Charlotte, a refugee originally from the Congo, is a skilled and trained tailor with more than twenty years experience in the tailoring business in Ethiopia and Congo. She also worked as a teacher for a United Nations (UN) Sewing Project for Women in Ethiopia. Charlotte was resettled by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Tucson, Arizona in 2008 with her husband and four children.
When she came to Tucson, Charlotte dreamed of continuing her successful tailoring business here in America. She approached the International Rescue Committee’s Microenterprise Development program for assistance and applied for a loan of $2,000 to operate a part-time in-home tailoring business she would call Charlotte, African Dressmaker. With this loan she invested in an embroidery machine, which is essential for the finishing process for African clothing, as well as other business start-up costs. Charlotte now has a studio in her new home out of which she runs her tailoring business. As Charlotte grows her in-home business, she works part-time as a caregiver as well.
Charlotte has begun reaching out to the community to promote her new business. The IRC’s Microenterprise program assists her with marketing and sales by creating business cards and encouraging her participation in cultural festivals and refugee events to expand her network.
One of the events Charlotte participated in October 2011 was the Tucson Meet Your Self Folklife Festival. The Meet Yourself Festival is an annual cultural event that celebrates the diverse ethnic and traditional communities of Tucson with performances, food, art and a global marketplace. Through this event, Charlotte had a priceless opportunity to network in the community, sell her African clothes, and take tailoring orders. She recently completed an order for 24 members of an African church in Tucson.
The future is bright for this persevering businesswoman. She has paid off her first loan in full. Through another IRC program for housing, Charlotte and her husband saved $5000 and received an additional $15,000 from IRC’s program to buy a house. Through the IRC’s Micro Enterprise program Charlotte is applying for her second loan of $3,000 to further support Charlotte, African Dressmaker.
“Charlotte has a great payment history “said Yasmin Badri, the IRC’s Microenterprise Statewide Program Coordinator. “She continues to work hard to maintain her part-time business besides her job to earn a higher income while fulfilling her passion for dressmaking.”
“My dream is to maintain my business in the US and serve the refugee community,” Charlotte said. “Also, I would like to teach other refugee women how to tailor like what I did for the UN Women Center in Ethiopia.” Charlotte is an inspiration to us all and an example of exceptional entrepreneurial spirit.