J. Kelly Hoey

  Sara Define entrepreneur for me. An entrepreneur is someone who takes a chance and follows a dream. It takes a lot of faith to be an entrepreneur. One has to believe in oneself and the beneficence of the Universe, and the ‘rightness’ of one’s mission. What was the spark or moment that started your entrepreneurial journey? I told this story in my pitch for the HauteHopes scholarship and I’ll relate it here. In 2011 I went to Ghana for the first time. I took with me two huge suitcases full of clothing to donate to people in villages. In one village, I met a very pregnant woman, due soon with her first child. She looked so exhausted and sad. Through an interpreter, I discovered that she had nothing for the baby – no clothing nor anything to put baby things in. Such a far cry from what most of us here in the US experience! I gave her all the baby clothes I had with me, and an old suitcase I’d purchased at a yard sale for $3. She was so happy she threw her arms around me and hugged me and we both burst into tears. I thought then, “no one should have to live this way.” It really bothered me that to her, those used baby clothes and $3 suitcase were so precious but to ‘us’ it was just a few things to be discarded. I think that was when the seed was planted, that I wanted to find a way to give women in need a ‘hand up’ and not just a ‘hand out.’ At that time, the woman’s husband was employed, but they were still dirt poor. When I went back to Ghana in October 2014 to work on the prototype development for my business, a friend and I traveled back to that village. I wanted to know how this woman and her family were doing. Quite sadly, I discovered that her baby had been born disabled (and life is especially difficult for disabled people in Ghana), her husband was out of work, and they had nothing. I believe that this woman and her situation really opened my eyes to the reality of life for so many people in the “developing countries” and if I can do something positive to help women move out of poverty into economic empowerment, I will feel I’ve done something important with my life. I look forward to the day that I can return to this woman’s village and “pay it forward” in some way, in gratitude for her part in increasing my awareness of the reality of our world and how we can all play a part in making a positive difference. Is Hautepreneurs your first pitch competition? Tell me about the experience. What is your advice to other women who may be hesitant to pitch their business ideas? Hautepreneurs was not only my first pitch competition, but my first gala event! I’m so not the fancy clothes, fancy affair kind of person! I tried to follow the advice about how to pitch my business – and changed the content of my pitch at least five or more times – and tried to memorize it each time and deliver it with emotion AND smile at the same time! Well, let’s just say that the practice the night before the big event went horribly. I couldn’t remember the first thing about what I had planned to say and ended up feeling incredibly frustrated and upset. Quite surprisingly, I slept great that night and I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I wasn’t going to do anything with the advice I’d been given, I was just going to tell the story of the woman I mentioned above. I felt that she wanted her story to be told, and this was the venue in which to tell it. I knew it wasn’t the normal kind of pitch, but I decided it was just what I was going to do anyhow. And at least I could speak it out coherently! It went great, I feel it was well received, I didn’t stumble over my words or pass out on stage! And I won a scholarship! (And I actually enjoyed getting fancied up and talking to people – anyone who would listen – about my business. So I felt like I’d done the traditional ‘pitch’ numerous times before the actual pitch!) To women who might be hesitant to pitch their ideas, I would just say, believe in yourself and what you’re doing, and go for it. I think that believing in the validity of your own project is [more than] half the battle. For me, it was remembering this woman in the village that did it – I then had a focus and a reason for making the effort to try something really new! So believe in yourself, and try to find that one thing that makes you say to yourself OH YES – this is why I’m doing this. Questions:Who are your heroes? As I’ve been developing my business over the past months, I keep thinking about my father (who passed away nearly 20 years ago). My dad was an entrepreneur and I look up to him and his business acumen. He also imparted in me an independent streak that has come in handy on many occasions! • What is your current challenge? On an emotional level, not succumbing to self-doubt is a big one. • My greatest achievement is Raising two amazing children, now young adults in their 30s. They’re loving, caring, compassionate, and successful – beautiful human beings. And they are supporting me in this project 100%! • Why are you an entrepreneur? I think honestly, I’m an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ – I just started researching my idea for making batik medical scrubs one day and things fell into place as if by magic. People got excited and suddenly the ball was rolling and at some point it was like a huge snowball rolling down a hill and I just had to go with it – there was no turning back! I knew if I chickened out I would disappoint a lot of people and most of all, I’d disappoint myself for not trying. • What problem are you solving? In Ghana, one of the social problems related to being a very poor country is that oftentimes, young kids are pushed out of the family home to make their own way in the big cities – the parents can’t afford to even feed them. So there’s this whole community, if you could call it that, of street kids that live in the capital city of 6 million people. This becomes even worse for girls who get pregnant before marriage because the family can’t support the girl or the baby and there is a social stigma to ‘out of wedlock’ pregnancies. So they are out there on the streets, being victimized and supporting themselves through prostitution and begging. Of course their baby is going to be at a huge disadvantage too. So the first part of the answer is that the production of Batiks for Life scrubs gives these women the chance to learn the sewing trade so that they can support themselves and their children in an empowering way. The second part of the answer is that there is not a big choice of scrubs out there for medical professionals. Our products are unique and beautiful and will brighten environments that can be depressing and challenging. • What problem would you like solved? Well, in addition to what I said above, I