Shift Happens

At the onset of this internship, I originally thought I was going to be working more with scheduling and attending meetings with legislators. However, due to the fact that session has recently ended, it hasn’t really worked out that way up until now. I have my fingers crossed for the future though. Over the past couple of weeks I have somewhat shifted my view of what my role is with the INIE team. Instead of interacting with legislators, I’ve shifted my focus more to scheduling, marketing, and advertising upcoming INIE events, as well as events for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Big Bend Chapter, a group that is an INIE member and somewhat of a partner. Although I was originally very excited to get to meeting with legislators, I’ve enjoyed gaining the practical, hands on, approach to making an event happen, and advertising it so that we get a good attendance turnout. As I said, it’s great to get this practical knowledge that will certainly benefit me in future professional settings. But it’s also good to experience a shift in what I expected on the onset of this job and learn how to roll with the punches. So to sum it all up: shift happens.


The Institute’s Operations

INIE has been a pleasure to work at, it is incredible to me how much trust both Executive Director Jessica Lowe-Minor and Membership and Events Coordinator Alexa Cardone have instilled in the interns. With the trust we have been instilled with growth has followed, I feel I have learned how to better my work through the autonomy. On Thursday, June 15th we helped run the Tallahassee Brand-a-thon which allowed for three local nonprofits to receive professional rebranding help from 8 am to 6 pm. The energy was incredible, from beginning to finish the event was a complete success. The looks on the faces of the nonprofit members when showed the final product was priceless.

One of my favorite aspects of the internship are the events, I have been working closely with Rick Paul, who is the project manager for the new TCC Spark! series promoting local organizations. There have been multiple events so far and another is coming on July 18th that will be focusing on ways that for-profit organizations can improve their bottom line via strategic partnerships with nonprofits. For this event we are currently trying work on getting an experienced panel together that can provide further insight to the benefits of for-profit and nonprofit organizations working together. I am not going to name the organizations, but we already have a commitment from a nonprofit and their for-profit sponsor to speak to how this partnership has benefited them both.

Moving into the final few weeks of this internship there is only one thought that comes to my mind: “what more can I take away from this experience?”. So far I feel like I have done a plethora of tasks, I could not have asked for a better fit. I have learned to not only do the monotonous office work but I also have been working hands on with members, helping organize events, and I myself have been able to network within the community as well. I am beyond excited for the homestretch of this internship and I am ready to make it the most effective stretch yet.



Hello from Ethiopia

Hello from Ethiopia! The global world we live in is truly amazing. I currently sit in my hotel room with my Ethiopian friend/translator, Hawi, and we are watching an Ethiopian Soap Opera with Latin actors who are living in Europe. On our way up to the room I saw several Chinese people who are here on business. I am for globalization because it allows for cultures to intermingle and interact. I have enjoyed the past week in Ethiopia learning more (I have been here twice before) about the culture and more of the language (Amharic). I find myself comparing and contrasting many things between Ethiopia and the USA. For example, I found it interesting that in Ethiopia parents must pay for their kids to go to school for Kindergarten-12th grade. After 12th grade the kids take a difficult exam that determines whether they go to college or not. If they pass, they are assigned to a Government University and given a college education for free. Oppositely, the government funds public school from Kindergarten-12th grade in the USA, but then we pay out of pocket for college. I find this switch interesting along with all the other cultural differences.

So I am now in my seventh week of pursuing social entrepreneurship via my “non-traditional” internship. It has been such a focused and hardworking summer thus far. The last week I was in the United States, I successfully launched the website for my nonprofit, Gifts for Confidence. Please check it out at! I am so very proud of how it came out and I received amazing feedback from friends, family, and others on social media. I have received a few donations and scarf purchases using the new website. I also finished creating the yearlong sewing curriculum when I was still in the states. The business registration with the IRS is still in progress but should be completed by the end of the summer. This has probably been the hardest I’ve ever worked toward something. But hey, it’s my passion and my future.

Being in Ethiopia has had its ups and downs but I am learning more and more how to appropriately approach the social issues I’m trying to solve with my business. In order to ensure sustainability I operate on several values being, economic development, social responsibility, and environmentalism. With each of these values I am evaluating the problems in Ethiopia and crafting solutions. In doing this I hope to create a more holistic business model that will actually make an impact.

Environmentalism: There is no trash system in Ethiopia and the majority of trash ends up on the side of the road. The way they get rid of trash in Ethiopia is by burning it which can often release harsh chemicals into the atmosphere or by digging a large deep hole and burying it. In order to be more environmentally friendly, I have found an alternative sewing project that will help get rid of the trash fabric scraps or thread our sewing program produces. I have included a small pillow project into the curriculum. Each pillow will be stuffed with fabric scraps and thread that is leftover instead of ending up in the trash. This is one way to produce little to no waste within our program.

