It was my last semester at UGA and May 10 was soon approaching, it was starting to hit me that college was inevitably coming to an end and real life was about to begin. Most of my friends and classmates were busy going on interviews and accepting jobs after graduation. Everyone was excited to know what each other would do and where they were going. We had all worked so hard for the last four years and now was the time we had all been waiting for. We were eager to finally put everything we learned to the test and more excited to no longer be broke college students. But, my story was a little a different. My last months of college, I didn’t apply to any jobs nor did I go on any interviews. Instead, I was contemplating a very different route, one that wouldn’t provide me with the security and the money we were all seeking but a route I knew I had to take.
Two years earlier, I had an experience that would forever change my life. The summer going into my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to study abroad to Ghana. During the trip I fell in love with the beauty of the culture, textiles, people and of course the food (I could have sworn I gained 10lbs from all of the chicken and jollof rice I had eaten). Towards the end of the trip, we visited a program that helped young girls receive educational opportunities so they could become self-sufficient and provide a better life for themselves and their families. Despite, all the girls seemingly didn’t have, and all we too often take for granted, I was in awe of the joy and the spirit that they radiated. The girls welcomed us in a singing-dancing circle and we heard stories of how the program was changing their lives. As we were about to leave, I got back on the bus, feeling a sense of helplessness and wanted to give back to the girls to help them continue their journey to receive an education.
My time in Ghana and my encounter with the girls was an experience I couldn’t forget once I got home, one that continued to run through my mind as I contemplated what could I do and how. I shared my experience with my best friend Sasha and we both knew, we wanted to be a part of supporting the girls and girls with similar stories around the world. We had an idea to start a business but I still wasn’t sure if this is would just be a passion project or something I would pursue full time after college.
Call me crazy but I believed that if we could change the life of one girl our work would be worth it.
Call me crazy but I believed that even though our support would have to start small it would grow into educating hundreds even thousands of girls around the world.
And at the end of the day, those beliefs were all I needed to make my final decision. Instead, of following the security of my plan, I would take a journey into the unknown and decided to start the business immediately after graduation, to help support the girls receive an education. No, I didn’t have any experience and no, I didn’t have any money. But I figured I had nothing to lose and there was no better time than now.
Two weeks after graduation, we launched Bené, a collection of luxury scarves with love at its core; we are committed to educating girls in Ghana and growing our impact around the world. Through each purchase, we help sponsor tuition, books, supplies and the uniforms for the girls to continue their education and fulfill their dreams.
Sasha and I started this business as two college students with very little money and experience but a huge desire to make a difference in the world and look good while doing it. And three years later, in May 2016, we made it back to Ghana to celebrate the graduation of our first group of girls in the “Bené Family” (their words, not ours). The experience was one full of joy and tears and it made every sacrfice and frustration completely worth it. The trip left us even more motivated, seeing first hand the importance of this work, the effect it has had on these girls’ lives and the generational impacts in the region.
Looking back on my ‘Journey’, I can honestly say that I am crazy, but as Steve Jobs said, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”.