How do you empower women to become agents of transformation in their communities? The answer is the Akola Project, a social business that gives life changing opportunities to unskilled women – both in Uganda and the US by teaching them a trade and employing them so they become self-sufficient providers in their communities. In other words, when you give a woman a fish you feed her for a day; when you teach a woman to fish you feed her (and her family) for a lifetime.

The Journey to Making a Difference

My guest on this episode of The Business Edge is Brittany Merrill Underwood, Founder and CEO of Akola,  who has dedicated the past 12 years to transform the lives of impoverished women and families through the Akola Project. Most recently, Akola lauched a partnership with the retailer Neiman Marcus to introduce the first full impact brand – handmade jewelry -into this luxury market. From raw materials to assembly to distribution, Brittany shares how she’s managed to create a social brand that has a measurable impact in every level of the supply chain and what she has learned along the way.

Listen to this podcast and learn:
* The inspiration for and the path The Akola Project took to get to where it is today.
* How to structure and sustain a social business to achieve both impact and profitability goals.
* The mindset, motivation, lessons learned of an entrepreneurial millennial as she set out to make a difference
* The challenge of maintaining the start-up “family” culture as the business expands with new people and in new areas.
* Why these 3 factors- brand, impact, and innovative products – are essential in building a social business from the ground up.  

The key take away: Not everyone is wired like you. Many entrepreneurs are big picture visionaries with high energy and enthusiasm.  Realize your excitement and rapid idea generation can overwhelm your staff and team. Therefore, adapt your communication style to resonate with the people who need to buy into your vision as well as execute it. It also means appreciating your gifts and at the same time knowing that others have different gifts.

Listen here!