Beads to Business Graduate

Meet Joan Ahimbisibwe

Joan - Former BeadforLife Member

Joan is an entrepreneur extraordinaire! Joan, 40, is a mother of three grown children. When her husband died from AIDS, Joan saw their land and home go to her two brother-in-laws. Next, she learned the two men were going to “inherit” her and own her as their new wife. The idea of belonging to these alcoholic, abusive men was terrifying, so with her two small children she fled to a Kampala slum where she struggled to provide even one meal a day.

Weak with HIV symptoms, Joan still mustered the energy to work tirelessly making mud bricks and earning less than $1 a day. When BeadforLife met Joan, she immediately recognized the incredible opportunity and was determined to change her life.

With her first income from creating paper bead jewelry, Joan bought a piglet she fed on scraps and sold later for a profit. With her confidence and momentum growing, she gave up her tiny rented room and moved into a small storefront. During the day she sold rice, soap and sodas to the local community. At night, she would roll out a thin mattress behind the counter where she and her children slept. She saved her money, studied hard to learn basic business principles and launched not only a second business, but also a third. 

Several years and more profits later, Joan heard that BeadforLife was buying 18 acres of land and would help beaders build their own homes. “It seemed like a far-off dream - impossible to believe. But I started to save money... just in case it came true! You can imagine what I felt when I was chosen in the first group to go and build our houses!”

BeadforLife Beader Joan

Today life is bountiful for Joan, who has survived fierce discrimination, HIV-AIDS, and extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur.  Joan owns her own land and home with an abundant garden of sweet potatoes, cassava, and cabbage. Two of her children are in an excellent boarding school.

“I feel happy, I feel so, so, happy because of BeadforLife! I was renting and now I own a home. My children are studying and one of my girls is at University. It’s because of BeadforLife. I am even coming to America!” – she says with boundless joy.

In April 2013 Joan will be visiting the United States for the first time. Learn more about The Opportunity Tour here.