Welcome to Unapologetic, a new monthly series designed to introduce you to millennial women doing badass things in the world. Unapologetic women are fully owning their space, their voice and their vision for a better world - and taking massive action to bring those dreams to life. They also believe in building up other women along the way, and are kind enough to share their life lessons with us here!
As you may be able to guess from my company's name, women supporting women is at the core of my belief system, and it's also a core component of the work that Liz and her team at Sseko do. When the chance to ask her a few questions came up, it was impossible for me to pass it up. Not only does Sseko Designs create beautiful products, but they employ and empower women in Uganda to pursue collegiate educations. Talk about a serious win-win.
(Psst, in case you're wondering - I am a fan of Sseko and am sharing this message because I love what they do, and what Liz stands for. In full disclosure, they did send me a beautiful tote bag to rock around Nashville, and I cannot WAIT to do so! But I won't receive any monetary compensation for this post or for any purchases or participation in Sseko Designs and/or its programs. Just like to keep it real!)
I believe that by listening to and working with the women around us, our experience and our work in the world actually get better and more fulfilling - so you'll want to grab a notebook and jot down the words of wisdom Liz is sharing with us below!
Liz, tell us what inspired you to start Sseko. I moved to Uganda after university because I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to write and report on issues facing people living in extreme poverty and conflict zones. The only trouble was...I couldn't find anyone to hire me to do just that! So, instead, I moved to Uganda on my own to learn first hand about the realities facing women and girls across the globe. So, I suppose, Sseko was inspired by rejection! HA! No, although that is what lead me to Uganda, Sseko was inspired by 25 of Uganda's brightest, most courageous women. These women quickly became my community and after meeting them and learning about not only where they'd come from, but their dreams and vision for the future, I was inspired to create Sseko.
What has been your biggest "I feel like a real boss" moment? Oh, well, you many be looking for a more glamorous 'real boss' memory here but truthfully my biggest 'real boss' moment was probably the first payday where everyone else got paid and my paycheck that month went to paying unexpected duties on an incoming shipment or something glamorous like that! That's when being the boss feels for real! You realize that in your crazy dreaming and scheming, other people's (who I guess are as equally as crazy-in-the-best-way for joining you!) lives will also be affected by your decisions. Don't get me wrong, I love being a boss, but there is also a ton of responsibility and not-so-fun moments behind the Big Boss scenes :)
What keeps you inspired and engaged in your work? Oh my. I feel so inspired by our team. Our team in Uganda, here in the U.S. and especially by the Sseko Fellows who are a team of impact entrepreneurs who are building the Sseko brand alongside of us in their own communities. Truly, when I need a dose of inspiration, I hop on our private social network and soak up inspiration, encouragement and bravery of this women in this community! It's truly a remarkable sisterhood of dreamers and doers who are co-creating alongside me every day!
Who is in your support network? Oh, this is an area where I feel FILTHY STINKING RICH! I'm a community fanatic--meaning, I prioritize and work on having authentic, transparent and committed relationships. I lived with six women in college who still to this day are my ride or die women. I'm in nearly constant contact with my sister. I share daily life (and property!) with my besties here in Portland. And through organizations like Praxis and 4Word, I've got a rich community of other entrepreneurs and business mentors. I truly believe that the only reason I am able to withstand the roller-coaster of emotions that is entrepreneurship, is because of my amazing and steady community--both personally and professionally!
What's been the most valuable thing you've learned from your mentors? One of my mentors, Diane Paddison, is an incredibly successful Fortune 500 global executive and non-profit founder and she, by example, has taught me so much about the beauty of pairing boldness with generosity. She is literally not afraid to ask for anything (which is why she's been so successful!) but she is also the first to be bold and use her platform to help others succeed, too. (Myself included!) It's made me realize that there is really no such thing in being too bold when you're generous with your success and intentionally create a rising tide!
What are you unapologetic about in business? In life? I am unapologetic in both business and life with my belief that each and every person was created with and for and on purpose. The world needs more people who believe this and who are committed to figuring out their why and then living unapologetically and courageously into that calling!
P.S. Do you know someone that HAS to be featured on an upcoming edition of Unapologetic? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!