If no man is an island, then every woman is an archipelago, inextricably linked to other women rooting for her across time and space. At least, this is the overarching, heart-affirming takeaway from Five, a new series of documentary short films, commissioned by Mastercard in association with ShortsTV, that follows the journeys of five women from five different countries who have turned their passions into mission-driven businesses.
Each woman—based in Brazil, India, Lebanon, Croatia, and the U.S.—began her enterprise hoping to enact meaningful change in her small corner of the world, and in doing so, ended up building an entire community around her cause. It’s the sort of empowering storytelling that reminds us of our interconnectedness.
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Five women, one common spirit
The five women and their businesses include São Paulo-based Carolina Ignarra, who founded Talento Incluir, a consulting agency that works with companies to understand the value of hiring inclusively across disabilities; Ekta Jaju, an entrepreneur from India who created ONganic Foods, a business that champions sustainable, organic farming practices; Sarah Beydoun, founder and creative director of Lebanese company Sarah’s Bag, which teaches women how to create unique handbags to support their families; Irena Orlovic, the owner and editor of Croatian publishing house Harfa, which promotes literature and games for children with developmental disabilities; and Maya-Camille Broussard of Chicago’s Justice of the Pies, a community-minded bakery that tackles new flavor profiles and food insecurities in equal parts.
The purpose-driven spirit permeates their drive. “What doesn’t allow me to quit is that the souls of my ancestors would be looking down on me, like, ‘Girl, we built this up during the Civil Rights movement. We built this up during the era of redlining. If we can do this with the education that we had and the resources that we had, you can do so much more,’” Broussard says in the film. “And that keeps me going.” Her company was born out of a desire to pay tribute to her late father’s love of pies, as well as his work as a criminal defense attorney. “I am a social mission company first,” she says. “I just happen to bake pies.”
Building a legacy
In that sense, Five—which Mastercard backed as part of its commitment to include 50 million small and medium-sized businesses to the digital economy worldwide with support for 25 million female entrepreneurs by 2025—is also very much about legacy: honoring it, building it, and carrying it on amid trying circumstances. All five women spoke extensively about the importance of thinking beyond their own singular businesses to recognize the place their work takes in a wider web of social impact.
Beydoun believes all businesses should be actively thinking about their potential for social good. “I don’t think the world needs one more brand, or one more good bag, or one more nice shirt,” she says. “I think the world needs more … people supporting missions.”
Beydoun’s own journey to start her fashion house began while she was studying sociology in Lebanon. She discovered that many women didn’t have the support systems in place that could pull them out of a bad spot, financially or otherwise. And so she set about building a business that would teach women a set of skills that could help them create their own livelihoods and rely less on toxic partners or environments.
The company was built to provide women with skills like designing, sewing, and selling bags. Beydoun’s hope is to give women not just the skills to earn their own money, but the confidence to eventually become their own bosses, changing the trajectory of their lives and those of the women they will then go on to impact. “She didn’t start this as a business,” says Beydoun’s mother. “She discovered the suffering first.”
Filmed entirely before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Five exposes the forces that drive women toward entrepreneurship, and the bonds of mentorship and love that keep them going despite any challenges and pushback they might face. It’s a series that confirms just how important women’s work is, will be, and always has been in the deepening of our relationships to our environments, our cultures, and each other.
Call it encouraging, call it bold, or call it inspiring—these five women would most likely call their work their life’s calling: to be a conduit for change and social good. And, the hope is, an inspiration for other women looking to start their own ventures, too.
“I believe that being an entrepreneur is something that you are born with, it’s not something I learned,” Ignarra, founder of Talento Incluir, explains in the film. “I am a questioner and a nonconformist.”
A portion of the proceeds will support women’s empowerment initiatives.
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