Have you ever heard the expression “Everything old is new again”? I think about that when I run into some of today’s young, passionate social entrepreneurs; those descendants of the ‘60s flower children who made up that first generation of Kennedy-era Peace Corps volunteers.
One person who fits that description is Kendra Jones Morris. Her desire to do the right thing in a world quite different from that of her Peace Corps parents, yet in so many ways quite the same, is why this photographer, film maker and, now, international entrepreneur founded Rural Revolution. Her company, based in New Orleans, is dedicated to supporting women artisans in under-developed countries who are trying to make a living for themselves and their families.
“I always told my parents that I’m a natural product of them,” Kendra says, describing a mother and father who spent two years as volunteer agriculture workers in Venezuela. “My mother was a local photographer; my father, even though he grew up on a farm in Missouri, became an expert on black walnut trees and did a reforestation project in China, at their request. So, although I grew up in a Missouri community of only 1500, I was always an artist entrepreneur. It was destined to be.”
Kendra’s life as a social entrepreneur began first when she acted as a cultural liaison linking large American companies to urban and rural micro industries in undeveloped countries; then as a photographer/filmmaker for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other not-for-profits in Africa and Central and South America; and, now, running her international company from New Orleans.
Married to a Professor of Film at Dillard University and the mother of a 4-year-old and a one-year-old, she still finds time in a busy schedule to share her entrepreneurial skills with those who need them in New Orleans.
This summer Rural Revolution created a co-op bringing together eight young women with a local designer who trained them how to create saleable crafts. In the two-week course the women learned how to define a retail concept, then brand it, produce it, document it and sell it. “Since then, we’ve been getting e-mails from them saying, they’re getting new customers and new orders, but what should they charge?” Kendra says. “We’re also hearing from local retailers that they can move clothing more than they can jewelry. So we’re going to start working on that idea with local seamstresses.”
It’s all a natural extension of Kendra’s own journey; taking the best of a rural lifestyle, blending it into an urban lifestyle and creating a business that makes money. It’s a journey that she says continues her lifelong quest to make sure that people can find ways to support themselves so that they are never regarded, nor do they regard themselves, as victims but as proud contributors.
To find out more about Rural Revolution, click here.