For 30 years Bill Stewart worked in the software industry to provide for his family. During that time he and his wife Marty pursued ways to help Persian Christians. Bill, who was born in Iran and grew up there, never lost his love for the people he knew in his childhood. His wife Marty who was also born overseas, but in Korea, joined him in this pursuit 38 years ago. They have 3 married daughters, a son in college, and 12 grandchildren.
The Stewart’s journey took many turns over the years, including 9 years working in the UAE, where they spent time helping Persian, Tajik, Afghan and Azeri peoples with leadership training. They also lived 1 year in Baku, Azerbaijan where their focus began shifting to mentoring and creating business opportunities in order to help the many people they were encountering in extreme poverty, coming out of human trafficking, or working in modern slavery conditions. They saw a great need to “help others help themselves with a desire to restore dignity through work.“ Bill and Marty want to see people from this region start businesses that are economically sustainable and that positively impact their communities.
It was during their time in the UAE that they got connected with Tying Vines. In recent months Bill and Jeff Kenney began discussing how this type of business focus would be a natural addition to Tying Vines’ vision and mission. The Stewarts recently began in earnest leading projects and activities needed to promote and develop sustainable businesses for these communities. The types of activities include conducting market research, identifying promising business models and plans, raising funds, training, and mentoring business leaders.
In February 2019 the Stewarts traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia. This trip was made with the intent to begin the steps to develop local Persian business leaders who would be “committed to excellence in governance and integrity in their business practices” and sharing these businesses and practices within their home communities.
It was an encouraging trip as they were able to connect with CIC Mission, an organization for Persians who share the same goals. This group has a farm that they are developing to support the production of dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit produce. There is also a 12 month program for men to study in a training center to develop needed skills half the day and work the other half.
Women will be working with textiles and producing handmade goods to be marketed internationally. A big part of the Stewart’s plan is to help market these items and support the community in this way. (Many of the women who will participate in this work have been rescued from human trafficking or religious persecution.) Currently the women are producing goods on a small scale. The capacity will need to be expanded to meet the anticipated demand. Product samples are being worked on and will be reviewed this spring to evaluate consistency and quality. The eventual “go to market” strategy is to become a wholesale distributor. In light of that Bill and Marty have been hunting for interested retail outlets.
On this recent trip Bill also had the opportunity to teach some of the program participants and provide training of good business practices and a commitment to excellence. He was encouraged by the common ground they found with one another and that they shared the same basic understanding of these foundations.
Bill and Marty, and Tying Vines hope that this work for the establishment of businesses in developing communities with these good governance principles will have a long term, self-sustaining and wholistic impact on the people there.
To learn more about the organization that we are partnering with in Tbilisi, Georgia you can visit their website at www.cicmission.org.