IT WAS supposed to be a fantastic party, a grand opening of a pop-up shop after months of hard work and a celebration of an inspiring new link between Glasgow schoolgirls and young female entrepreneurs in Uganda.

Forced to abandon their original plans because of coronavirus, the young people of Maryhill, Hyndland and Lochwinnoch were not to be deterred.

Instead of giving up, they simply moved their plans - to sell beautiful bags made by a group of Ugandan businesswomen – online.

“I was disappointed when I found out the pop up shop had to be cancelled,” says Broomhill Primary pupil Sophia McLeery. “I was looking forward to getting to chat to people and learn to sell stuff. But thanks to this project, I learned you have to be adaptable when you are running a business.”

This project is Barefoot in Business, led by Women’s Enterprise Scotland Ambassador and founder of Glasgow based Scrumptious Productions, Carol Cooke. She was inspired to set it up after making a documentary about the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Uganda.

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“Uganda is home to some of the most inspiring and innovative women I’ve ever met,” she says. “I was proud to share their stories and the response was overwhelming.Everyone who watched it asked - where can I buy these products? How can I support these women? It didn’t feel right to just move on to my next project, especially when the message from the women themselves was so simple and so powerful – ‘we want your orders, not your aid.’

In Scotland, explains Carol, men are twice as likely to set up a business than women.

“Through Barefoot in Business we’re on a mission to confront this,” she says. “We want to provide hands-on business experience and real life role models to inspire girls to follow in our footsteps, while helping women in Uganda. This is about trade, not aid and we mean business.”

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Sophia and classmates at Broomhill joined pupils from Hyndland, Whiteinch, Thornwood and Lochwinnoch Primaries, Hyndland Secondary and members of North United Communities (NUC) Acting Up Drama group in Maryhill for the project.

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Over the course of eight workshops, each team was trained in the basics of business and marketing before creating their own boutique selling tote bags made by the Ugandan tailors.

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In Uganda, Sylvia, Prossy and Josephine were part of the tailoring team based in Kampala’s Katanga slum.

Sylvia explains: “Getting an international market for the bags has given me joy,” she says. “I have been able to earn and pay school fees for my children.”

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Prossy adds: “I feel happy when the bags that are made by me are bought internationally, that shows I am skilled. The ladies will look smart and unique with our bags.”

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“If we get more orders it will change my life,” says Josephine. “I will be able to grow my business, have my own workshop - maybe build my own house. That will make me very happy.”