. I am happy to support
these refugee women's dreams and guide them to the amazing resources I discovered,
through my own entrepreneurship journey.
What drives you to be a business owner?
My motivation is given by making a difference in the lives of other artisans, empowering
women entrepreneurs to be independent and self-supported from the use of their talents,
and through the use of technology.
How has the Entrepreneurship Center at WCC helped with your business goals?
The EC is a crucial resource for me as an entrepreneur, as a friendly and welcoming
co-working space, a center where I can meet other like-minded people, where I can
ask for help, resources, connections and much more. I cannot be grateful enough for
the resources, from business plan blueprints, that helped me organize my thoughts,
to the library resources, to the mentoring hours, to finding places that would host
my events, etc.
The EC staff has always been there for me, sometimes when others doubted. The EC supported
me and often was able to predict my next question, before I even verbalized it. I
also enjoy attending the events and panels organized by EC, where I get to network
with different entrepreneurs and get another perspective, on their very original career
I take entrepreneurship as a mental gym: you have to constantly work-out your entrepreneurial
muscles, and stay ahead of the curve, to understand upcoming trends. Yesterday's great
idea, might become obsolete today.
If you could offer one piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs or prospective entrepreneurs,
what would it be?
In short: Believe in your dreams, wake-up and write them down, pitch and reach up for your goal!
It's pretty much the business' life-cycle, from forming to achieving full potential,
then reinventing oneself, again and again. I believe the journey of an entrepreneur
is an original and unexpected path, sometimes not the straightest direct line, but
the idea is to learn along the path, empower others, and always enjoy the journey.
I believe our identity as human beings is calling us to a higher purpose, not only
to be prosperous for our own benefit, but mainly to benefit and serve others with
our knowledge. I believe a top quality financial education would empower other entrepreneurs
to make the most impact for humanity, and I am thankful to say I have found this wealth
of knowledge at the EC.
Washtenaw Community College does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race,
color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, marital status, disability, veteran
status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected
status in its programs and activities. The following office has been designated to
handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Executive Vice President of
Student & Academic Services, SC 247, 734-973-3536. Facility access inquiries: V.P.
for Facilities Development & Operations, PO 112, 734-677-5322. If you have a disability
and require accommodation to participate in this event, contact Disability Services
at 734-973-3342 to request accommodations at least 72 hours in advance.