Pepita selling at EWI’s 2016 Marketplace event. Photo courtesy of Ernesto Rivera.

Karidjatou Pepita C Kragbe completed EWI’s Entrepreneur Training for success Program in the fall of 2015 but her relationship with the organization is still going strong.  Karidjatou who goes by Pepita, enrolled with EWI to hone her presentation skills and develop the business know-how that would help her take her businesses to the next level. 

Pepita has not only been working for the past five years at the World Bank, but also runs two businesses. Her entrepreneurial story began in her home country of the Ivory Coast where she was a West African model.

“While traveling around the country modeling, I discovered many beautiful handmade items made by passionate women who were still not able to sustain their families,” Pepita said.

After stepping down from modeling to start her own family, she continued to use her recognition to bring attention to the Tisserand (hand woven) women in a village call Waraniene located in the Northern part of the Ivory Coast to help raise awareness of and sell their distinctive and colorful art so that they could support themselves.

As a result of her desire to give back to the women of her country, she created Peck’s Collections, an online boutique retailer of unique and traditional accessories, clothing and home décor imported from the Ivory Coast.

Pepita also runs La Main Tendue- The Reach Out Hand, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on providing assistance in the areas of Education, Health and Women Empowerment. La Main Tendue supports individuals and groups in Francophone West Africa by providing school supplies and collecting and distributing basic medical supplies such as generic drugs, wheel chairs and hospital beds.

When it came to the challenges of starting and running her businesses, Pepita says the most difficult areas were finding investors and identifying her niche market. “In my case, writing my business plan, creating a budget, and talking in front of people were most difficult,” says Pepita. “I am shy when it comes to talking to people because English is not my first language.” 

Since completing the Entrepreneur Training for Success course and receiving the ongoing support and mentorship from EWI’s staff, Pepita has gotten the boost of confidence that she needs to continue spreading awareness and pursuing funding for her business missions.

“I am so grateful to EWI for giving me such a great training and an opportunity to meet the right people at the right time” she said. “I would like to partner with EWI in the future for a trip to Africa to teach their model to the women there so that they can experience the training and empowerment that is so necessary to live the life of your dreams.”

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