Abby Speicher is a dedicated student, one of the top young entrepreneurs at Westminster College.
Last Thursday, it was that same entrepreneurial spirit that led her to skip class for the afternoon. She attended a party instead the launch party for her company, Daakye.
"I had two classes that I didn't go to today so I could take care of the event," Speicher said, "but my teachers were so understanding. They were giving extra credit for students who attended the party. They've been so helpful and incredible."
Westminster's Center for Entrepreneurship helped organize the event. The International Business major's startup is both business and benefaction, a social enterprise that buys handmade purses and wallets in Ghana and sells them in the United States for a profit. A portion of the sales helps fund educational fees for local children in Ghana.
Speicher witnessed the struggles in the country firsthand on a trip with her father five years ago. Then 16, she learned to appreciate the culture, the kindness and the curiosity of the children in Christian Village, a city of around 3,000 people.
She spoke about meeting Stephan Danzo, a man who earned $80 a month and spent $68 on school fees alone. Taking a cue from Toms Shoes, Speicher felt she could make a difference. Danzo now works for her company.
"We wanted a cause that would help children in the long term, not just a quick fix," Speicher said.
Daakye means "future" in the language Akan-Twi. Speicher hopes her efforts will help provide a brighter one for the Ghana children she now considers her family. Every purse sold pays for one child's education for a week.
Linda Muir, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Westminster, believes Speicher's future is bright as well.
"One thing I love about Abby is she's a true humanitarian. She always tells me 'Linda, I'm for the people,' " Muir said. "Even though she's an entrepreneur, she also has a passion to help people. I see her as someone who will always succeed and give back through her success."
On the same day, Speicher launched the company's website, http://www.daakye.com. Visitors can see profiles of the children, learn more about the mission and become part of the movement by making a purchase or hosting a purse party.
"It's all about reaching different groups of people," Speicher said. "At my high school, everyone has on the purse. Now, let's try and get everyone at Westminster to have on the purse and watch it grow from there."
At a glance
As a freshman, Abby Speicher pitched Daakye at Westminster's annual business plan competition. She was the only freshman to make the Top 10, a contest dominated by MBA students.
Speicher's future goals for Daakye are to sell more than 600 purses by Christmas and 6,000 purses by May. She hopes to sell 15,000 by Christmas 2013.
The items, from totes to cross-body purses, sell between $15 and $25 online.