Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf: A new store helps enterprising young women grow professionally and personally


“We got the idea because we wanted sisterhood,” explained Asiya Firin as she spoke of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf,” a business started by high school and college-age women and their mentors.

The young women are planning a late September opening of their store, which is located at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis.

The girls, of East African heritage, already had a Sisterhood group at the Coyle Center – meeting together in support of one another and having conversations they felt they could not otherwise have in their community. The group ebbed and flowed depending on the current leadership, but they wanted something more permanent.

Creating a store was the answer.

“Not a lot of young ladies get the chance to have their own stuff. Boys have more activities,” Kadro Isse observed.

Ayan Adbullahi agreed: “Girls are often excluded from sports because they are girls.”

The name of the new venture is a take-off on the book and movie, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” but the planners thought the word “scarf” better reflected their heritage.

Besides bonding, the young women are learning about inventory control, marketing, pricing and business plans. They’ve found personal and professional growth, and they link that directly to being leaders in their community and leaders for the next generations.

“By making myself successful, it makes my community successful,” Samira Ali said. “You can be productive with this. You can teach younger kids how to be successful. If I can do it, they can do it, too.”

And Firin said that “it is better if we have young business women and men. Sometimes being a leader is not really that easy.”

Another member, Nadirah Habib, is part of the Minneapolis Youth Congress and says, “I am a leader.”

The women give a lot of credit to their three mentors in the project.

“It is because of our hope and the hope of others,” Isse said. “Without them, we would not be where we are.”

And those mentors have learned about business and leadership, as well.

Mentor Leila Malow said she sees herself as a leader in her community.

Laurine Chang, who came into the group as a Public Allies AmeriCorps member, did not have a business background but she is now thinking of pursuing an M.B.A. “As a community activist, it really opened my eyes that we can make change come true,” Chang said.

And Stella Richardson recalled her own experience starting a thrift shop in St. Paul at age 15. “It made me feel empowered and now I am a businesswoman,” Richardson said. “It gave me somewhere to go in my life and made me feel good about being a leader.”

Right: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf business women (Photo by Kathy Magnuson)

What: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf
Where: Brian Coyle Community Center, 420 15th Ave. S., Minneapolis
When: Opening this fall (2013), store hours are expected to be Mon.-Fri., 4-8 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
FFI: 612-338-5282, or on Facebook

You can help: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf is seeking donations of gently used contemporary adult women’s clothing – both mass culture and traditional East African.

Volunteers are needed to help sort clothing, mentor or share specific areas of business expertise.

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