Diploma in Global Business
If the level of excitement I feel could be measured, it would be close to a ten. Our graduation day is just one week away: class members (dear friends) cannot wait to see each other again and to receive our Global Business Diplomas.
But that excitement is doubled by another event: we are about to go public with the social venture that led me to Saïd Business School in the first place. We are launching our first crowdfunding campaign, reaching out to current and future supporters to join us on our journey of facilitating access to employment for women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and gender-based violence (GBV).
Back in 2015, I was at a fashion show in a war-torn town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, looking at creations of CRSV/GBV survivors, who benefited from an economic empowerment programme to improve artisan skills. I wondered: what, besides the immediate impact of self-empowerment and belonging (never to be undervalued) is the chance that these women would have sustainable access to employment? I decided there and then to do all I could to help answer that question.
In less than six months, with the help of a young designer in Bosnia, the support of Agnès B and her team in Paris, the assistance of a social venture support network in the UK, and investing my own expertise, networking and money, we completed a test production cycle – and created the social venture PutON. Attending the Paris fashion show at this time and hoping to include pieces in our collection which would provide income for the women in Bosnia, I found myself wondering about the responsibility of leadership and the challenges which come with trying to build a social venture, aiming for change at various levels. I concluded that, as a development expert, I knew far too little about what it takes to build a global business.
By virtue of the Women’s Scholarship, I entered the Global Business Diploma programme with a key question on my mind: how to merge sustainable development and impact with the core of a successful global business strategy. How to create sustainable value, a combination of profit and impact? It turned out in our discussions that many of my classmates have been wrestling with similar thoughts in their respective fields and the Programme enhanced our sense of purpose even further. Expanding PutON’s network of supporters, I met wonderful people who contributed with advice, encouragement and expertise. By the end of the course, they helped me shape a reinforced new business model and strategy. When I finished my thesis, PutON had a team in place. Soon after we attracted our first prospective investors’ attention; and a second test production cycle was underway with a design house in Budapest.
Today, PutON is the newest member of the Fashion for Good Community. We have an eager core team combining development with high-end design and manufacturing and advisors helping us with branding, sales and marketing expertise specialised in the luxury industry. We have access to potential clients, business with whom we will pursue once the production has started.
For me, PutON’s progress to date has been a personal journey of empowerment, of finding the strength daily to go down the route I’ve chosen, even though it was initially a leap straight into the unknown. Time has shown that, with perseverance, solutions can be found and change can indeed happen.
Encouraged by PutON’s friends and supporters to move to the next phase, we would like to start the production and deliver impact. Our outreach through this blog has been further encouraged by the coincidental timing of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege this year acknowledging the importance of fight against CRSV. We hope that the recognition of the brave survivors will mobilise others as well towards action.Back to top of article