Structure – Trust your capabilities

Devin Hibbard – Structure – Trust in your instincts & capabilities.

When Bead for Life took off in 2004, and we had this amazing article that generated 90,000 dollars in revenue, we had all been doing it part time on the side in addition to our regular jobs. We were all volunteers. We had no paid staff. We didn’t have an office, we didn’t have a budget.

And when we sold 90,000 dollars in six weeks, we sat up really straight, and said, this is something that could be much bigger than what we have ever dreamed. And it was at that point we hired our first staff. There was like two of us, and we set about trying to put some structure, and standards to the business.

It’s really grown in that way, since then. And it’s really evolved in a strategic, but also organic way. We really try to thing, what do we have the skills to do? what are we best positioned to do? and what’s the world offering to us? And trying to pursue those things. In the last—for the first five years we pretty much doubled revenue every year. It was just a sprint to try to keep up with demand for beads.

So that was a time when were just sort of responding to all the opportunities that we had. We had amazing media and some great opportunities that were just thrown our way. It was pretty reactive, in some ways, just trying to keep up. Then the economic crisis hit, and we sort of plateau’d, which was nice to have some breathing room.

In the last year or two, our revenues have come down a little bit. And although we don’t love that, its given us some new opportunities to really think about how are we strategic and where do we want this to go, rather than where is it going just because we’re trying to keep up. and so we’re at a really very exciting time, a terrifying time of trying to envision what the next 10 years look like.

So that’s really fascinating in Uganda, because we want to take what we’ve learned over 9 years of helping women who are living on less than two dollars a day to start businesses that are sustainable, that truly address extreme poverty. And how do we share that curriculum with many, many other groups that are doing this work? Because we know that there is demand out there.

And so, feeling like we finally have the breathing room, that we have our model, we know what we’re doing, how do we try and share that? Here in North America, the distribution side, it’s really saying, how are we more targeted about who we want to partner with, how do we raise our visibility with more people. You know, where are the places that we need to be talking to people, and sharing our products.

But also sharing our story, that we’re a nonprofit that’s 90 percent self funded through revenue. We’re really a business, in some ways, and yet all of the profit gets plugged back into our work in Uganda. So I think we have some things to share, and are right now in the process of envisioning over the next three years, how do we make that change?

Some of our staffing needs to change in order for us to be better positioned to be more proactive in going out to the partners and the different markets that we want to pursue, and building the capacity for us to get to really a whole new level, so it’s really very exciting. I think in three years, we’re going to look nothing like we look like today. But it also keeps me awake wondering how it’s all going to pay out, and how it’s going to manage to get us from here to there.