Entrepreneurship is a Form of Empowerment

As women are impacted disproportionately by policies and experience high levels of discrimination and abuse, they tend to be marginalised. By creating networks and businesses which help to improve their lives, we can see the long term impact of their economic reach. Jo Ann Hamilton, Founder & CEO, RareBirds Zine, explains in detail.

Jo Ann Hamilton is the Founder & CEO, RareBirds Zine. Born and raised in St. Croix, Virgin Islands and a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., Cass Business School in London and Kingston University, Hamilton’s professional and cultural experiences span continents. Working in the corporate world in the property and construction industry for a decade, Hamilton is currently teaching and guest lecturing at various academic institutions around the globe. A mentor, advisor and champion to various global communities, BW Businessworld spoke to her at the Women Economic Forum held in New Delhi, to find out more about her interests and her views on women achievers.

What is women empowerment for you?

For me women empowerment is about having freedom of choice. The previous generations did not have many of the choices that I have. There are also many women around the world who still do not have access to the choices I currently have. I believe as long as women have the freedom to choose, they can live more holistic, happy lives and impact those around them in a sustainable way. 

What is the essence of being a woman in one word for you?


Do you think more forums like WEF should be there to voice and award our women achievers?

Absolutely! I would also like to see more men involved in programmes that amplify the voices of women. We cannot do it alone! As women we definitely need our own spaces to celebrate each other but if we can bring men in to celebrate us, understand our issues and develop solutions, we will then be creating the ideal society where everyone is growing and benefitting from a more holistic approach which benefits everyone!

What is your mantra of success?

First and foremost know and understand your why. Once one has that in place, work hard for the right reasons and within your purpose, stay focussed but at the same time refine your vision, be a perpetual giver because kindness is good in life and business. Surround yourself with like minds, stay open and flexible and never ever forget where you came from. 

What it is to be a woman in this day and age?

Being a woman today means nothing is impossible! It means having unlimited opportunity. The shift is happening and we are in the middle of it. What a time to be alive, to be able to experience it and be a part of it. 

Who inspires you the most and why?

I am inspired by my mother, by the everyday woman, by the women I am fortunate to work with and meet at events like WEF. These women inspire me because their stories keep me motivated and focussed particularly on bad days. That said, there is something to learn from everyone, so inspiration is everywhere, as long as my (our) eyes are open to seeing it! 

How can businesses empower the marginalized?

In terms of entrepreneurship I believe that as more entrepreneurs bring together social, economic, political and cultural nuances to solve problems, the opportunity for marginalised groups to be empowered presents itself. Marginalised groups tend to live on the fringes and lack access to rights, resources and opportunities. Entrepreneurship is a form of empowerment as it promotes self-determination, self-reliance, restores dignity, brings together political, social and economic issues and provides an opportunity for marginalised groups to participate, influence and control of one’s future. Entrepreneurship places the power in the hands of the disempowered by giving them a choice. It also provides the ability to affect change by impacting policies. 

What role can women play here?

Women always have a role to play in every aspect of our society.  In terms of marginalised groups, many tend to be women and girls. Examples include sex workers, undocumented workers, ex-offenders, substance abusers, the homeless, the mentally ill, indigenous communities, the elderly and children. As women are impacted disproportionately by policies and experience high levels of discrimination and abuse, they tend to be marginalised or in one of the aforementioned groups. Women can help other women by creating networks and businesses’ which help to improve their lives. We understand each others problems, which are so similar irrespective of culture. Women around the globe are all having the same conversations, therefore we can definitely work together to shift the paradigm and bring men into the fold as well. Together we can achieve so much!

How do things change in the next decade or so?

As more and more women continue to start businesses’ we will begin to see the long term impact of their economic reach. For example, more women using their own funds to contribute to welfare and social programmes as well as more philanthropic causes being set up by women who are millionaires, for example. Economic power is the foundation for other forms of power, therefore I think we will see many changes in other aspects of women’s lives, which is a good thing. I do not believe economics on its own is the answer but it does play a huge part in solving the puzzle! 

One personal question, how do you spend time alone?

I am an avid cyclist and runner, sustainability enthusiast, faithful writer, aspiring yogi, ardent traveler and burgeoning gardener. I have been a vegan for 23 years and counting, so when I’m not engaged in any other thing you can find me in the kitchen, experimenting with vegan dishes!

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