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How one woman went from art classes with her kids to coordinating over 100 artisans.

By uniting, these artisans give each other a chance to make a living.

How one woman went from art classes with her kids to coordinating over 100 artisans.
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Facebook #SheMeansBusiness

The first time Hema Balakrishnan started working with clay in a course taken with her kids — she knew it would lead her somewhere.

But where? Making a livelihood as a terra cotta artisan — transforming riverbed clay into colorful jewelry — was next to impossible. Freelance jewelers in her community would sometimes have to wait 40 days to be paid for their products.


All images via Facebook's #SheMeansBusiness campaign, used with permission.

That's more than a month before seeing cash flow.

Hema reached out to other artisans and found they all were experiencing the same problem.

She also knew there had to be a better way. A stronger business solution.

So she did it herself.

On her own, Hema connected with 11 separate terra cotta artisan groups — 200 terra cotta artisans total — and coordinated these groups to make feasible career options for the artisans.

The business is thriving.

As she was starting out, things weren't exactly all cheers and support.

"My in-laws were not in favor of me going to work," she told 99% TV Telugu,"so it was a sort of forced staying at home, which made me interested in pursuing lot of courses. So that's what made me interested in pursuing the clay course with my children."

But she didn't give up. This business was her calling.

As Hema told 99% TV Telugu, "Perhaps they thought this was a hobby or something that I would sit from home and do. This is something beyond a personal gain for me. This is something I want to do from the core of my being. It's an inner calling for me."

Many of the women who do the meticulous work of creating terra cotta jewelry are in the field for the love of the craft but also to support their families. Families don't have 40 days to wait for payment. So Hema got involved in all aspects of production of the jewelry to create a system where a livelihood for women artisans was possible. She knew that by pursuing her business, Color D Earth, she would not just be helping herself grow, she'd be empowering others.

"When this business is giving livelihood to so many terra cotta artisans, it gives me great happiness."

Using Facebook to not just sell products, but to promote the social good of her business, Hema has seen her customer base grow. As she told the Facebook #SheMeansBusiness initiative, "The story mattered, and the best way to communicate that story, aside from just speaking about it, was to use the internet."

And she's not stopping there.

After reflecting on all that she has learned in growing Color D Earth, Hema knew she wanted to pay it forward. Now, in addition to running this business, she offers mentorship workshops and coaching to women looking to start their own enterprises.


From a love of clay, she's created a business infrastructure that gives that love back to her community.

And it all started with her following her instincts, listening to her gut, and sticking to it.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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