Today we’d like to introduce you to Maya Mutalik.
Maya, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have always had a certain affinity for management, creativity, and business experimentation. I entered the world of business when I was in elementary school. I was the 8-year-old who made money by selling string bracelets. Quite popular amongst my target demographic — trendy third to sixth graders — you could say “String Bling” was my first entrepreneurial venture. And although the school’s strict non-commercial zoning rules caused my enterprise to be shut down shortly after, it sparked the beginning of a lifetime of entrepreneurial thinking and learning.
Six years later, I sat in the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, attending the Social Entrepreneurship Institute. At 14, the youngest attendee, I eagerly listened to one entrepreneur after another describe how their profitable social enterprises had brought clean water, blankets, and books to those in need. The novel idea that I could be an entrepreneur and help marginalized people electrified me. I adopted a personal mandate as a future business leader — to use business as a tool to promote social equality.
With this goal in mind, I made the decision to come to Babson College, the #1 school for entrepreneurship in the US, and an institution that also subscribes to the belief that creating social value is as important as creative economic value. The summer before joining Babson, I traveled to Anloga, Ghana. While there, I became aware of many of the major challenges seamstresses in rural areas face. I felt eager to help contribute to the solutions to these problems. Surrounded by Babson’s top resources and incredible faculty and peers, I decided at the end of my first semester that this was the time and place for me to begin my first social venture: Hope Sews. At Hope Sews, we sell modern clothing made out of authentic Ghanaian fabrics and prints and use the proceeds to purchase sewing machines to seamstresses that are facing financial hardship in rural areas of Ghana. We are now in our early stages. After selling in person through trunk shows and pop-up shops, we are moving towards a big online launch on the fashion marketplace, Nineteenth Amendment that will take place this upcoming November.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As all entrepreneurs will tell you, it is never a smooth road. The sheer exhaustion and headaches caused by the hundreds of big and little things that you have to attend to are always there, and major setbacks can sometimes make you wish that you could just ditch the whole project. And then there is the doubter within yourself that wonders if you have it within you to succeed like the people you idolize.
My best advice to women is: don’t compare yourself to others. When you’re unsure, stressed, and lacking confidence, just keep going. I think from a young age, generally speaking, men are conditioned to exude confidence no matter what and thus sell their work and experiences without hesitation, while many equally or more competent women sit there wondering if they are doing it right or if they are doing enough. This is especially true in the field of entrepreneurship where there are no clear paths or immediate ways of measuring success, and one often does not know where his/her work stands. It is easy to get discouraged as a young woman, but it is important not to lose sight of the vision and motivation that got you started in the first place.
As the founder of a social impact venture in the fashion industry, I also can’t tell you how many people ask me, “Which aspect is more important to you: building a successful fashion brand or executing your social mission?” When I respond with “Both,” people often say “but you must focus on one or the other to be truly successful.” I have struggled with this tremendously because the reality is that I care equally about both aspects of my company and I refuse to sacrifice one for the other. It’s difficult to listen to feedback from experienced individuals in the industry who question if the goals you’re striving for are even possible. But then you remember that sometimes inexperience is the greatest qualification for innovation:
At Hope Sews, we are building a real fashion brand with high quality clothing and we are providing women with tools and resources to expand their financial independence. We are readily embracing our ambition and uncertainty. We are not going to sacrifice any aspect of that goal until we’ve tried everything.
We’d love to hear more about Hope Sews.
Hope Sews is a social venture that sells modern clothing made out of authentic Ghanaian fabrics and prints. We also deliver highly efficient electric sewing machines to seamstresses that are facing financial hardship in rural areas of Ghana. We are rooted in our social mission of providing women with the tools they need to change the course of their businesses. We are most proud of the women we work with and of the goal we have to help create greater income generation opportunities for them. The clothing we sell is integral to our mission and purpose. Made out of vibrant, bold, high quality African wax prints, our clothing merges both Ghanaian and western styles to create something with a social purpose that also looks beautiful.
As we work to develop a training program for our seamstresses in Ghana, we are currently creating our designs in collaboration with them while manufacturing in the US, and using the profits to help provide them with resources they need to grow their businesses.
My Hope Sews journey began almost a year ago, in a small village called Anloga, Ghana where I met a hardworking, passionate, ambitious seamstress named Vida Sowah. After talking to her for nearly 40 minutes, I learned a lot about her business and her challenges. Her principal challenge was that she did not have an electric sewing machine. In the limited time we have been operating, Hope Sews has already, created income generation opportunities for Vida and her trainees… and we are just getting started! Read about our story and learn about our mission of empowering women through cross-cultural fashion at www.hopesews.com. You can also make a donation to directly support our team of hardworking seamstresses to help fund them with the resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ll see you at our online launch this upcoming November just in time for vacation season!
- Website: www.hopesews.com
- Phone: 203-415-7056
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hope_sews/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hopesewsfashion/
Chris Torres (Fashion Images), Yayra Torblu and Francis Nani Gawuga (Seamstress images)