Georgetown celebrated its new research study evaluating Kate Spade & Company’s innovative project in Rwanda with an event on campus on June 19.

Kate Spade & Company recruited 150 talented women artisans in the small Rwandan community of Masoro in 2013 and helped them create a worker-owned, for-profit social enterprise.

The Rwandan facility is now a supplier for Kate Spade & Company, known for its chic handbags and other merchandise.

Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business – in partnership with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security (GIWPS) – assessed the innovative supply chain model and found it has empowered the women of Masoro economically, socially and psychologically.

“Kate Spade’s work in Rwanda is showing that it is possible to transform and empower a marginalized community through a business investment,” said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of GIWPS.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, Kate Spade & Company CEO Craig Leavitt, and Rwandan Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana joined senior leaders in the development and fashion industries for a discussion of the study, hosted by GIWPS.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Kate Spade & Company created their on purpose initiative in Rwanda as an effort to provide female artisans in a post-conflict, impoverished community with access to the global marketplace, said Kate Spade & Company CEO Craig Leavitt during the Georgetown event.

The project was designed to achieve economic and social returns for the women, their communities, and the company.

The Georgetown research study found that the initiative has indeed empowered the women of Masoro. It also found that Kate Spade & Company has created a financially viable business model in Rwanda.

“Better Off”

The Georgetown research team was given total access to tour the Rwandan facility and visit workers’ homes in Masoro, said Ed Soule, a McDonough School professor and lead author of the report.

Soule said the Rwandan model brings a global value chain to a developing country while also empowering and elevating the people doing the work.

“Very rarely do you get a story of it working so well – people better off producing for a global brand,” Soule said.

Rebuilding Rwanda 

Though it happened 23 years ago, Rwanda is still recovering from one of the worst genocides in history.

The facility in Masoro, Rwanda offers mental health services to its employees, along with providing other personal and professional resources.

Kate Spade & Company is actively assisting the Rwandan facility in their search for a second client and potential investors to support their growth trajectory, Leavitt said.

Ambassador Mukantabana commended Kate Spade & Company for their work in Rwanda and said public-private partnerships are key to rebuilding her country.