ACCRA, Ghana — This spring, entrepreneur Grace Adom attended a business training course for the first time. After 12 weeks, she graduated this April—excited to strengthen the business she's owned for 10 years, and to share a new sense of affirmation she's found in a network of business owners through Hopeline Institute in Accra, Ghana. "The name [of my business] is meant to encourage people to believe like I have," says Grace, who had started Believe Feed Meal a decade ago on a micro loan of $300 USD. Today, she employs seven others, and the business holds a value of $13,000. With the mission to provide high-quality poultry feed to farmers surrounding the city, Grace takes tuna fish refuse from the local tuna factory, then grinds it into feed for chickens and turkeys. While her future is looking bright, it hasn't always been that way. When she was 16, Grace was kicked out of her home when she refused to marry an older wealthy man. Raised in a poor Muslim community, Grace decided she wanted to make a better life for herself, and to do that, she needed to complete secondary school. She used her entrepreneurial skills to sell water on the street and saved up profit to pay her own tuition—as well as three of her siblings' school fees. Years later, Grace married another Muslim man, and was kicked out of her home again when she became a Christian. Not only did she receive refuge in the church community, she describes, but the church also provided her a microloan to start a business selling grains and rice.
Yet, the conflict didn't end there. Because she had shamed her husband's family, they plotted to have her arrested on false charges, and, as a notable family in their region, they succeeded. She was sentenced to prison with no clear accusation. "The prison gave me no chance to contact or notify anyone of what happened," she says. Then a miracle began. After three months, a fellow inmate was released and got word to Grace's pastor of Grace's predicament. "The church immediately held an emergency meeting!" says Grace. Within a day, 12 key members came to the prison—lawyers, customs officers, and police to act on her behalf. She had been sentenced to five years or a fine of $330 USD. "They decided not to pay the money because they knew I was innocent," she says. Instead they filed an appeal, and after two more months, Grace was freed. As soon as she was out, Grace's church offered her that money instead to start the poultry feed business she owns and operates today. Through the business training this spring, Grace has created a viable business plan, and continues to learn from her new network of Christian peers and business owners through Hopeline Institute and Partners Worldwide.
Despite every opportunity to lose her faith, Grace says her calling is still affirmed: "The Holy Spirit is in me. I am putting all my trust in the Lord." Since it began in 2007, Hopeline Institute has served over 500 clients, especially marginalized woman, working with them as they grow from micro-business owners to small and medium businesses (SMEs). In 2010, Hopeline Institute joined with Partners Worldwide to enable SME owners to grow further through business training, mentoring, and access to capital.