Answers By: Karina Dise, founder and director, Afri(K)que in Monson, Massachusetts
1) How long have you been in business?
My dream of having a business started two years ago by me going to local craft fairs and wanting to help women and girls who are socially and economically disadvantaged through artwork. The women we work with have numerous talents. Some of them know how to sew batik clothing; others know how to make handmade fans, baskets, paintings, artifacts and jewelry. We showcase these pieces of art at events, parties, fairs, schools, hospitals and more.
2) Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular business/industry?
I’ve always felt it in my heart that I wanted to help the poor in some way. After traveling in Africa, Europe and the U.S. and observing women in their surroundings everything started to make sense. Every woman deserves financial empowerment. We can fight against hunger and poverty in females by showing them how to be independent and self-sufficient. At this present time we’ve been able to work with women in Togo, West Africa, and girls in the Greater Springfield area. We can change the face of Earth one individual at a time.
It’s rare when you’re really doing a job you like and changing people’s lives at the same time. That is the reason why I’m so dedicated to Afri(K)que!
3) What makes your business/product unique?
There are no manufacturers or factories involved with Afri(K)que. All our products are 100 percent eco-friendly, hand-picked and hand-selected with care and fair trade. Our uniqueness comes from the fact that we present works to the public through Fashion Shows and Vendor Art Showcases. We are creating a new concept of shopping, bringing business to your doorsteps! Afri(K)que caters to each one of our customers personally.
4) You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
Working for someone only makes them successful. Following someone else’s guidelines and demands may conflict with our beliefs. Being an entrepreneur means making major decisions that include how you’re scheduling your time, how you’re promoting your business to the world and especially having the last word in business matters.
5) What was your last, “Why did I go into business for myself” moment?
I woke up in the middle of the night one day with a soft voice asking me: “What would you really like to do on Earth Karina?” I know that voice was God, I founded Afri(K)que shortly after. My answer to this is that I would like to help the less fortunate. I’m a proud supporter of hungry children and poor females. I enjoy every single moment of it. I don’t look at this as a job. Giving back is so rewarding!
6) Every female professional should have_____________________
People who support her ideas, encourage her and give her a thumbs up when she needs it. In my case, I got blessed three times. My husband, my brother and my mom are my main supporters. Also, I have to mention my countless volunteers, which include friends and people I’ve met in the business world and in my travels. I’m so grateful for them all. If you’re reading this thank you!
7) If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
I’ve always been inspired by Oprah Winfrey. How she gives back all the time and how she built a school for girls in South Africa. In general, I look up to people who don’t forget where they come from. I think that’s important in the mind of an entrepreneur.
8) What is your business motto?
Some dreams come true and miracles happen. Work hard and the rewards will be endless. Help others when you can and don’t forget to live life to the fullest.
9) If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
• Tip #1: First believe in yourself then people will believe in you. Self-confidence is the key to your success.
• Tip #2: Take the opportunity to be a guest speaker at different public events so you can tell people what you do, be a public speaker in your community.
• Tip #3: Connect with the right people. Go to social events and do some networking. Volunteer and give back whenever you have a chance.
I’ve learned in this business that when you’re good to others most of the time they’ll be good to you.
10) Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?
I have to admit that personally, Skype has done marvelous things for me. I can connect with people in Europe, Africa and the United States just as easy as 1-2-3. I love it! Microsoft has met my business needs wonderfully.
11) What is your goal for the next year?
My hope is that Afri(K)que will be known by more people in the world so we can be effective on changing more people’s lives. Thanks Lioness Magazine for this opportunity!
12) When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
At Afri(K)que you’ll find authentic, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind products. A unique way of shopping brought to you in the convenience of your home. Afri(K)que has been featured on www.ceoblognation.com, www.aft.ma.net and www.lionessmagazine.com. Check them out they have a website www.afrikque.com and a Fashion blog too.