By Jan Swanberg and Ed Forman — Generation 9.2
Our Startup Chile endeavor, RahRah4Good, is a social enterprise that is committed to raising the income levels of rural African women who make traditional handicrafts. The goal is to increase their channels of distribution by making fashion accessories in team colors for sale to sports fans around the world. To make sure that our products are being made in just the right colors and to insure that the highest fair-trade standards are in place, we traveled to Africa to visit our suppliers.
First Stop: Accra, Ghana
In Accra, we met with Lauren Grimanas, an enterprising young woman from Massachusetts who has built a school in a remote village in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Her venture is called the AKAA project. Previously there was no school in this village: now her community school educates 100 children, ages 3 to 13 with no public funding. To support this school, RahRah4Good is purchasing headbands made by the ladies in this village, a perfect fit our tagline: “Support Your School. Support Their Schooling”.
The headbands are being made from batik fabric that is dyed in team colors. In Accra, Auntie Grace dyes our custom batik. We visited her to watch the process. First she used her dyeing skills to expertly match the colors and create the dye.
The workers pressed foam stamps in hot wax to mark the fabric with traditional designs. They dipped the fabric in the dye, and all areas without wax absorbed the color. Then they melted the wax to remove it. After drying, the custom fabrics were done!(You can see the batik printing process in greater detail in this gallery.)
We transferred the fabrics to the ladies in the village who are sewing the headbands. We look forward to getting feedback on these headbands from our target market.
Second Stop: Kampala and Jinja, Uganda
In Uganda, our suppliers are creating jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, out of custom-printed paper. To insure that the colors were correct, we went to the bustling printing section of Kampala to produce some excellent digital print samples.
We are working with group of bead-making ladies in the Walakuba village. The ladies are lovely and very enthusiastic. These five gals each manage a group of 10 additional ladies who will do our production as business grows.
The ladies carefully made sample beads out of each test sheet, and we discussed the modifications needed to make each bead even more attractive. The paper bead making process is quite an art. The ladies know just how to cut the strips and roll them to make the desired outcome.
We discussed the various designs and selected various patterns made in Photoshop to print as paper for to make fashionable beads for our initial run.
To supplement our custom-printed paper, we took a trip to the recycled paper market in Kampala. Here we tried to find recycled paper the colors of our target universities. We had mixed success.
Our five days in Ghana and ten days in Uganda went by quickly. We are very pleased with the relationships we developed and the progress we made. Our next step is to gain distribution for these products and set up an online shop. We are committed to raising the income of our village women in Africa and are excited that our social enterprise, RahRah4Good, with the help of Startup Chile, can make a difference in their lives. Please follow us at rahrah4good.com.