On Friday, March 11, 2016 the Bright House Networks Regional Business Awards was hosted at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort, representing businesses in the Greater Orlando area. The atmosphere was radiant; the night commenced with cocktails as guests mingled on the balcony overlooking the beautiful hotel exterior. As for the event itself, awards were given to regional businesses, from start-up to large companies in recognition for their outstanding performances over the year. There were plenty of applicants but only a limited number were chosen to compete, and an even narrower amount placed. This year’s first place winner in the “Small Businesses” category was Asian American finalist, Bajalia International Group, a company based in Winter Park, Florida. Bajalia is a “wholesale and retail business, marketing products along with the stories of women around the world.” From jewelry to accessories, coupled with a social mission “committed to alleviating poverty” the company is making a fashion statement as well as a statement of purpose. Currently, Bajalia has about 16-18 employees in the United States, including both part and full time workers.
Bajalia International Group was founded by Debbie Farah. It has two organizations: a nonprofit company that “creates jobs for women” and a for-profit company that focuses on the “sales and marketing” of products made by artisans around the world. According to Farah, the nonprofit company handles part of the work that Bajalia does by concentrating on “artisan and community development, incubation of businesses, training, and collecting of the data and facts about what women do globally.” The separate for-profit company centers on the “sales/marketing efforts, design developments, shipping and infrastructure and distribution.” By cooperating with entrepreneurs in underdeveloped communities, Bajalia is able to help “increase the value of the goods” they produce by placing a “higher value” on them, ultimately allowing them to “compete in the global market.”
Inspiration Behind Bajalia
For CEO Farah, the inspiration in creating Bajalia stemmed from seeing first-hand how the opportunity to work could change lives for women. “I got my first job at 14, and first marriage proposal at 15.” As a Middle Eastern woman, Farah voices how having a career was a “way out of the traditional Arab marriage.” Believing that violence against women can be combatted with the creation of job opportunities, Bajalia is devoted to evaluating the needs of women worldwide. The company even goes “beyond fair trade,” encouraging “little girls to stay in school” and trying to “end generational poverty.”
When Farah traveled overseas with the nonprofit organization, she saw a “huge need” from women who were making products that “weren’t very marketable,” but were promising with a little help. According to Farah, Bajalia helps these artisans design a “better product…charging more” which in turn allows them to “pay better wages.” Specifically, the company is able to pay about “four to seven times more” than what the artisans would have been paid in their communities.
With so much talent, passion, and collaborative efforts, it is no wonder Bajalia is such a thriving and inspiring business. Their placement as first in the “Small Businesses” category at the Bright House Networks Regional Awards Show is nothing short of deserving.