Designing Women

On Wednesday, Jan had the privilege of leading a Design Thinking seminar for 16 Ghanaian women entrepreneurs who are part of the local AWEP chapter. AWEP (African Women’s Entrepreneurs Program) is sponsored by the US Department of State and promotes small women-owned businesses.  Jan was invited to lead this seminar by her contact at the State Department, Janie James-High (also shown above). These ladies run businesses ranging from Shea Butter Cosmetics to Mushroom Farming to Clothing Design. The leader of the Accra chapter, Comfort, was sent to the US last year to meet Hillary Clinton and participate in a mentorship program. She received a “shout out” in a video on the Dept. of State site.

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The Design Thinking Seminar is all about listening to the customer and designing products that meet her specific needs. This was the same seminar that was taught by Jim Patell and his associates from the Stanford Design School during the immersion week for the cohort companies. In this particular session, Jan guided the women in a step-by-step process of interviewing their customer--the woman sitting next to them--about her needs for a wallet.

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They asked each other questions like, “What does your wallet mean to you?  Are you worried about losing it? What do you put in it?”, to go beyond functional requirements to uncover deep insights.

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The group was very animated discussing their purses and wallets.

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After listening to their “user”, each woman was asked to come up with three distinct ideas that might meet their partner’s needs.

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They discussed the various ideas, and got feedback.  Then they were given 12 (!) minutes to make a prototype of the wallet (again, as a tool to get more feedback  from their customer.) The resulting prototypes were amazing!

Debbie wanted a purse that matched her outfit – and she got one!

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Delali wanted a wallet that was simple and easy to open. Voila!

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Comfort wanted a cup holder integrated into her purse so she could drink water or coffee on the go!

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The ideas went on and on.  There was no shortage of ideas in this group!  Instead, they were very proud of their designs and looked forward to taking this Design Thinking process home with them to implement in their own businesses. Hopefully this will give them new insight into understanding the needs of their customers and designing products to meet these needs.

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