Social Responsibility: All of the girls in the program are paid for their work. They are paid when their scarves sell in the United States. This pay aims to encourage them in their work and their passion for sewing. I aim for them to love sewing and consider using this marketable skill for future job opportunities. Last week I completed the 2nd cycle of the Gifts for Confidence sewing program by having our Second payment ceremony. Each girl was recognized and paid for their work which is always a celebratory experience.  I hope to regulate this pay system in the future so they aren’t just getting paid once a year when I am able to come to Ethiopia.

Economic Development: In understanding the developing world that is Ethiopia, it is important to get a better understanding of the economic situation of many of my girls and their families. Also because some of them are not used to earning any money, it is important to educate them in how to use it. I have incorporated a lesson on financial literacy into the new curriculum which will begin come September. Parts of the lesson include how to set up a bank account, saving money in trusting ways, and lessons of stewardship. Christianity plays a huge role in the girls’ lives (it is a Christian school) and is important to teach lessons of using their money according to God’s plan. Also, I want the girls to practice selling sewn items in their local communities. These items will be the reusable pads and the pillows that they make in the curriculum. This will give them business and inventory skills which might be helpful if they choose to pursue entrepreneurial sewing opportunities.

I love riding around town and seeing women with their pedal sewing machines on the side of the street. They receive business by mending and fixing clothing for 1-5 birr (25 cents) per hole. While that amount sounds like very little, the business is pretty good since many people only have less than 5 outfits. It is a necessity to fix clothing when most people can’t afford to buy new clothing.  This is a stark contrast to our disposable fast-fashion mentality in America. One of my other objectives while here was to tour a local garment factory to see if there were job opportunities for my girls there. While speaking to a local I learned that the factory has foreign owners who set up in Ethiopia because they knew they could pay their workers low wages. This turns me off from pursuing jobs for my girls there because I want to make sure they are being paid and treated fairly or else my values of social responsibility get thrown out the window. However I still plan to try and tour/speak with the factory just to see about possibilities. Stay tuned.

While on past trips my main objective was working quickly and effectively with the girls to make product, this trip has mainly been working to empower our teacher Friwot by teaching her the new curriculum. Daily we have been meeting and going through each of the lessons and translating them into Amharic for her. It is important she understands and feels comfortable with each lesson because ultimately it is up to her to teach them or not. Each lesson has a corresponding activity to help the girls with their understanding. This trip’s objective has been not as fun or exciting because I truly love working with the girls. But, it is crucial to creating an educational sewing program for the upcoming year. My mission is to “empower girls globally by teaching them a marketable skill” and one of the keywords is “teaching”. The education is the most important part, creating product is a bonus, and I have to keep reminding myself that. This curriculum will set the stage for the program for many years to come and will help each of the girls to develop a better understanding of sewing throughout these lessons.

Until next time,

Jessica Bachansingh

A Learning Curve

Like the sentiments shared by Austin in his blog post, I also felt, as he put it, “thrown into the fire” Although it was a rough first couple of days or so, not know what I didn’t know. Slowly but surely, I’m getting the hang of it. I get to become more proficient with multiple types of software, MailChimp, MemberClicks, Constant Contact, etc. I also get to see how a business might go about marketing itself and it’s events. But the best part is getting to connect and speak with people who make Tallahassee and the nonprofit sector hum. In four weeks no, I’ve made more contacts and learned more than I have in 23 previous years. I’ve always wanted to work on a political staff, and through working with INIE I was able to speak with the honorable Marjorie J. Turnbull, who previously represented our district, the 9th district in the Florida House of Representatives. Getting to speak with someone with personal work experience in the House was as informative and enlightening as all the study that I’ve done on politics since I became interested at age 15.

To summarize, I just wanted to iterrate the pleasure it is to get to be around such impressive people in this community and see how business actually gets done and the types of concerns and interests CEO’s and Directors have. Working with INIE has been very pleasant so far, and I look forward to what’s coming for the rest of the semester.

A Nonprofit Assisting Other Nonprofits

My first day at the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence was an interesting one as I was thrown into the fire a little bit. I was helping work a conference at Tallahassee Community College, the UPHS conference to be more specific. It was an amazing experience right off the bat as I met numerous fixtures in the Tallahassee area.

Since that first day I have been super optimistic about where this internship is going to take me experience wise. INIE is an unique nonprofit as they are a resource center for other nonprofits in the area to take advantage of. INIE is a membership organization so depending on how much an organization who wants to become a member has in their operating budget they will pay dues in accordance to that budget. INIE has roughly 150 paying members, there are over 2,000 registered nonprofits in Tallahassee so there is plenty of room for growth in numbers.

