If one thing’s for sure, it’s being a business owner is no easy task. Any woman who has climbed through the ranks of corporate nonsense or ventured out on her own to create a business knows this very well. Being an entrepreneur is hard.
That’s even more true now that COVID-19 is ravaging the world. While Amazon orders may have skyrocketed, small businesses that rely on in-person shopping are suffering. We saw how hard things were getting, and we decided to do something about it.
Share the Gift of Mana
Mana is a quarterly subscription box that features handmade, one-of-a-kind items created by — you guessed it — women small business owners. We work with artisans in South Africa and the United States to find ethically sourced products that we know subscribers will love. The best part? Purchases go towards supporting these women and their communities so they can keep expanding their businesses.
The women we work with are incredible. They’ve overcome unbelievable obstacles to be where they are today. In fact, their circumstances in some cases were so dire that without Mana these women and businesses may not have been able to survive the pandemic. The trickle-down effect is felt by the women and the staff that work for them.
Take Sadie’s story, for example. She chose to use this name instead of her real one for her own safety.
Sadie was born in 1985 in the Congo in a Village called Kananga. Here, she had a happy childhood as one of eight children. However, when she was 12, the family moved to Kinshasha where her mother ran a small successful business selling wares to the townsfolk. While living here, Sadie was taught how to sew by a seamstress who was a tenant in their home.
At the age of 18, Sadie married a soldier, and they moved to the town of Goma on Lake Kivu, close to the border of Rwanda. They had a daughter and lived with her husband’s mother. Still, this happy family would not last. In 2009, Sadie received the news that her husband had been killed in the Congo Rwandan war. A year later, their neighborhood was infiltrated by the Mai Mai, a militant group operating in the area. Their home was invaded, and the men raped Sadie and her mother-in-law.
Terrified, Sadie managed to escape out a back window and, like many others, ran for a woodland situated behind her home. She ran for hours in the forest, until she eventually came upon a road. She flagged down the first vehicle to come her way, a truck with cargo and four men. They put her in the back with the cargo, and she drove with them for ten days. As the truck continued to travel over three thousand miles, she had no idea where she was going. These four men fed her but also violated her each day.
After ten days, Sadie was told to get out at the Zimbabwe/South African border. She had no money, no belongings and no food. She also could not speak any English.
Eventually, a kind stranger worked out that she was from the Congo and took her to a local Congolese family living nearby. Bebe, the matriarch of this family, advised her to take a bus to Cape Town where she felt her prospects would be better. She had heard that a lot of people from the Congo had settled there. Bebe bought Sadie a ticket and put her on the bus.
After Sadie arrived in Cape Town, she sat at the station and waited, because she didn’t know what else to do. It wasn’t until she heard someone speaking her native language that she felt she could reach out. She approached the family and learned they were originally from the Congo. The family took her to their home where she stayed for two months cleaning and cooking for them. During this time, the family arranged for a man from the Congo to take Sadie in and look after her. He and Sadie were married, and they now have two daughters.
Today, Sadie works at FACT, a small business that creates items featured in the Mana boxes. She is a self-taught seamstress and is responsible for fabricating most of the products that FACT has provided for the Mana boxes.
The products she creates will be featured in upcoming boxes. Each subscription also comes with cards explaining the stories of more women who have been impacted with each purchase. Learn more and get involved by following our Kickstarter.