July 6, 2010; Source: Forbes | We often hear inspiring stories about people in developing countries given small, seed investments to help start small businesses that enable them to become self-sufficient. In an interesting twist, a nonprofit in Kampala, Uganda is giving women “bead” investments to help them start down the road to economic independence.

Called Beadforlife, the organization trains women to make jewelry using beads crafted from recycled paper for sale over the Internet. However, what separates Beadforlife from other groups doing similar work, according to Forbes magazine, is that over the six years it has been in operation it claims to have discovered what makes some women more likely to succeed as entrepreneurs than others. As a result, Beadforlife looks for women who possess both the requisite skills and the drive to become business operators and only invites them into its program.

For starters, Beadforlife gives potential program participants an arithmetic test. “If they can’t do simple addition, they can easily incur a loss and not even realize it,” says Rashmi Nakhooda, coordinator of the entrepreneurial program. After that, they undergo more extensive interviews in which they tell their life stories and their ability to handle conflicts, as well as why they want to start a business, what they want to accomplish and why they think they can.

According to Forbes, women who take part in the program typically launch businesses within six to eight months, and many start making money with seven to sixteen months. One such successful entrepeneur, Mary Ogwang, saved enough money from making beads to buy a sewing machine and then began making children’s sweaters. That gave her enough income to build a new brick home for her husband and 11 children. She also had enough money to buy a solar panel so she could start a second business powering mobile phones. As Forbes notes, what makes BeadforLife so important is how it helps women launch new lives for themselves by first learning how to “create something from nothing.”—Bruce Trachtenberg