Today’s Big smallTalk: Jennifer Ruwart of Moyo Jasiri

Anjana LiutelBusayo ObisakinLeah OkeyoLucy Apakar. Chances are, you don’t know who these women are (yet!)….but today’s Big smallTalk interview is as much about them as it is about Jennifer Ruwart, the founder of an incredible organization supporting their growth as global entrepreneurs, Moyo Jasiri.  

I’ve had the honor of getting to know Jennifer over the past year through various business and community connections; from the moment we met I was drawn to her story, and to the mission of her organization and the brand she is building. 

BSB: WHERE DID THE IDEA OF MOYO JASIRI COME FROM, AND WHAT IS YOUR BRAND VISION?

In 2009, I set out to create a groundbreaking, online program for WorldPulse that gave women across the globe training and a safe space to tell their stories to the world in their own voices.  

When we began this journey, many women in the program had never spoken of unimaginable tragedies they were experiencing— female genital mutilation, being child brides, systemic sexual violence against women, and more. These brave women were not sharing their stories for the first time with their sisters, friends, and neighbors. But now, they were beginning to share them with the world through blogging.

During this journey, these women discovered that they were not alone. They gained the support of mentors and advisers. They made friends with other women that, because of geography, culture, and religion, they would normally not have had an opportunity to meet. Being online made all of that possible: it gave them a forum to gain, and grow, their voice. 

Around this time, I also began to notice a gap in development. Over the past several decades there have been significant investment in women’s global literacy. I recognized the need to solve a very real problem: “How do literate women reach their full economic potential?”

What I realized is that voice is the first step toward sustainability. What must come next is livlihood.  From this simple truth, Moyo Jasiri was born.

Our goal is a simple one: use a technology bridge to empower women globally through entrepreneurship to lift themselves, their families and communities out of poverty.

 

BSB: YOUR NAME IS A UNIQUE ONE. WHAT IS ITS MEANING, AND WHY/HOW DID YOU CHOOSE IT TO REPRESENT YOUR BRAND?

Research shows that women reinvest 80–90% of their income in their families and communities. That’s why it’s a travesty that women perform 60% of the world’s work yet only earn 10% of its income.

I chose the name Moyo Jasiri, which means strong heart in Swahili, because it describes the root of who I am. I believe that women are the heart of any strong society, and when we support women, we nurture society as a whole.

 

BSB: TELL US ABOUT YOUR LOGO. WHAT STORY DOES IT TELL?

I LOVE our logo, but it took a while to get here. As I met with potential designers, the first question I was always asked was, “Can we change your name?”  Our answer: Um, no!

Even when we got to the next stage of initial design concepts, I couldn’t seem to get them to embrace our brand essence, which is bold, modern, feminine, and fresh. Instead, I got cliched African designs.

One day, a friend asked me to test her new website, Emily Miller Productions. I fell in love with it immediately. I loved the elegant simplicity and strategic use of white space, which brilliantly captured Emily’s style. I enlisted her designer, Elina Frumerman Design, to create our logo.

The first thing I said to Elina was, “Our name is nonnegotiable. Your opportunity as a designer is to make it accessible.”

I love everything about our logo. I love that it’s yellow and brown, which is fresh and feminine. Moyo means heart and I love that the heart is holding up the M to visually represent strong heart.

And, I love that she made our name and tag line bold and that the overall look is very modern. She nailed it!

 

BSB:  I’VE BEEN WATCHING THE BRAND EVOLVE THIS YEAR IN SOME INCREDIBLE WAYS. WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST MARKETING CHALLENGE RIGHT NOW, AND HOW ARE YOU TACKLING IT?

My biggest marketing challenge is capacity. As a start-up nonprofit, we are just now starting to build our team. The first year was really about incubating and percolating our programs. I am proud to share that we are now guiding women entrepreneurs in Portland and Nairobi, and recently launched our multi-year, online business development program called Advancing Women Entrepreneurs, or AWE for short.

To grow our community (clients, customers and donors) and overall visibility, we need to establish ourselves as experts in women’s entrepreneurship, connect our audience to the women in our programs authentically and respectfully, and get the word out about our market, especially after we add our new product line, Just Shea.

Now, we need a marketing plan. And I am tackling it one step at a time. First, I forgiving myself that I cannot do it all Right Now.

Second, I am hiring interns to help create marketing systems without breaking our bank. Third, I am putting myself out there; for example, I was recently asked to speaking to a few groups of local students, and a women’s business group.

Finally, I am working with a dear friend and seasoned marketer to create our marketing plan so our efforts are coordinated and aligned with our brand.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I see that we still have less than 300 followers on Twitter or just over 100 people liking us on Facebook. Then I remind myself that everything is moving ahead just as it should.

Our day will come and then I’ll say, “Oh my! We have one million followers. Now what do we do?”

 

BSB: WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE YOU LAUNCHED THIS BRAND, THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS WHO ARE EARLIER ON IN THE PROCESS?

I think Patrick Grogan from Bazu Sports said it well, “Don’t underestimate the value of investing in your brand – even the little things…from your signage, business cards, your voicemail greeting, how you introduce yourself – any of it. It’s very important in how people perceive your business in its first impression.”

I would also stress don’t underestimate the value of investing in the way you talk about your business. The best investment I made last year was in my talking points, aka answers to the most frequently asked questions.

First, I reached out to an adviser who is known for her talent as a storyteller.  We worked on my key talking points with an emphasis on the ones that everyone asks, like “Isn’t everyone doing what are you doing? (For the record, the answer is no), “How are you different?” and my favorite, “What’s your elevator speech?”

After we had a solid draft, I then hired a copywriter who took our work and created magic. She brought my vision to life in words… beautiful and inspiring words. I have since gained confidence and consistency in talking about my brand.

One last tip: dress for success. You are your brand!

 

BSB: Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing these insights with us! I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for Moyo Jasiri!

You can learn more about the women who are already benefitting from the incredible work of Moyo Jasiri — from Anjana Liutel in Nepal to Busayo Obisakin in Nigeria to Leah Okeyo in Kenya and Lucy Apakar in Kenya.

And, you can  follow them on Facebook here and on Twitter here, or make a donation as part of their one-year IGNITE campaign. Or visit their Wish List to see other ways you can help!

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