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Investing In Women to Transform Community

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give some insight on how to navigate building a business.

Joy McBrien is a global learner who is passionate about creating opportunities for women and girls.  She is the Founder and CEO of Fair Anita, a social enterprise that strives to build a more inclusive economy for women by providing economic opportunity and dignified jobs through beautiful fair trade jewelry and accessories.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started my first jewelry business when I was about 15.  When I was 19, I worked with a group of local women in Chimbote, Peru to build a battered women’s shelter.  What I’m doing now has sort of combined these two experiences, working with survivors of sexual or domestic violence around the world to create fair trade jewelry!

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I run a social enterprise called Fair Anita. We sell fair trade jewelry and accessories made by over 8,000 women, primarily survivors of violence.  Financial insecurity is the #1 reason why women stay with abusive partners, so when we’re able to provide fair and sustainable jobs, women are able to thrive with financial freedom.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
When starting a social enterprise, it’s important to consider if your idea is actually beneficial and really needed by the population you’re trying to serve. If they’re not 100% on board, it isn’t going to work.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
As a young woman entrepreneur, I have found that I have to prove myself before people take me seriously.  Sometimes my work is belittled as being “cute” or “oh that’s nice, you sell jewelry,” rather than being taken seriously as a profitable business that’s doing good in the world.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
So many women have deeply impacted my entrepreneurial journey.  Irene Fernando was one of the first female leaders I met that seemed to always lead as her authentic self—it showed me  that I could represent myself in the way that felt best to me, rather than trying to fit others’ expectations.  Anna Bottila was our first full-time hire, the best decision I ever made.  She’s so deeply committed to our mission, and our growth would not be possible without her, my “other half,” if you will. And, of course, Anita Caldas, the woman behind the name of Fair Anita. Anita taught us that when you invest in women, you have the power to transform entire communities, and she inspired a lot of our mission.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
If you fully believe in your idea and know what you’re doing to be right, give yourself permission to blindly follow that passion. If other people think you’re crazy, you’re on to something great.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Good for you!  You’ve learned what it feels like to fail.  Reflect on this experience, maybe journal about it, and figure out what are your big learnings that will go forward with you.

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
I love that Minnesota has a heightened focus on social and environmental mission when it comes to entrepreneurialism.  There are so many social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, mission-driven businesses, nonprofits—a wonderful mix of organizational structures, but everyone is on a mission to do good in the world!

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
The One Million Cups program at the Hill center is such a unique opportunity to share our work and get feedback on where we are headed.

What is your “superpower”?
I like to think of empathy as my superpower. It certainly has shaped much of the work I do today!

To learn more about Fair Anita please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @fair_anita

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