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Liberian Turns Cooking Oil into Inspiring Business

Published 10/01/2012 by Global Communities

Liberian Turns Cooking Oil into Inspiring Business
By Erin Williams
This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.
When it comes to running a business, Kabeh Sumbo has a thing or two she can share. The native of Liberia is a product of the Goldman Sachs-funded 10,000 Women business training program, a five-year initiative focused on helping women across the world take their small businesses to the next level.
Since graduating from the year-long program in 2010, Sumbo has grown her cooking oil company, Passama Agriculture Trading, to new heights, including getting a contract to ship her goods to the United States. And through the help of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she recently obtained 100 acres of additional land to help expand her product line.
Sumbo, who on Monday was a featured speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative, will be in Washington on Friday to participate in a CHF International roundtable with members of the African community to discuss her work. Sumbo talked with The Root DC about the text message that changed her life, reaping what you sow and empowering other women who hope to follow in her footsteps.
Why did you decide to use oil as the product for your business?
I decided to choose oil because oil is a seller’s market that does not lose you. When you compare it with the foodstuffs market that [sells] everyday but the minute you don’t have [it], then you will be the loser. But for the oil, if you buy it, and if it [doesn’t] sell today, you can keep it for a year and nothing will happen to it.
What was the inspiration behind the name of your organization?
My business name is Passama Agriculture Trading Corporation. Passama is the name of my village where I come from. The meaning of “Passama” is “where good things come from,” and besides that, I see agriculture is good for everybody . . . you will reap just what you sow.
How are you working with other young women to help empower them?
Some women in my market do not have money, but I help them by giving them goods to sell. I also . . . tell them about the 10,000 Women program that will train them to make them better people.
How are conditions changing on the ground in your home country?
Women are now competing with men. Women are no longer sitting down only to work for their husbands who come and give them money. Because our president loves women and has a passion for women . . . she’s making every effort to make women compete with the men in our country. We can sleep well, we get up in the morning and go about our normal business. So I think life is improving in our country.
What’s next for your business?
My business is growing in such a way that I have also been awarded 100 acres of land [so] that I will have my own plantation.
With that, I’m able to help my sisters and brothers buy corn — not only my relatives, but outside of my family.
 Kabeh’s story will be included in the upcoming PBS documentary, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which airs on October 1 and 2. You can watch the video here.