Social entrepreneurship, one sandal at a time

MichaelBehan226

August 26, 2011

Volunteering in Kenya last year inspired Northeastern University student Michael Behan to launch Njabini Apparel, a nonprofit microenterprise that employs disadvantaged and disabled women in the rural farming town to design and then sell clothing and accessories.“If you can’t work on your plot of land, there really aren’t many ways to earn a steady income and support your children,” said Behan, a junior who is pursuing a business degree with a concentration in social entrepreneurship and finance in the College of Business Administration. “This was a way to create jobs.”

The women who work for the Njabini Apparel design slippers made from hand-spun sheep’s wool and sandals from recycled tires and leather, as well as hats, bags, wristlets and scarves. Behan organized financial literacy programs to educate them on the importance of saving and budgeting.

In addition to the business’s website, he hopes sales of the goods will expand throughout Kenya and on college campuses across the United States.

In January, the young humanitarian returned to Kenya to run Njabini Apparel on site and beginca a co-op with Flying Kites Global, a nonprofit organization that strives to give the world’s most vulnerable children the tools they will need to succeed.

Behan—whose international co-op was supported by a Presidential Global Scholarship and an Office of the Provost undergraduate research grant—directed an outreach program and helped manage an orphanage and primary school run by Flying Kites, which receives a percentage of each item sold by Njabini Apparel.

He began volunteering for the nonprofit in high school, when the organization was based in his home state of Rhode Island. Since then, his experiential learning opportunities in Kenya have cultivated his passion to use business principals to foster social change.

Behan hopes to return to Kenya for a second co-op with Flying Kites next year. “I’m passionate about social entrepreneurship,” he said. “I know that’s what I want to do with my life.”