How to Exist in Ambiguity – and Make It Work

Working for a start-up is sexy, exciting, and….hard.

I’ve been with The Women’s Bakery since 2015 and because of this, I’ve had the remarkable fortune of working on a team that is collectively, and foundationally, creating something. We are on the front lines of innovation and changing the way non-profits run. We are refining our hybrid (non-profit and social enterprise) model so that we not only enable access to education for women, but that the education inherently provides the skills needed for women to launch and manage their business: bakeries.

But, what happens in year 2? Years 3 and 4? In the fine, grey areas of “growth” “roll-out” and “prototype”?

As our CEO, Markey calls it: Death Valley. Typically, this term is synonymous with start-ups that have negative cash flow in the early stages, even before bringing their product to their customers.

So, what happens when the product is a sustainable business, inclusive of our vocational education program?

What happens is this: ambiguity.

We, as a team have to boldly move forward in spaces that we don’t always have the answers for. We have to try new ways to deliver business education and in turn, new ways to run our ownership model for these businesses. For many, this could be uncomfortable as not having all the answers is hard when you’re working in an environment that demands it. Moreover, when we look to strategy, and create action items around how we can begin, officially, our program in the United States with refugees, we do so, knowing that “pivoting” and “distilling” will be a part of the process – just like it is in Rwanda and throughout East Africa.

So, how do we survive in this? How do we exist when there are many uncertainties?

We press on.
We acknowledge that we will know more – and soon.
We dream. We plan. And, then, we dream again, constantly committed to the vision set forth – even if you go about it in an unexpected way.  

We continue our work because we’ve seen the impact.

Our dream (mission and vision) – what we are doing now – is to empower women through education and business.

This guides us, anchors us, and holds us even in the seasons of our company that are less clear.

We will make it through Death Valley because we can. We will make it because The Women’s Bakery brings something new to the table: proof of concept, robust methods, tailored education, commitment to oversight, and, grit.

With The Women’s Bakery, we’re only just beginning.

With four bakeries in Rwanda started and two in Tanzania, there is still more to come.

The model is getting stronger. And, so are we.