As summer came to a close, 10 young women entrepreneurs returned to their home countries ready to amplify their impact on their communities. How? Through a SheaMoisture Community Commerce Scholarship to attend Babson’s Summer Study program for high school students.
The 2019 Scholars represented six countries: the United States, Pakistan, Brazil, Serbia, Mexico, and Rwanda. Through investing directly in the bright minds of young entrepreneurs, the SheaMoisture Community Commerce scholarship has been awarded to 40 young women since 2016, in an effort to create social impact toward promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the business world through the entrepreneurial education of women around the world.
While at Babson, the scholars experienced startup life, working in teams to ideate and pitch an original business venture. Camila de Santana Silva already had a business selling homemade confections at her high school in Recife, Brazil, before she came to Babson’s Summer Study. She expected to gain real-world business skills, but left with a lot more.
“At Babson, I learned that entrepreneurship is actually a way of thinking,” said de Santana Silva. “You can apply entrepreneurship to a business, to an outside organization, to problems you’ll have with your family, to problems you have in any situation of your life.”
Turns out, the problems these extraordinary young women are ready to tackle are as big as they get. In their admissions essays, students spoke about making a positive social impact on issues such as mental health, access to education, gender equality, sustainability practices, and diversity and inclusion. Six of the 2019 Scholars took their passions to the next level by opting into earning a Social Innovation Badge.
So, as these young scholars started to imagine their futures in college and in the workplace, what challenges do they see before them?
Tiffany Ramsarran, from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, sees a lot of room for improvement. “Many women are afraid to take on more responsibility because they feel as if they won’t be able to be the best of themselves both in their family life and career life. Additionally, some women may feel as if they do not fit the typical image of what a CEO should look like.”
She has a major point. Even at an all-time high in 2019, only 6.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
So, if women today are still being overlooked and undervalued in the workplace, how can a business help create a radical shift for a more equitable future for all? SheaMoisture believes it’s by putting entrepreneurship into the hands of these young women directly. After all, SheaMoisture’s legacy began with a teenage entrepreneur.
At age 19, Sofi Tucker was a widowed mother of four, selling shea butter, African black soap and her homemade hair and skin preparations all over the African countryside. Inspired by Tucker, his grandmother, Richelieu Dennis’91, CEO of Sundial Brands and Babson College trustee and alumnus, created his company’s purpose-driven business model called Community Commerce.
Certified as a B Corp, Community Commerce holds a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification. The belief is simple: when you empower other women from around the world through entrepreneurship, you empower communities.
These Community Commerce Scholars leave Babson with the skills and confidence to be problem-solvers and opportunity-makers in their communities. “I want to empower women,” declares Anushe Fawaz. “After Summer Study, I want to return to (Pakistan) and encourage other girls my age to get out of their comfort zone.”
Fawaz and her fellow scholars have big dreams to become local leaders, community champions, and business owners. Younger girls will watch their journeys, and will see those opportunities as more attainable when they see faces like their own.
“It’s time to overcome these societal obstacles and evolve the image of a CEO,” says Ramsarran, “I say that position that you always wanted looks like you.” That’s the quiet and radical shift.
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