Can you imagine being deaf?
We can only imagine the hardship that comes with a disability but being a deaf woman in African must be harder. Already, women are discriminated and the fight for independence and employment is not for the weak. This is why Megan MacDonald of SASA Designs by the Deaf, is making real and lasting change happen for deaf women by providing meaningful employment, training and a sense of community, plus the ability to support their children and their education.
So why did she choose to work with the deaf?
Megan noticed that there were a lot of projects and brands that were getting a lot of exposure but did not last as companies. One of the biggest reason why artisan projects would not last was the lack of salary consistency. So far they have managed to provide a full-time, consistent salary at Sasa Designs by the Deaf. They are a team of deaf women who have benefited from this new startup. We know that the true impact will be in their ability to keep their children healthy and in school – that generation is going to reach entirely new heights because of their mothers’ employment.
So what is her team like?
In Kenya, they have a small workshop led by two Lead Artisans (both deaf), Susan and Penninah, and supported by a hearing business manager, who helps communicate with customers and vendors. Some of our artisans have been with them from the beginning which has given them an opportunity to grow further. In the US, they have a sales and marketing manager, Paige Pelot, on the East coast and a trio of incredibly dedicated administrative, financial and design consultants who push the whole project to a better place.
What’s her advice to women who want to start a business?
Your team is critical – don’t do this alone. Do your research – see who is already undertaking the problems you want to solve, and join them if you can. Even if you start something later – you’ll be that much more prepared in the meantime. Figure out where your passion is in the process, and look for a team that can round out the pieces that don’t drive you. Make sure you have some cheer leaders as you will feel like a failure roughly 90% of the time. CELEBRATE when you have victories. Remember who you serve. Let yourself fail. Let yourself move on or take space when you need to (this can be the hardest thing to do). Ask for feedback. Have an exit strategy – not because you have to or will want to, but because it’s the best way to create something sustainable and replicable – and if you do a good job, the world needs more of what you create.