If you have ever wondered about whether anybody knows you are “here”, Twitter is certainly a way of connecting you to the Universe. I joined Twitter on 13 September 2010, you can find me on @myburntorange. Within a few days of joining Twitter, I connected with Ida Horner @ethnicsupplies and managed to engage in some good conversation with her about Fair trade and ethical business.
Ida posted an interesting link about the Ethical Fashion Source Expo taking place in London on 6 October 2010. I expressed my interest in attending as I love products made for the betterment of the greater community. Ida asked if I wanted to attend (FOR FREE) as her helper. Before I knew it, I was a VIP at the Ethical Fashion Forum and thoroughly enjoyed
manning womanning the Ethnic Supplies stall with Ida. Ida took time to tell me about her story. Imagine, a complete stranger being such an inspiration. I have since had the privilege of chatting to Ida by phone and online, and Ida, a busy business woman as she is, always takes time to make an impact as an informal mentor. If you are looking for an inspirational African woman to follow on Twitter, Ida is it! Enjoy my interview style post on Ida’s story, taken from my personal encounter with her and a vast array of internet resources.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Idi Amin’s Uganda and the first 20 years of my life were marked by civil wars. I left Uganda on a scholarship from the Austrian government to study at Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management- Klessheim Salzburg and eventually moved to the UK.
Having worked in the Hotel industry for a few years I left and enrolled on a degree program in Housing Management and development at Westminster University in London and graduated with a BA hons HMD. I had a successful career as a District Housing Manager for a London Housing Authority prior to the events of December 2006 when I decided to start my business.
Today my business has taken me to being a sought after inspirational speaker who shares her life’s journey with great passion. I have developed an expertise on sustainable development and issues affecting poverty-stricken African women. I have also established a charity called Let Them Help Themselves, currently working towards providing clean water for a village in the South West of Uganda.
When did you decide to start your business?
In December 2006 I went to Uganda for Christmas and whilst there I was invited to a New Year’s eve party in South West Uganda. I had never been to this part of Uganda and found it difficult to reconcile the beauty of that part of the country with the poverty. My cousins took me around the village and we found some women weaving baskets. We started talking to them about their lives, and one thing they had in common was that although they had husbands who worked as casual labourers, they never got to see their husbands’ money, so it was up to them to ensure that the children in particular had food. – I resolved to do something on my return to the UK.
When I went back to work, as a Housing Manager in Paddington, there was a long running dispute between a Leaseholder and a tenant, the local politicians got involved too. My thoughts turned to the folk I had left behind in East Africa. I thought to myself this has to be some of the most expensive council housing in the UK and the occupants are arguing over where a bench should be located etc! When I got home that day, I wrote my resignation letter and handed it in the following day.
How did you go about getting your business started?
NETWORKING! As a civil servant I had no idea of running any sort of enterprise or where to start and a quick search on the internet lead me to my local Business Link in Woking. I was put through a programme lasting 10 weeks where I learned about marketing, sales, accounting, PR, website etc. Through this I discovered Ecademy and the value of ICT in business. Through media such as Twitter and blogs, I shared my stories. Before I knew it, I was asked by one of my fellow tweeters if I would mind leading on one the seminars at an Africa Gathering Event on ICT! This lead to an e-mail inviting me to submit a paper for a conference on Ethics, Roles and Relationships in Interaction Design in Development and given a deadline of May 10 2009. I sincerely had no idea how much I relied on ICT in the running of Ethnic Supplies, but the reviewers of the paper recognised that although I am not a part of the traditional Human Computer Interaction For Development (HCI4D) community, they agreed that they could learn from my experience.
What do you love most about running ethnic supplies?
The biggest achievement that makes it all worthwhile is the impact that my work has on the women producers. I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like when one of them says to me “I have been able to send my children to school because you found a market for my baskets”. I exhibited at the BBC garden’s world live in 2010 – this was made possible by Penny Ritson.
Any advice to share with anyone who might be thinking of launching their own business?
On my first day as an out of work person, I revisited that weekend’s copy of the Telegraph, and in it there was a copy of those free booklets, on International development, I read about what individuals were doing to help the poor, and at the end there was this sentence,
IF YOU THINK YOU ARE TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TRY SLEEPING WITH A MOSQUITO!
During my chat with Ida at the Ethical Fashion Forum, I gathered from her that one has to be seriously passionate about a cause they are going to pursue, because there will be hard times and times when you just want to walk away. Only that passion, or madness, as Ida calls it, will drive you to stick with your cause.
This interview is over year old, but Ida keeps going! She has since been asked to facilitate events such as the Africa Diaspora Gives conference recently held at SOAS, interviewed on the BBC about the recent #SpainisnotUganda fiasco following a ministers questionable comments when texting a colleague about receiving relief funding rescue package http://idahorner.com/twitter/who-is-reading-your-tweets and has even been requested to comment on the Ugandan constitution!! Follow @ethnicsupplies now to keep up to date!