Name: Jillian Ryan
Business: Mariemae, a social enterprise focused on training women in developing markets
Location: Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Reason for starting: After spending more than a decade advising Fortune100 companies on how to do business in Africa, I decided it was time to put into practice what I had been preaching. Mariemae was founded on the belief that the key to alleviating poverty in developing markets is in fostering the private sector, and I wanted to tackle this from the multinational level, as well as the local level.
How do you define success? Mariemae was started in an effort to find a sustainable business model to enable us to provide much needed business skills and training to women in developing markets. Our first Mariemae Business School will be held this March in Gisenyi, Rwanda with the No41 ladies. On this first trip, we plan to provide 8-10 women with basic business skills training and goal-setting exercises to help foster the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the necessary network to be successful. Our success at Mariemae is (and will be) defined by the success of the women we are working with in our business school programs.
Biggest Success: Our biggest success so far is that we are able to hold our first Mariemae Business School months ahead of schedule due to fantastic sales in 4Q2014. We launched in October 2014 and set a goal to reach a certain number of product sales by March 2015, but hit our initial target in December 2014 allowing us to go ahead and schedule our first Mariemae Business School. (For every product purchased, we provide an hour of business skills training.)
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge so far has been in getting the word out about our products, our mission, and the women we are working with. We have addressed it through strategic partnerships with online retailers with PR teams on staff and a solid social media strategy.
Who is your most important role model? I can’t name just one as there have been so many entrepreneurs and business professionals I have met along this journey that have each taught me a vital business lesson. If you work hard, are persistent, and get creative when an obstacle comes your way, you really can do anything you set your mind to!
Edited by The Story Exchange