Q: Your business model goes beyond regular “retail’ practices to provide supplemental capacity building to artisan partners. In addition to advanced technical skills training, you also offer workshops on money management, health, and wellness. How has such training benefited your team and Global Mamas as a company?
A: Since the beginning, our definition of prosperity has gone beyond financial well-being to encompass happiness and good health. Financial needs are often the Mamas’ most pressing concern when they begin working with Global Mamas. As individuals achieve financial security, we’ve been excited to meet requests for expanded educational opportunities. Healthy children and families mean the Mamas have the bandwidth to focus on growing their businesses. Knowledgeable money management and achieving SMART goals means the Mamas can hire other women and save enough funds to upgrade their sewing machines. Perfecting technical skills and being able to offer consistently high-quality products means greater demand for their product, both locally and internationally.
Q: Your company not only seeks to help women entrepreneurs think bigger regarding their potential but the women’s husbands as well. Why has this been important and what outcomes have you seen?
A: For the most part, over the years, we’ve seen the husbands of the Mamas support their work with Global Mamas as they recognize the value of the steady income to their families. In a few cases, husbands have even gotten involved in the Mamas’ businesses to support them with things like order deliveries or sourcing raw materials. Yet certainly the household dynamics are impacted as Mamas become a primary source of income for the family. That is why we’ve proposed to implement gender equity training as part of this project and to purposely include spouses in the workshops to create space for the Mamas and their spouses to have these conversations at home.
Q: What are two pieces of advice you would give to a potential business seeking to employ a majority female staff in Ghana or West Africa in general?
A: First off, I would say to just do it! Do not be afraid of empowering women as leaders in your company. As a female-led organization that is succeeding after nearly two decades in business, we have demonstrated that a female-led organization can thrive in Ghana. There are a lot of benefits female leadership will bring to your company. We have seen greater loyalty and benefit from a very low turn-over of employees. The Mamas have created a more empathetic work environment, and provide tremendous support to each other across our network. They want to see each other succeed, which means they collaborate to quickly address challenges and to respond to new opportunities.
The second recommendation I would make is to intentionally invest in developing your female employees! Global Mamas’ leadership team is comprised of women who started at much lower levels within the organization. By investing in their development through mentorship and training, we now have very skilled leaders who have a deep understanding of the organization. This makes them strong and credible managers.
Q. Like many companies, Global Mamas has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. In addition to securing partnerships and funding such as through the Trade Hub, what is one key strategy you are using to ensure Global Mamas’ sustainability?
A: With the exception of e-commerce, all Global Mamas revenue streams have been deeply impacted by the pandemic over the past year. In addition to losing nearly 90% of our domestic retail sales, international wholesale partners we rely on for orders have seen a drop in demand, in-person markets have been canceled, and volunteers and tourists are no longer traveling to Ghana. To fulfill our commitment to creating sustainable livelihoods for the Mamas and their families, early in 2020 we pivoted the majority of our manufacturing capacity over to creating organic cotton face masks. This served the dual purpose of protecting community members while keeping producers and staff employed.
The other thing that happened, of which I’m really proud, is that early on the leadership team made a commitment to keep our Global Mamas family together and that everyone would share equally in the negative economic impact we faced, no matter their location or level of pay. We all shared in pay cuts and loss of bonuses, and as a result, we haven’t had to permanently lay off any employees.
Watch this video to learn more about Global Mamas’ mission to empower women.