MARIETTA — A Marietta jewelry store owner has inspired and empowered women in Zambia, says a missionary who lives there.
A 10-day gem-seeking and business conference trip to Africa in 2011 inspired Doug Meadows, the owner of David Douglas Diamonds in Marietta, to start a school for entrepreneurs, he said. Meadows traveled first to Uganda, and then he said he went to Zambia, where he conducted a workshop for women.
Men dominated most of the conferences Meadows attended with the goal of ensuring “a fair trade, where miners are taken care of,” he said. “We like to talk to other business owners and learn about their culture and challenges.”
A mutual friend told Dawn Bridget Close, a missionary for the Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment, Meadows was going to accompany her to Zambia for a business trip, Close said.
“When I heard Doug was a jeweler, I suggested we put on a seminar for jewelry, gemstones and mining,” she said. “Zambia is abounding in mineral wealth, but it is literally leaving the country by the ton — unprocessed.”
Close said she realized the local people weren’t profiting much from their resources.
“It wasn’t our intention to create jewelers,” Meadows started by saying, but he said he knew Close worked to “empower women.”
“Doug went so far above and beyond showing up to talk about being a jeweler,” Close said. “He brought a suitcase full of tools.”
Meadows said he ordered a brand new drill so the women would have a drill with the right voltage, even though he could have donated a used drill he already owned.
“What he did was set us up to start our jewelry making project,” Close said, adding that 53 women showed up for the seminar.
Meadows described how learning to use the donated tools, including files, saws, pliers, hammers and a variety of jewelry-making tools, blossomed into a business for the women.
Close said she asked Meadows to teach some basic jewelry making techniques in order to inspire the women to realize they could do more than just export uncut stones.
“It was a revelation for all of us to realize what could be done with the resources we have,” Close said.
The women living in an impoverished village can now transform recycled copper and semi-precious gems into finished jewelry, and then sell to consumers in Finland, Meadows said. Their products and story are online at www.free-zambia.org, she said.
Meadows said the women were so enthusiastic they had Close call Meadows, asking to learn more.
“Last July, I traveled to Atlanta and spent a day with Doug learning more techniques,” Close said. “He’s really been a key part of our jewelry project though teaching me skills that I could pass on to the women.”
In previous partnerships, Meadows said he had successfully taught jewelry-making skills, but the lack of education about business inevitably caused a group of Kenyans to fail. His hope is to educate, but “many of these people are busy looking for food for tonight,” he said.
“One thing Doug did was show the women how to use the Internet to market their products,” Close said. “I think Doug helped the miners and gemstone dealers realize what was and wasn’t realistic in marketing their gemstones.”
Meadows said he realized teaching jewelry making skills wasn’t enough to succeed, and entrepreneurs needed to learn business and marketing skills.
“When we looked at why they failed, they didn’t understand business,” he said, adding they could learn a skill, but needed to learn money management and how to build a business plan.
“A goal of mine now is to start an entrepreneurship school to make job creators instead of job seekers,” Meadows said.
During his last stop in Kenya, Meadows realized an opportunity to work with an orphanage to develop a school.
“When I thought of orphanages, I always thought of babies in cribs” he said, adding his surprise to see teenagers in orphanages. He said he decided to start a school for orphaned children between the ages of 14 and 18 to further empower them through learning trade as well as business skills.
“The school that we are setting up will be a web-based school for orphans in Nakuru, Kenya,” he said, adding a physical school will exist at the orphanage as well.
Meadows said he used a model that worked for teaching pastors biblical skills through mini conferences supported with online training at Lifeschool International.
“The model worked well and I applied it toward business,” Meadows said.