INIE is so worth the membership dues, in fact INIE is just about a no-brainer when any given organization contemplates joining. There is a plethora of benefits, from pro bono legal support to discounted printing there are a ton of benefits that make members their money back very quick. I am extremely excited to be working with INIE, the connections that this incredible nonprofit is giving me, and purely the great experience that I will never forget as well.

“A non-traditional internship”

Hello friends of Social Entrepreneurship,

My name is Jessica Bachansingh, upcoming Junior, and I will be interning under Elpis International, an American/Ethiopian Nonprofit that services children in Ethiopia by providing them education, food, and medical services. I will be doing my internship both domestically at their home office in Jacksonville, FL and abroad in Awasa, Ethiopia at their feeding center and school. My internship is a “non-traditional” because I created it on my own. I will be furthering the sewing program that I developed 2 years ago in Ethiopia by creating a website, deepening and implementing the sewing curriculum, and registering the program itself as my very own 501c(3)! Through the sewing program the girls sew infinity scarves that are sold in the USA to earn a living wage with other funds being invested back into the development of the program.

Above is my scope of work, but since I’m writing this post mid-internship a lot of this work has been accomplished! Which is an amazing feeling.

In the past month I’ve been working 2 days a week at the Elpis office in Jacksonville. I’ve been working on improving their social media presence by creating an instagram and scheduling 4 months worth of posts, organizing their database of pictures and child interviews and I’ve been learning about nonprofit management. This work has been essential experience in learning how to run a nonprofit (which is hopefully what I will be doing the rest of my life).

The other 3 days a week I’ve been working on achieving 3 major goals (website, curriculum, and the nonprofit registration). My nonprofit, Gifts for Confidence is officially registered with the state and the next step is registering with the IRS. I have my Tax ID, articles of incorporation, and my board of directors. I’ve written my mission and vision statements, imperative when starting a company. I have been working on the sewing curriculum and I am about halfway done. Lastly, I’ve been working on my website! It is done, and now I am in the editing stages. I’ve been using the Squarespace platform to tell the full story of the girls and and sell the scarves. I’ve taught myself how to create a website and I’m pretty darn proud of it. The website will launch June 9th, so stay tuned. In the meantime, Follow us on Instagram @giftsforconfidence

So here is where it gets real, being an entrepreneur is consuming. It’s exciting. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my short life. Entrepreneurs don’t get enough credit. Why is that? It’s because the majority of society just doesn’t understand. This lack of understanding has been the source of all my frustration lately.

Why is it that I begin to tell a family friend about what I’ve been doing all summer and they respond with a blank stare…..”They just don’t understand”

Why is it that I try and tell a close friend how I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and they can’t find the words to make me feel better? …..”They just don’t understand”

Why is it people just nod and say “that sounds like a lot of work”?….”They just don’t understand”

So who understands? I guess other entrepreneurs and like minded driven people. People who take the time out of your day to read these blog posts. Thank you for reading. As a budding entrepreneur you fear failure. You fear it so much because if you fail, it’s all your fault. It’s all on you. 1 in 10 businesses make it. Not only am I trying to make it, I’m trying to make it as a nonprofit. Totally a million dollar idea right, ha! Trying to be a social entrepreneur is like putting all the odds against you. So why do it? I’m sure all the blank stares of those who don’t understand probably want to ask me, “Why are you wasting your time working so hard to secure a future that you probably won’t make that much money in?”

Because I’m trying to change the world.  I’m trying to contribute to a bigger movement of education in Ethiopia. My one overarching goal is to provide an opportunity for these middle-school aged girls to learn the marketable skill of sewing. Learning at this age is imperative because after 8th grade, the students take a national exam that if they don’t pass, they don’t move on to high school. Therefore they have to go into the “real world” and begin earning money for their families. My hope is that this versatile skill will help them earn money. They are being taught how to fish! I believe we are all called to serve in one way or another. This is how I want to serve. Changing the world is why I serve. A nonprofit wasn’t always the dream, but it’s surely my passion and I can’t just suppress it so that I can have a decent paying job that pays the bills.

I leave for Ethiopia, June 12th, and I will be there for 3 weeks. While there I will be implementing the new sewing curriculum. I will be evaluating the existing program and further developing it. I will be paying the girls for the scarves that have sold. My other main goal is to work on marketing. I want to take nice portraits of all the girls and the sewing teacher, Friwot. I also want to interview them so I could put together that information for the website and for the Product Packaging. It all ties together!

Next time I write, it’ll be from Ethiopia!

Jessica Bachansingh- Post 1

silly big group shot
My girls!—–2016