Universal Outreach Foundation helps lay the foundations for Viola’s brickmaking business
This is Viola and she’s in the business of brickmaking. She is one of the few people to have taken both the Start-up and Accelerator Programs at Universal Outreach Foundation's Strive Hustle Hub, which is a testament to her determination and to how helpful she found the courses!
Viola started making bricks in 2004. The business started out as a “hand-to-mouth” necessity, just so she could afford to pay her children’s school fees and so food could be put on the table.
While Viola ‘knows book’ — Liberian English meaning that she is literate — and graduated from high school, her reading and arithmetic skills diminished over time from lack of practice, which made running her business a challenge.
It was her work ethic that carried her through this period: she researched thoroughly by asking other local brickmakers about their operations; she did the heavy lifting of loading all the bricks for delivery with her kids; and built her business with no prior experience. Her daughter, Julie, also learned how to make the bricks so she could spend time helping her mother in her spare time.
In 2012, her husband died. Viola’s brickmaking became the only source of income for the family and she continued to work hard with her business, but a few things, like keeping inventory and accounting, she found challenging.
A few years later, in 2020, she heard about Universal Outreach Foundation's business accelerator program and signed herself up. It was here that she learned about business, and improved her computer skills to balance her books and keep records.
“The things I learned there helped take me to another level,” Viola told UOF. Jefyne and David guided her through a lot of the technical sides of the business that were holding Viola back from reaching her full potential. She now employs four people and has saved a lot more money through her newly acquired technical know-how.
“The courses showed me that what I do today will help me reach my goals in the future,” she said. “You have to know your goal and your vision, and the finance I make today will take me to my vision.”
Working with Jefyne, she built her brand to entice new customers and develop closer relationships with her existing clients. Soft skills, like calling her customers after a sale and asking for reviews of her products, have lent to greater trust and higher customer retention. She also refined things like production and how much she should be paying her workers.
She has grown her business and has been able to send her three children to university. She hopes to continue expanding by buying a cement mixer and employing more staff - creating jobs in the community she one day hopes to serve through education, too. Her dream is to start a school for young children, to build a place where the youth can learn with an emphasis on the skills that have helped her flourish in the tricky world of business.
It was truly inspirational to speak to her about her journey as a brickmaker and how, as a widow, she was able to provide for her family and send her kids to school and university. She says the programs have been the building blocks for the success of her business in recent times. We eagerly await what is next for this passionate and hard-working woman!
First published UOF's website