“It will be up to you, young people full of talent and imagination, to build the Africa of the next 50 years.” – US President, Barack Obama at the Young African Leaders conference in 2010.
Jacqueline Kamsu Souba may not be the suave, big buck entrepreneur who’s face is splashed on national dailies regularly, but she is an African woman making a change in the lives of people in her community in the northwestern Cameroonian city of Bamenda, where she uses her business savvy to help alleviate poverty and the hardship of single motherhood.
Cameroonian-born Jacqueline is the founder and CEO of Beads Space, a small non-profit business created out of necessity in a society where young people often feel frustrated as a result of minimal job opportunities.
She established Beads Space in 2006 after she could not find a job as a single mother. According to Jacqueline, Beads Space was born without a single dollar from her one bedroom home where she operated for six months.
Explaining her reason for targeting single mothers, Jacqueline said: “A single mother is all alone. It is very difficult for her, if she does not have assistance to take care of her children and herself. Often, they are tempted to get into odd jobs like prostitution.”
Her plight for other single women is understandable given the fact that she got pregnant after her high school education. She was rejected by her family and community and she had to struggle to fend for herself.
Her business, however, improved after she attended a skills building seminar for women in 2011. From there, she got more creative by turning old calendars, outdated newspapers, used card board boxes and used plastic bags into necklaces, colorful handbags, earrings, necklaces, rings and adornments for handbags and shoes.
A year later, she is hailed as an “imaginative innovator.”
Jacqueline was part of 8 entrepreneurs from 5 African countries that attended the “Mentoring Partnership for Young African Leaders” , a two-week professional development program that brings together young African leaders to the United States for leadership training and mutual exchange in the fields of social and business entrepreneurship, in June 2012 and the rest s history.
Apart from running Beads Space, Jacqueline runs a separate fashion design business. She keeps Beads Space as a non-profit company that trains other single mothers in order to promote economic prosperity for marginalized women (single mothers) who in conservative Cameroon communities are still viewed as failures. So far, she has trained 31 women, five of whom are running their own small business. She continues to support them to become independent producers even after their training has ended. Whenever she has a large order; she subcontracts some of the work to her former trainees.
Though her bead productions are hand crafted with limited supply to the public, her designs have since caught the attention of many foreign buyers.
“They always ask how much we can make in a week. I hope to industrialize production so we can meet growing demand,” she said.
Last year, Jacqueline’s company, Bead Space won first prize in a national competition in Cameroon for the use of recycled material.
She has plans to upgrade her management and production skills with expansion into the global markets while reaching as many single mothers as possible. She’s planning to build a training center that can train two groups of 50 to 60 women every year.
Jacqueline was recently invited to the United States to mentor young leaders on business, and was also recognised on a list of Africa’s Top 7 innovators.
Continuously overcoming barrier’s, the versatile CEO and mother, has carved a niche for herself. Definitely Jacqueline is one of Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs.