The Place Where Graduates Get Their Start
In November 2010, Give A Heart To Africa was thrilled to open a Women’s Cooperative, a physical manifestation of our mission to empower women via education and entrepreneurship. A co-operative is “a jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit.”
Our co-operative is a retail store space located close to downtown Moshi where selected graduates begin their small businesses. The ‘theme’ of the co-op is “one stop shopping for all of a woman’s beauty needs.” With help from our students and volunteers, we rented the space, cleaned and painted, and hired a carpenter to build shelves. The students designed and painted the exterior store sign. From the GHTA budget – made up entirely of donations and volunteer fees – we pay to rent the space. We advertise the co-op with flyers posted in town to help drive business for the students.
To enable students to open their own business within our Women’s Co-op, we follow a specific process:
- Selection: Students are carefully chosen from amongst their peers in the graduating class based on school performance, dedication, ambition, enthusiasm, and living conditions (i.e., their family needs).
- Business Planning: The selected women must write a detailed Business Plan. They have learned to write a Business Plan in their business classes and use this learning as a base. The GHTA team then reviews the plans and gives feedback, and the students revise their plans. We coach them on feasibility, pricing, merchandising, advertising, target market, and more. The cycle of feedback and revision happens several times before Business Plans are finalized.
- Initial Inventory: We use funds from the GHTA budget as capital so the students can purchase their first inventory. Inventory is usually purchased outside of Moshi. The students pay only their portion of the monthly electricity bill, water bill, and the costs for a watchman to guard the property at night.
- Business Set-Up: The students are given space within the Co-op which they decorate and make their own.
- Opening: The small businesses are open to the public! This is a dream come true for our students.
- Ongoing Coaching: A team from GHTA visits the store every week, enters the students’ sales into a computer, and gives them further business advice based on their financial progress.
Students are allowed to run their businesses from within the Co-operative for one year. In that time, they should make sufficient profit to be able to pay rent and bills in their own retail space and have an ongoing flow of inventory.
Currently the Co-operative houses 4 of our graduates’ businesses. Esther sells kanga and kitenge (traditional Tanzanian fabrics) and sews in front of the co-operative, Fatuma and Mary sell women’s clothes and Betilda sells children’s clothes. GHTA has coached and supported them every step of the way.
The 4 current entrepreneurs did all of their shopping for initial inventory together. They know each other’s products, styles, and prices. Therefore, the next time inventory is required, only one student will have to travel and will be able to make purchases for the others at the same time. This will save time and money for all of the entrepreneurs. We are thrilled to see these women get their businesses started!
Every year, after graduation, 4 to 6 more women join our co-operative.
Rules of the Co-operative
GHTA is excited to make a Co-operative available to our graduates to get started, however there are rules that the entrepreneurs must follow. All students have to sign an agreement with GHTA which protects both our organization and them (in case one of the Co-op members is not performing). The agreement covers areas such as length of tenancy, ownership of property, and responsibility to other Co-op members. The students also have to follow GHTA’s business best practices (e.g. accurate pricing structure based on mark up percentage, loyalty program implementation, effective sales techniques, etc.)