know that I want to eventually have a non-profit related to my business, to bring basic medical care to underserved communities in Ghana. Right now I’ve gotten really interested in the plight of these homeless kids in the city, and their needs for medical care. Just a thought for the future! • Biggest regret. Honestly, I don’t have any major regrets. I’ve had some disappointments and hardships in life, but I’ve worked through those issues and have gotten to the place where I see them as necessary in my personal journey. So I feel at peace with these parts of my life. • What mobile device do you presently use? An old iPhone 4S! • Essential app(s). I’m technologically impaired – I really don’t take full advantage of my smart phone! • Which talent would you would like to have. A greater understanding of IT. • Best slap on the back you’ve ever received. My son telling me he’s proud of me for developing this business. • Your pitch in 140 characters. Batiks for Life fair trade batik scrubs are on a mission to support women’s empowerment and economic development in one of the world’s poorest regions. Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 8.03.53 AM • Your bio in 6 words. Entrepreneur, traveler, writer, photographer, grandma, tree-hugger • Are you on Twitter? Yes • What’s your hashtag? @Batiks4Life #ScrubsOnAMission • The J.O.B. you’d actually like. Gardener at a B&B in England! (what I plan to be doing in retirement!) • What is your must read? I love fantasy, especially the Harry Potter series and Tolkien. • If I wanted to do what you’re doing…what’s your advice? First, just go to Ghana and take an ‘easy’ rated tour. It’s such an eye opening experience. I think people either love Ghana and want to go back or never want to experience anything like that again. So see how you feel about it and go from there! Ghana1 • What’s your guilty pleasure? Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! • Short cut, long route, road less travelled? What’s your roadmap? I’ve always been the ‘road less traveled’ kind of person and I guess I still am! I’m very spiritually inclined and looking back on my life, I see that I’ve always followed Spirit’s lead even if the path was a difficult one. • The memories of a chef are tastes and smells, what would you say are the memories of an entrepreneur? An incredible feeling of accomplishment, of people believing in me (even more than I believe in myself), and a feeling of joy that I am going to make a difference in the world. • What makes you LOL? Slapstick comedy gets me every time! • Who or What inspires you? I’ve gotten to know a number of people who are out there making a difference in the lives of people, oftentimes under challenging circumstances. They inspire me to continue on my current path. I also know a lot of people who’ve gone through so much in their personal lives and still find it in themselves to reach out to others with love and support. That’s what I try to do too. • What’s the most important startup / entrepreneurship lesson you’ve learned? Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to use the answers, even if they aren’t what you were hoping to hear. I had a marketing survey done and the feedback I got told me I needed to make some slight tweaks to my product line. I eventually realized I had a lot of emotional attachment to my original products but they would not be as marketable. I’ve been accused of being stubborn (which is totally true – but I choose to say “persistent”!) and I had to get over my “stubbornness” to see the wisdom in what I was being told. • What would be the title of your biography? “There and Back Again” – just like Bilbo Baggins, I hope to one day write my memoirs (while running that B&B in England….) • Your Ferris Bueller moment. If you could goof-off / skip out for a day, what would you do? Go to a quiet place in Nature, by a stream perhaps, and just spend the day in meditation or observing the natural life around me. That’s my soul-healing favorite thing to do. • One place in time you’d like to visit. The Neolithic period (seriously)! I loved the Clan of the Cave Bear books (at least through about book 4) and I could see myself as Ayla. I think that we often look back at other times in history and think “those poor people didn’t have all the cool stuff we have” but I love the idea of a simpler time, living close to Nature, and the spirituality that comes of having a close connection to the Earth and Her creatures. Of course when one is living in the moment, one isn’t looking “ahead” and feeling their life sucks. People always try to solve their current problems in whatever way they can. • Part of the trick to staying focused is just start on one task – just take that first step – and then another, and another. Pretty soon you’ve done what you set out to accomplish! • You take a 3-hour ocean tour and get stranded …what 3 items do you have with you? This sounds like about the worst thing I could imagine – the ocean freaks me out and being eaten by a shark is at the bottom of my list of favorite ways to die! • Do you have any unrealized dream projects? I love to write (as you’ve probably guessed by now!) and I would love to write children’s books! I also have a fascination with symbols. There are these traditional symbols in Ghana called “adinkra” – there are probably more than 50 of them – and they all represent different attributes or states of mind. I would love to learn more about these symbols. • What makes you happy? Happy children, animals, getting my hands in the soil, creating beauty in my living space, gazing at the wonder of Nature, feeling a connection with the spiritual world. Having my whole big family all together in one place. Having deep conversations. • What does success look like for you? Making enough money and having the time to travel. I have lots of friends in many places in the world and I’d love to be able to have the time and money to visit them! I don’t really care about having a big home, new car or lots of possessions. I’m just not wired that way. I’d also like to be able to take my grandkids traveling with me – I think that seeing the world opens up so many doors to experiencing life to its fullest. And in about 15 years being able to ‘retire’ to my cottage in the English countryside. • Where can readers of “In Conversation With” connect with you online? My website, www.batiksforlife.com – email at abenasara@live.com – or Facebook (use the email address given here to find the right ‘me’!) I use Facebook a lot for connecting with others. • One last thing (what’s the question I should be asking you) I think I’ve already written War and Peace so I’ll leave it at that! Thank you for reading this far!

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