Recently I had the chance to sit down and chat with fellow entrepreneur Amy Chase, whom I met at a professional networking conference. Curious to learn how she got to where she is today, I asked about what sparked her desire to launch her social enterprise. While pursuing a college marketing degree in Manhattan, NY, Amy worked several different jobs to pay her way through school. One of the jobs happened to be a support role for a startup, her first exposure to the world of entrepreneurship.
After acquiring her Master’s degree in International Affairs, Amy relocated to the nation’s capital to pursue international development projects. She was sent on assignment to several transitional (war-to-peace) or pulse (recurring) conflict countries, including Afghanistan, Rwanda, Iraq, Turkmenistan, and Kosovo. After many years working in such environments, she recognized that women were the most underserved by traditional development programs. The women who survive genocide and rape are often stigmatized and left at a severe disadvantage in their patriarchal societies. Many of them do not have the education, tools, or opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
Realizing this need, Amy sought to come up with a creative way for women to make a living for themselves and learn to become economically independent. For the many women who might not have had any schooling or job training, why not make things with their hands, such as arts and crafts?
This past summer Amy decided to start with Kosovo, a familiar country in which she already had connections. She formed a partnership with an organization there that teaches women to make and sell handmade products. Women learn to craft useful items such as totes, coin purses, book marks, and holiday greeting cards. To support the craft makers, Amy buys their handmade goods at 100% asking price. To sustain her business, she created an online marketplace to sell the goods to US and international buyers, who wouldn’t be able to obtain these products elsewhere. In April, she officially launched her company, The Crescendo Group.
The Crescendo Group helps female survivors of armed conflict and gender-based violence, economically empowering them by providing jobs and developing a space to sell their handmade goods. By doing so, The Crescendo Group also advocates for these women and encourages retailers and consumers to be socially conscious when making purchases.
In addition to the online marketplace, The Crescendo Group appears at pop up shops around the DMV tri-state area. (Eventually, the aim is to acquire large orders from major retail chains). The revenue from sales helps Amy cover her operating expenses, make site visits to partners on the ground (for quality control and assurance), and enables her to keep supporting the women by buying from them.
Amy’s vision is to have The Crescendo Group expand to other places of need by developing more partnerships. Some women are not allowed to work outside their homes due to patriarchal customs, or are unable due to safety reasons such as bombings. For these women, Amy hopes to deliver them the raw materials they need to make crafts at home and return to pick up the finished products. Further down the road, Amy plans to open offices in cities with large refugee populations, such as D.C. and New York. These offices could then serve as both job training and manufacturing sites.
On both an economic and practical level, The Crescendo Group empowers women around the world. By creating a marketplace for their handiwork in developed countries like the U.S., it enables them to develop valuable jobs and skill sets while raising awareness and giving them a voice.
As an emerging organization, The Crescendo Group needs support to continue reaching more women. If you’d like to help support the mission, here are a few great ways to get involved!
- Help Amy reach her goal by donating to her iFundWomen campaign HERE!
- Shop the website when picking out this year’s holiday gifts for loved ones! Sign up for the mailing list to receive updates and product discounts.
Be a voice for these women survivors by spreading the word on Instagram (@thecrescendogroupllc), Facebook (The Crescendo Group), and Twitter (@CrescendoBazaar)