TCU to send first student interns to Ethiopia

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TCU will be sending 10 interns to Ethiopia this May to develop business plans that will assist Ethiopian women.

For the first time ever, interns will travel to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to further efforts in sustaining jobs for Ethiopian women.

This long-term commitment to the women in Ethiopia began in 2015 when TCU’s Neeley School of Business partnered with the Adera Foundation.

“We’re continuing this partnership,” said Susan Sledge, employer relations manager of the Alcon Career Center. “It’s not just a onetime deal; we’re showing a commitment to the women in Ethiopia over a two-year period.”

Sledge said students are expected to come up with two practical business plans after the trip.

Julie Miller, executive director of the Adera Foundation, said the program is meant to teach students empathy in business.

“The business arena has a tendency to be all business and the nonprofit has a tendency to be all people,” Miller said. “Those two need to collide and that’s why I came to Neeley, because I want a business strategy behind what I do.”

Miller said there are 187 families in the family sponsorship program.

“These are the poorest of the poor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” she said. “They would forage the dumps for their livelihood. We’re working on building businesses for them.”

Miller said when they arrive, the students will spend three or four days observing in order to develop a business model that is good for these women.

“We want to be culturally aware of their situations before we start designing something from an American’s mindset,” Miller said. “We want to design it from the women’s mindset.”

Sledge said 44 students applied for the internship. Four of the 10 selected will have their travel expenses covered.

The other six students are paying their own way because they feel so strongly that they want to help–that they want to be a part of it, said Sledge.

Two years ago, Miller partnered with Dr. Davis Gras, an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in Neeley. The result was a jewelry making business that had $20,000 in sales through August 2015.

Social Entrepreneurship class
From left to right: five students from Gras’ class, David Gras and Julie Miller. The students put together all jewelry and presented to Karen Skrasek, general manager of TCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore. This photo was taken on Nov. 24, 2015.

Students in Gras’ values-centered entrepreneurship class researched, brainstormed and developed a business plan-making jewelry from paper beads.

Miller said she served as the voice to bridge the communication gap between Gras’ students in Fort Worth, Texas and the women in Ethiopia.

Jewelry was made by women in Ethiopia, which was then shipped to Fort Worth, where students negotiated the sale of jewelry with the TCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore and helped set up the display.

“They got the beads and they said, ‘Hey, let’s make them purple, let’s make them for TCU and let’s get them into Barnes & Noble,’” Miller said.

Elaine Cole, a public relations manager for the Neeley School, said 16 students from Gras’ class designed a display for the TCU bookstore. Some students designed bead charm bracelets, knitted headbands, necklaces, earrings and purple boot cuffs; others figured out the best way to present the items in the display.

In the first six weeks, Miller said enough money was made by jewelry sales to increase the salary of the working mothers in Ethiopia by 33 percent.

“This is called an IGA which is income-generated activities,” Miller said. “Any activities that will generate income for [women] is what we’re looking for.”