If you’d have asked me when I was in college, ‘what’s the one field you could just never see yourself in?’ I would have said business. (Yes, that means I’d quicker have spent a lifetime in school to master calculus, quantum mechanics, and biochem if it meant never having to have a conversation about the ‘bottom line’, ‘ROI’, or ‘profits’) So it may seem rather ironic that now not only do I find myself working in international business, but also, that I have decided to partner with one of my oldest and dearest friends to help make her dream a reality; opening a retail store featuring her own line, Silk and Cyanide.
Born and raised as a second generation American in one of the most notoriously democratic cities in the world, I grew-up constantly questioning how it was that I was so lucky to be born into so much opportunity simply by virtue of the location of my birth. Location, particularly for women, dictates nearly everything regarding a standard of living- your access to jobs, status, education, and heath care. Thus knowing that my family ended up in this country only by chance, I’ve always found it incomprehensible why I was given so much while so many will never see such fortunate circumstances. From an early age I started believing my purpose here is to play a role in helping to level the global playing field, particularly by bringing women to the table in places where for too long they have been overlooked. A future in international development, working for non-profits just seemed logical.
So having wound-up in a private sector job right out of graduate school I *incorrectly* believed myself to have been condemned to the worst of all possible fates: working for ‘the man’ in the blind pursuit of economic gain. How was I to help anyone if my energy was to be spent as just another cog in a giant machine? But not so long after the initial shock of all the profit talk wore off, I began to notice overlaps between my company’s business interests and those of the development community. My interest was irreversibly piqued. As it turns out, the private sector is actually endowed with the unique ability to solve social problems while still pursuing its own self-interest. Why? Because the very crux of an effective business is its ability to meet unmet market needs… just ask Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz, who was tired of reduced profits as a result of the struggling global economy and decided to take action by targeting the politicians in part responsible for our fiscal policy.
So newly enlightened, I quickly jumped onboard when Kristen first mentioned her idea of coupling the production of her line, Silk and Cyanide, with a job training program for women who had been caught up in human trafficking. Several months, a cross-country flight or two, and thousands of emails later, Kristen’s initial idea flourished and we are now looking to start our socially responsible clothing manufacturing operation with a fashion retail component in 2012. With just a few hours left in the year, I am looking forward to all the challenges and opportunities 2012 will bring, anxious to get started building our *gasp!* business.