“I extended for a third year in the Peace Corps to start this project, and when my assignment was completed, I returned to the US and decided to create Kurandza as a way to continue supporting my community in Mozambique.”
I met this next girl boss in Mozambique, where we both did the Peace Corps. They say working as a volunteer is the toughest job you’ll ever have, and yes they are right! But it’s also one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of one’s life. Elisabetta Colabianchi is an amazing, inspiring, and successful girl boss! She is one of the sweetest people I know, could always be found laughing and smiling, and spoke Portuguese really well! She and I were in different groups, but I had the chance to meet her on a few occasions. I could immediately tell that she was going to do big things in the Peace Corps. And well, in fact, she did. Peace Corps was her foundation to grow as a leader and start her own organization, ‘Kurandza.’ I am truly humbled to feature Elisabetta in my diary! We also included a bio from her counterpart and Country Director, Percina, from Mozambique. Take a look at her story and become inspired! Enjoy the interview!
Current City/State where you live: I’m location Independent with a home base in the San Francisco Bay Area
Hometown: San Francisco
Are you currently working a full or part time job?: Kurandza and the Global Dream Collective!
Tell me all about your organization Kurandza.
Kurandza is a social enterprise non-profit organization that empowers girls and young women in eastern Africa through education and entrepreneurship. We just launched our #IStandForGirls campaign to bring education to 100 girls in Mozambique in 2018, and we have big dreams for the future to help empower thousands of girls and women!
What made you decide to join Peace Corps, and how has working as a Peace Corps Volunteer influenced you to start an organization that helps empower women and children in Mozambique?
I always loved volunteering, traveling, and learning from different cultures, so I had always thought that the Peace Corps was amazing. My big dream was to work for the United Nations, but after studying abroad at the UN in Geneva, I realized that I was better suited for on-the-ground direct service. I applied for the Peace Corps and was placed in Mozambique!
While volunteering with the Peace Corps, my assignment was to work at a rural hospital, counseling HIV-positive women on how to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies. I noticed that the majority of mothers didn’t return to the hospital for their monthly consultations, and I found out that it was because they didn’t have an income to pay for the transportation costs to reach the hospital. So my friend, Percina, and I decided to create an income generation project for these women so that they could pay for transportation and stay healthy and happy.
I extended for a third year in the Peace Corps to start this project, and when my assignment was completed, I returned to the US and decided to create Kurandza as a way to continue supporting my community in Mozambique.
I know it can be hard to start a new business or an organization. What challenges have you faced while starting Kurandza? Are there any tools or resources out there that have helped you overcome these challenges?
Our major challenges are the day-to-day difficulties that people in our village face. From droughts to floods to hunger crises and robberies, it takes determination and resourcefulness to continue towards our goals while creating creative solutions.
Today’s age is all about ‘The Digital Age.’ With a powerful advertising platform such as Instagram, small businesses can reach a wider audience. I notice your feed is engaging and has beautiful, professional photos of your work and the people of Mozambique. In what ways do you think Instagram helps build your brand?
Thanks for the compliment! I’m a huge fan of Instagram and run 3 accounts! Because our organization is so reliant on visual storytelling to convey the impact of the work we do, I’ve found that Instagram is one of our best outlets for connecting with individuals and like-minded organizations who want to get involved or collaborate in some way.
Besides Instagram, what other social media platforms do you use? Which platform do you find the most appealing for your organization?
We also use Facebook! Both Instagram and Facebook are great for visual storytelling and building relationships with fellow change-makers who want to become a part of our cause!
Tell me about any recent collaborations you’ve done, and are there any other orgs or professionals that you’d like to link with?
For the #IStandForGirls campaign, Kurandza is collaborating with several inspiring women-run businesses like Isiko, The Zenly Shop, and She Rocks at College! I’m excited to continue partnering with like-minded women who care about girls empowerment! Oprah, Marie Forleo, and Sophia Bush are some of the women who I admire and who I would love to collaborate with!
How often do you travel to Mozambique for your work? Would you ever considering yourself living there?
I usually travel to Mozambique twice each year. I’ve considered living there, but since we have a Country Director, Percina, who runs all the on-the-ground operations, it makes more sense for me to be based in the US and focus on our marketing, donor relations, and impact here.
What is your most proud moment that you have achieved as a new business owner?
It was a pretty awesome moment to be invited to Uganda to speak to a youth group at the inauguration of a new brick-making social enterprise—I was asked to speak about the challenges I’ve experienced with the social enterprises I’ve started, and to inspire the youth to persevere and to not give up as they embark on their new project!
Now let’s get a little more personal! Tell me your favorite:
- Instagram account you follow: I love following Natalie from @sustainablychic
- Band or music artist: 2pac!
- Restaurant in your neighborhood: Farmshop
- Clothing boutique: I love several small ethical fashion companies like FASHIONABLE, Sseko, and Tribe Alive
- Lipstick: Radar Pink from my friend, Barbara’s beauty bar in Brazil!
- Netflix show or movie: hmmm… I watch re-runs of The Office and Grey’s Anatomy sometimes! Does that count?!
And let’s get a little more personal, shall we:
- If you won $20 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with that money? Send my namesake to college, real estate investments, build a vocational center and school in Mozambique, and do some more traveling ☺
- How would you describe your best friend in 3 words? Understanding, Loving, Fun
- What is the last good book that you’ve read? The Tipping Point
- What’s your favorite song on your current dance playlist? Anything by Beyoncé, Nikki, or Rihanna
- New York City or LA? NYC
- Ice Cream or Gelato? Gelato
- 3 places on your bucket list? Chichén Itzá, Bali, Zanzibar
- 3 things you love about Mozambique! The people, the food, the hospitality (the beaches aren’t bad either 😉 )
A beautiful story from Kurandza’s Country Director, Percina.
(Translated from Portuguese to English)
“I want to talk a little bit about my story and how I got an education. I was someone who really loved school, but there wasn’t a school nearby where I lived, so I needed to walk 12 kilometers, really 24 kilometers round trip each day to school. I really love education, and my desire is to see other people get an education because in my community I was the first student to graduate from high school, and I would love to see people follow in my footsteps by studying and graduating. Thank you.”
Be sure to follow Kurandza and Elisabetta AND donate to her campaign to send 100 girls in Mozambique to school! Thank you Elisabetta for being an incredible girl boss! Until the next one……xo
Link to donate: www.kurandza.org/take-action