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Ontario Small Business Supports African Small Business

Alicia Looyenga believes there is a lot of “stuff” in this world, and she is on a mission to use it to benefit others. Through her new business, Little Wooly Mama, and a mentorship program with Partners Worldwide, she is accomplishing exactly that.

Alicia Looyenga with daughter Anneke, 5, wearing an upcycled woollen hat.

Looyenga, a member of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, makes and sells children’s clothing and accessories from “upcycled” woollen sweaters, donating the proceeds to a revolving loan program that supports women entrepreneurs in West Africa. Essentially, her recycled products produce recyclable money.

Partners Worldwide, which grew out of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, works toward poverty elimination through job creation. Partners recently matched Looyenga with a woman named Felicia from Ghana, who also runs a recycling business using textiles.

Renita Reed, West Africa Regional Facilitator for Partners Worldwide, explained, “These relationships have shown over time to help businesses grow economically, through accountability and encouragement, but also relationally, as the worldview for each person is enlarged.”

The idea first came to Looyenga when missionaries Bob and Renita Reed came to her church to share about their work in West Africa and to encourage people to partner with them.

“I felt that this was something I would love to be involved with,” said Looyenga. However, as a busy mom of three homeschooled children, she didn’t have time to pursue the idea. It took more than a year, another child and a health scare before she reconnected with Renita Reed. 

She says she loves the work of making new creations from already existing materials, especially because the end result is a benefit for those who buy it and for those who receive the money from the proceeds.

“We are blessed for the sole purpose of blessing others,” she said.

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