We had the good fortune of connecting with Alicia Wallace and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alicia, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
To be honest, I never dreamed of starting my own business! After college I went on a trip to Sierra Leone on a medical mission to help a group of volunteers check patients into a clinic. It was there that I saw capable and hopeful men and women eager to find ways to provide for their families. I saw poverty that I couldn’t forget. I came back to the US and knew I couldn’t unlearn what I saw and I had to do something. I started researching organizations and reading books to learn about the best way to help. I didn’t want to provide just a “white man savior” solution, making myself feel good about the help I was providing but not doing anything empowering and lasting. I interviewed people, studied and critically thought about what I could do and what was needed. I ended up going to a fundraiser for a non profit, where I met my future business partner Greg. He had similar convictions to mine – to create something sustainable and lasting that solves the needs the people are asking for and need themselves. And that’s what set us out to build a business that creates jobs for rural men and women.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Building All Across Africa & KAZI into the business it is today has been challenging and yet extremely rewarding. Our business model reaches deep into the rural villages across Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana to trian and connect these rural artisans to retail markets globally. We’re talking about bridging two vastly different worlds of speed, rural Africa being very slow to change and the retail market being fast and fickle to new trends and designs. We stand out from others by innovating regularly and quickly and employing an extremely capable and competent team. They are industrious, resilent, hard working and focused on making an impact and leaving this world a better place. This team has helped the company overcome challenges that hit our business harder than the current panedemic. This occured when Ebola was spreading ‘all across Africa’ and the consumers lack of desire to connect with the brand at that time. Our team rallied together and stayed focused, cutting salaries, downsizing office space and even cutting out things like the water cooler. We survived this challenging time and together, we knew that there wasn’t anything else that was going to get in our way of creating jobs for men and women throughout Africa.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, of course we’d start in my favorite town, Ocean Beach. We’d grab a coffee at Azucar and walk down Newport to the beach where we’d watch the early morning surfers from the retaining wall. After we’d go grab brunch at Breakfast Republic and would be sure to order their french toast. We’d stroll around town a bit more, walk the OB Pier and grab a drink at Raglans outside on their patio. For dinner we’d head over early towards Sunset Cliffs to take a strong along the cliffside before the sunsets and grab a bite at The Little Lion.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout out goes to one of our top leaders in the company, Modeste Shumbusho. Modeste started with us 10 years ago as a field coordinator and has proved to be a loyal, hard-working and honest man dedicated to serving his country (Rwanda) and the rural poor. His unwaivering commitment to my business partner and myself and our mission has made our growth and service in Rwanda possible. Without him, our business would not be as successful as it is to date.