There is a Tibetan saying, “Wherever you have friends that is your country, and wherever you receive love, that is your home.” As a victim of genocide, Bella Rukwavu Ntagugura had to embrace this sentiment from an early age, growing up as a refugee in Uganda, later moving to Kenya where she started her own family, always circling her beloved mountain home of Rwanda until 2005 when she returned to join her fellow citizens in nation building.
Ten years later, upon joining the 2015 PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® in-country class to hone her business skills, Bella shared that “My motivation in life is to uplift my family through engaging in various activities that impact on the society I live in.” Just three years earlier Bella had started Benta Consultancy, Ltd, a training cooperative where vulnerable women learn to create traditional handicrafts and jewelry using only Rwandan materials. The organization is a public/private endeavor supported by both government institutions and development partners. The women bring their jewelry and handicrafts to Kigali City center where they benefit from direct sales.
PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® in-country training helped Bella to fulfill her goal of improving practical business and leadership skills. After being paired with her Chicago-area eMentor Angelika Coghlan, a long-time National Association of Women Business Owners member, Bella thrived by learning new skills and honing others via Angelika’s network of experts. “The first thing I do when I mentor someone is to understand what they are trying to achieve with their business and what I can provide to help them reach their goals,” says Angelika. Together, they determined that what Bella really wanted was to improve her marketing skills.
Bella was introduced to a marketing and public relations strategist, a colleague of Angelika’s, that helped hone a brand strategy that included incorporating social media. Next, Bell and the mentorship team began to strengthen the value proposition for Benta Consultancy, creating scenarios for starting conversations with customers and prospects to determine a fit and qualify interest in the product.
Borne out during her years in exile, Bella developed an innate interest in paying it forward and providing entrepreneurial education to high risk girls. Angelika worked with Bella on putting together a curriculum to this end. And, as always happens in the amazing world of mentorship, she was able to introduce Bella to Kenyan women also working with high risk girls trying to support themselves through prostitution. Today, Bella has her own group of Rwandan women finding a way out of prostitution via her nonprofit organization, Greater Than Sparrows. Angelika found Bella very determined in success. “She has a very positive attitude and does what it takes to get things accomplished no matter what challenges stand before her.”
PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® mentors always say they learn from the women they encourage. According to Angelika, “ I learned about the importance of forgiveness for the greater good. Forgiving fellow countrymen involved in the genocide, moving forward and working side by side for the good of the nation. This spirit of reconciliation is embedded within the women of Rwanda. Bella’s husband left her when her children were very young without any means to support herself and her family. She worked to put her children in boarding school and then educated herself so that she would be able to earn money to support and feed her family. She is someone that is very passionate and very unselfish. She is a very empathetic person that believes in giving back. She takes nothing for granted and is a very grateful for any help that she receives.”
Chantal Munanayire, IEEW facilitator for Rwanda says, “Bella is a bright, dedicated woman, committed to bringing a futuristic mindset to empower low income women of Rwanda.” Together, mining Angelika’s Chicago-area network of professional women, Bella and Angelika found their connection in wanting to help others. Their friendship was sealed in their shared belief in providing value in what they do and in sharing culture and tradition with one another. But most important, they found out they both love to laugh!
Angelika’s advice to Bella is also advice for all women thinking of mentoring others – “Go with your gut. Have a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). If it doesn’t make you a little queasy, then it is too much in your comfort zone.” Angelika has committed to mentor another entrepreneur in our 2017 class – making it five years now! There are almost 600 stories of PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® mentorship pairs all doing their part to build a road to peace. Join our team in 2017 and create your own story of empowerment.