29, 04, 2016

Meet Bené: A Brand Dedicated to Empowering Women Worldwide


Before you judge me, I’m aware that we are rolling into summer and I’m wearing a turtleneck. But I had to share with you all what is easily the most encouraging piece that I have in my closet.

Through the purchase of this scarf, I was able to help provide education for girls in Ghana. As a young Liberian-American who works to help educate my local Liberian community, it was important to me to support a cause that helped empower the women of Africa. I am dedicated to empowering women. So, as  summer springs, I found it necessary to spotlight a brand that was doing so: Bené.

I met Michelle, one of the founders of Bené, when I attended the Zuvaa pop up shop in Atlanta. I saw a women walking around in one of her scarves and I just had to have one. When I asked her where she got it from, she pointed me to Michelle’s station.What was supposed to be a quick purchase turned into a thirty minute conversation about her passion for her brand. I was immediately sold. I knew that I definitely need to support this brand that was doing so much to empower women. The scarf that I wanted was discontinued, but she was sweet enough to dig into her archives and mail me one within the week.

I had a chance to catch up with her again and asked her to share that same infectious story that made me what to support Bené all the more.

taniqua-russ-benePhoto credit: Bené

What sparked the idea and launch of Bené?

While I was a student at the University of Georgia, I had the opportunity to study abroad to Ghana. During one of our visits I met some really amazing girls. They welcomed us in a singing and dancing circle and despite all they seemingly didn’t have, they still had an infectious joy and spirit that I was in awe of. I left that day wanting to do more, wanting to be a part of these girls lives and girls with similar stories around the world, girls who were fighting to receive an education. As soon as I could, I called [my best friend] Sasha to share with her the stories of the girls I had met. Being from Jamaica, the stories of the girls resonated with Sasha and it was then that we knew we had to do something. After several months of balancing school and trying to figure our how we could support the girls, we were inspired to start Bené, a collection of scarves committed to help support girls in Ghana continue their secondary education by providing tuition, books, supplies and uniforms to fulfill their dreams.

Why was it so important to you all to build a company that helped these  young women?

When we started Bené we knew that we wanted to make a difference in the girls lives that I met on my trip to Ghana. We knew that it had to be sustainable and something greater than the two of us. We have started with educating girls in Ghana and hope to support girls all around the world. When you educate girls, you’re not just educating them, you’re changing their lives, their family lives, and you’re contributing to their countries. When you think about what impact that really has, that can change the world. And if we can be apart of that, I think that’s awesome!

 What are some of the challenges you both face as a millennial entrepreneurs?

As millennials we tend to want everything right now. It’s a challenge sometimes to have patience in the process of building a business. It takes a while, we just have to trust it and not feel the need to rush through.

Have there ever been moments when you all wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome them?

Every business owner experiences the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, I think it is most important to be reminded of your ‘why’. Knowing that we are making a difference in someone’s life keeps us motivated through this journey despite the inevitable failures and sacrifices we have to make. Keeping in mind that it’s not about us eliminates giving up as an option. It also helps to go through these moments with someone so you can have someone to lean on and help you climb out of those valleys.
taniqua-russ-bene-girls-ghanaPhoto credit: Bené

What is one thing that serving these girls in Ghana has taught you about life?

Serving the girls in Ghana has taught us that you don’t have to have much or know everything in order to help someone else. We were college students when we formed the business. Both with very limited knowledge and bank accounts. We knew we wanted to help so we did. Sometimes it may get a little frustrating because we want to do so much more but we had to learn to appreciate the impact that was being made and know that from that, more will come. The important thing is to start.

 What is one thing you want people to remember about the brand? 

We just want to educate women. That’s it. Scarves are a tool to make that happen. Don’t get me wrong, we place a lot of time and effort into our product and we’re intentional about it being a quality, fashionable piece, but we honestly didn’t set out to own a scarf company. We started Bene out of a desire to help young women get the education they deserve.  We want people to understand the importance of elevating women in every society, every culture and every way possible and know that we can all play a part in doing that, big or small.

Michelle and Sasha are headed back to Ghana to see the fruits of their labor; their girls are graduating. “There’s no better way to celebrate someone and show your support more than showing up for them,” says Sasha. “Being there and getting to capture the experience makes it all real.”

To support the movement and help the ladies on their trip back to Ghana, check Bené.

You can also find them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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Taniqua Russ

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