Students partner with Indian women, create craft business

It all began with a pouf, a fabric-covered hassock created last year by a group of village women of Bandhwari, India, in collaboration with nine College of Business students as part of their annual social entrepreneurship project. When the 2016 trip was over, the students, all members of the International Business Honors Society, vowed to return and help the women turn their crafts-making into a profitable business.

In March, 10 society members, including some from last year, went back to Bandhwari. They now have new products, including a tote bag and carryall, and optimism that, with the women sewing in India and students setting up marketing and distribution in the United States, the enterprise will generate income for the village, to be used for better schooling, improved health care and higher living standards.

Ten FIU IBHS members return to Bandhwari India.

But products are only the starting point. The students learned firsthand about the challenges of launching an international export business, and how to work collaboratively with people from vastly different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“It was so much more than I expected,” said Andrea Alonso, a finance major, who went to Bandhwari for the first time this year. “The women were so welcoming. More than anything, they are open to learning. They really trust us.”

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