Student organization UNC Charlotte Enactus has received multiple grants for an initiative to help women in Charlotte make the transition from incarceration to freedom.
The grants from The Walmart Foundation and The Coca-Cola Foundation are providing support for the student group and women to develop and market a handmade jewelry line called Forward Accessories.
The UNC Charlotte student chapter of Enactus is working alongside the Center for Community Transitions, a private facility that helps women make the transition from incarceration to freedom through workshops, job preparation, and life classes. Enactus is a global non-profit organization that uses entrepreneurial action to change lives.
Marisa Hicklen, a marketing major at UNC Charlotte in Enactus, said the goal of Forward Accessories is to help the women have a sustainable source of income, while also helping the center to become financially stable. The $1,500 grant from The Walmart Foundation and the $1,500 grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation will go toward the operations and marketing of Forward Accessories. Specifically, the team plans to use the grants to create an ecommerce website, create a web commercial, buy raw materials, buy a tablet and print marketing materials.
Hicklen said the project began in November 2013 after an Enactus member heard about the center through a friend, and the need to help women transition successfully from prison to freedom. According to The American Civil Liberties Union, in the United States there are more than 200,000 women in prisons and jails. In North Carolina, 40 percent of women who are released from prison return to jail or prison. In 1987, the center opened The Women’s Center and in 2010 they relocated to a new 30-bed facility in Charlotte. Since 2011, 100 percent of the center's released residents have avoided going back to jail or prison.
Since the creation of the jewelry line, the women have sold the products at various trade shows in and around Charlotte. They have also sold the jewelry at events on campus, including an Enactus alumni networking event in November. Profits from the business will be reinvested into the line, used for transportation services and the center’s reintegration initiatives. A percentage will be donated to other causes affecting women, such as domestic violence support and breast cancer.
This year, Enactus will add a green initiative to Forward Accessories by developing a design for biodegradable gift bags made of recycled newspaper in order to replace the plastic bags previously used to distribute the products. They will also conduct workshops with the women about production, marketing, sales and operations. From learning to make newspaper bags to tracking inventory, each workshop will help the women obtain skills that will help them successfully run the jewelry line themselves.
A large group of Enactus members have had a hand in the project, including project leader and junior Marisa Hicklen, seniors Noelle Cornelio, Austin Halbert, Halima Khan, and Ryan Evans, Juniors Trey Simpson and Courtney Hichman, and freshman Lucy Jayala.
“The Belk College is very proud of the Enactus team at UNC Charlotte in receiving these grants for the Forward Accessories project. The funds from this project will help support the Center for Community Transitions (CCT), which serves men and women moving from prison to society. In this particular case, teaching women about basic business, entrepreneurship and finance skills is an outstanding learning experience for the women and the members of Enactus. The UNC Charlotte Enactus chapter has a long history of doing business-related community service projects. They have been recognized by winning numerous awards at regional and national conferences and competitions,” said faculty advisor Dr. Daryl Kerr.
Enactus is a global non-profit organization on that has been on campus for about 10 years. This group uses entrepreneurial action to change lives through various projects that all have some sort of social, economic, or environmental impact. For more information, visit UNC Charlotte Enactus online at enactuscharlotte.com.