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Nonprofit Dedicated to Empowering African Women Opens Regional Board in Miami

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There are a million-and-one nonprofits in the world, but few of them give 100 percent of profits to their given cause. Indego Africa is one such social enterprise, and the highly rated group recently set up a regional board in Miami.

The board is designed to raise local support for the organization, which works with more than a thousand female artisans in Rwanda and Ghana. Indego helps provide the women with sustainable income for creating handmade products including home decor, accessories, baby and children’s items, and clothing.

Instead of simply giving money or goods to those in need, the company uses a solid business model to effect social change.

Before Miami, boards were created in New York, San Francisco, D.C., and Los Angeles, among other metro areas. The organization first launched its efforts in Rwanda in 2007 and then, after seeing success, expanded its programs into Ghana in 2015.

"I wanted to get involved, so I reached out to the organization to see if a Miami board was being planned or if I could assist another board from afar," says Heike Dempster, who's now Miami's board chair.

She and Indego's development and communications manager, Hayley Doner, thought a Miami regional board would be a great fit, thanks to the city's entrepreneurial spirit. Plus, Indego Africa's bright colors are right in line with Miami aesthetics.

With Indego, the women are paid upfront for the products — whether the products sell or don't sell. They receive, on average, 50 percent of the wholesale price of each item, which is 2,400 percent greater than what traditional manufacturers pay their workers. Indego also covers the cost of raw materials for the goods, plus all other costs associated with production, exporting, marketing, and selling of the products. Consider this: A 2011 publication from O'Rourke Partners, a New York-based consulting firm, reported that a worker in Haiti is paid only 25 cents to make a generic women's polo shirt; that number drops to 12 cents in Bangladesh. 

In the Indego Africa model, 100 percent of the proceeds from product sales, along with donations, go toward business- and entrepreneurship-education programs. Indego has a whole host of programs, including a leadership academy in Kigali, Rwanda; a vocational training program for young, unemployed women in Rwanda; and a basic business training program.  

Indego's items are sold online and in more than 200 stores globally, including Nordstrom, Shopbop, Free People, ABC Home, and Reformation. In Miami, Indego products are sold at Ophelia Swimwear and Nomad Tribe.

According to the company's social impact report, 86 percent of Indego Africa’s artisan partners never ran out of food (versus 6 percent in 2008); 92 percent sent all or most of their children to school (versus 57 percent in 2008); and 96 percent were able to purchase health insurance for their entire families. GreatNonprofits.org gives the group a five-star rating.

Dempster says she's stoked about being a part of an organization that's dedicated to changing communities. "I'm excited about giving my time and energy, and to use my skills to have a positive impact on the lives of others."

She says the new board is planning its first fundraising effort, so conscious consumers are welcome to get involved. 

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