Community//

A love letter to forgotten small business communities:

I am a self-proclaimed global citizen, privileged to call two-places home: Tanzania and the United States. My life is full of complexity; I often remind people that I was born in the Iringa region, home of Hehe people (my father’s birth home). My mother is of Nyamwezi people in the Tabora region, but she was […]

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I am a self-proclaimed global citizen, privileged to call two-places home: Tanzania and the United States. My life is full of complexity; I often remind people that I was born in the Iringa region, home of Hehe people (my father’s birth home). My mother is of Nyamwezi people in the Tabora region, but she was born and raised in Dongebeshi, Arusha; home of Iraqw people, and I grew up in Dar Es Salaam. Tanzanian folks could easily understand this dynamic of complexity. But then, there’s the south side of Chicago, the place that groomed me for over 28 years.

Weather I’m admiring my homeland of Tanzania or my Chicago roots, how I tend to process and engage things and people is wrapped up in a paradox of socialism, collectivism, capitalism and individualism (yes, I said the “S” word). I often find myself putting pieces from each of these ideologies together and finding my way. Therefore, how I have been processing this pandemic is wrapped-up in my complex worldview.

As a social entrepreneur and founder of ILAVA, COVID-19 has made us deal with a new norm. The biggest challenge is, in theory, ILAVA is a small business, and we are qualified to apply for various grants and loans designated for small companies to help us during these challenging times but guidelines don’t favor small artisans brands like ILAVA and many others because our employment numbers are not at the high end of the spectrum; thus, we have to work even harder to remain in business and prove our credibility. I recall an expert from a previous TEDx talk I participated in, sharing what I now use as a tool to measure our company’s impact beyond the standards set by mainstream businesses.

More personally,  I believe that ILAVA’s impact, “is measured in the skills and experience we have sharpened as businesswomen, in the culture that we share with our Kenyan and Tanzanian women partners, and in the love, passion and pain of the communities that we know and bear.” This is the primary reason why ILAVA exists. Self-profiting is not the driving force of our business. Profiting for the sake of the community is our driving force. ILAVA would not fair equally when it comes to obtaining resources set aside to assist “small business”. Not to mention, there are some who would suggest that ILAVA is a hobby and not a business.

Thus, I am calling on all of the small businesses who feel overwhelmed and left out of the traditional opportunities. This is the time to lift one another up and share ideas. It starts with us.

We have been conditioned to hold on to information because we don’t want someone else to have access to what we have. I denounce this way of thinking. I truly believe deep down in my soul that the sky is big enough for all of our beautiful artisan brands to fly without touching one another. Oh yeah, believe me when I see you flying, I will wave and smile, and if there is danger in your midst, I will warn you.

So, in the meanwhile, we are going to circle the air until it’s safe for us to land. We are going to encourage one another as we do so; because there is absolutely no need to crash with one another. Indeed, there is an unclear sky that we are flying over, but as an elder would say, there is never a storm that never passes.

Therefore, here are ideas on how faithful and amazing supporters of small businesses can continue to embrace and support small business:

~Please follow them on social media and share their content.

~ Visit their websites and leave reviews.

~Tell your friends about them and then be sure to purchase their products for those anniversary, birthday and holiday gifts.

~Subscribe to their newsletters and share within your networks.

~ Share your ideas with them about a new product; I promise you  they would love to hear from you.

As artisans, we have the power to create, so as we are going to circle up in the air with hope to land, when you land, make sure you pick the good from various ideologies  and make it work for your business. THUS, PREPARE FOR LANDING!

Fear not. We are all in this together and it is in that same spirit of togetherness that we will overcome these critical times for us all.

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