Victoria Kabange is on Fire!

“I’m on fire! There is something burning inside me. When I remember where I came from and where I am now, I feel a fire!” Victoria Kabonge, Masanafu Uganda.

What lit the flame for Kabonge? Street Business School, an organization that teaches women in poverty (less than $3.10/day) the skills to release their inner entrepreneur and build successful businesses.

In 2004, three American women were walking through a slum in Uganda. Devin Hibbard, Ginny Jordan, and Torkin Wakefield stopped to talk to Millie Grace Akena, an artist selling beautiful jewelry made with beads she created from…scrap paper. This random encounter led to the founding of BeadforLife, a nonprofit that uses jewelry-making as the basis for teaching skills to women like Akena that enable them to build a successful business and significantly increase their income.

Then BeadforLife went a step further by taking the business and financial training aspects of the organization and creating Street Business School which enables women interested in a variety of business possibilities to build thriving businesses.

Street Business School has become so successful that in 2018, it was spun off as an independent nonprofit to expand business training for thousands of women in poverty throughout the world—many of whom never finished primary school. SBS is now spreading across Africa and planning entry into Asia. Through a social franchising model they are rapidly  increasing their impact by partnering with select local organizations engaged in poverty alleviation.

I decided to share this story, quite different than my usual writings on business and leadership, when I met with Devin in Denver recently and attended a big fundraising party for Street Business School. In the interest of full disclosure, Devin and the other women who started this are old friends of mine. It’s been exciting to watch (and help a bit) as the programs grow and reach more women and their families.

There are tons of books, lectures, and videos, on entrepreneurship, building successful businesses, and being a great leader and manager. But how often have three people with no particular experience in entrepreneurship taught themselves how to build a global organization that has such an enormous impact?  It’s a nice story to contemplate during this season of giving.

I’ve talked to the women who have benefited from BeadForLife and Street Business School about their new lives and how they can now afford to send their kids to school, eat three meals a day, improve their healthcare, build an addition onto a small one room house. All because they were willing to try something they never imagined they could do, to not just learn entrepreneurial skills but internalize them into every fiber of their being and put them to use.

I hope I’ve lit a fire under you. Look at the website of Street Business School and read the stories the women share. And while you’re there, it will be nice if you left a little something to help the women leave poverty behind. I’m a member of the Spark Society. For a mere $100.00 a month I help lift 3 women and their families out of poverty forever. Now that’s a return on your social investment. Join me.

The Power of Belief: Devin Hibbard Ted Talk

Street Business School Impact

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