Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Ibeji Resource Center

Entrepreneurial goal: Selena Derry Awoleye runs Ibeji, where senior and low-income women meet several times a week in the basement of a Rogers Park church to learn to make jewelry, purses, pillows, and other crafts to sell. She runs the nonprofit center as a volunteer and would like to increase both monetary and material donations and expand the market for the crafts by researching possible sales channels. Awoleye would also like to improve cash flow.

Key challenges: The center has no website and does not have a system in place for tracking sales, a percentage of which are supposed to go to Ibeji.

Quinlan team’s business plan:

  • Target three sales channels: boutiques frequented by upscale Chicago women, craft fairs, and the Internet.
  • To differentiate the crafts from others in the market, promote “the good” in buying them: they’re handcrafted and one of a kind, and sales of the items support and empower women.
  • Product tags, with logo, can identify the maker and personalize the items.
  • Create a website and a newsletter to promote Ibeji. Collect $5 monthly dues and develop commission structure so Ibeji benefits from sales.

The team’s biggest challenge “was staying true to our client’s vision” while imposing some business realities on the project, says team leader J.D. Wentz, who is in Loyola’s Master of Science in Accountancy program.

Client’s response: “This was truly an educational process for me,” says Awoleye. “I didn’t know how to go about getting a website or a marketing plan. The students did the research and came up with a lot of low-cost options.”

What’s next: Starting a website, doing an inventory of the fabric in stock, writing some grants. Wentz plans to stay on at least through the summer.

“I would like to help Selena out and see the project through,” he says.

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