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Press Release
Timberland Welcomes African Entrepreneurs as a part of Mandela Washington Fellowship

Last week, outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland hosted 25 of Africa’s most talented, emerging leaders at its Stratham, NH headquarters to share the company’s values-driven approach to business. Each of the entrepreneurs is a recipient of the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking. Through this program, some of the brightest entrepreneurs from various countries across sub-Saharan Africa were invited to explore innovative ideas from various business leaders at Timberland.

The Fellows’ agenda included a visit to Timberland for the second year in a row. The Fellows were given a deep dive into why the company’s values and sustainability goals are vital to its business model. They met a number of leaders and got a comprehensive look into Timberland’s commitments to do the right thing in terms its products, the outdoors and the communities where employees and consumers live, work and explore. Timberland speakers also shared successes and lessons learned while engaging in lively dialogue with the Fellows, who had many questions and comments about what they heard.

Lebogang Luvuno of South Africa is a social-enterprise specialist who works to promote responsible corporate social investment. Collaboration between the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and marketing units in her business has been a struggle, she said.

“I was inspired by how well Timberland integrates its values in its marketing and CSR initiatives,” said Luvuno. “It was also helpful to see how well the two functions (marketing and CSR) work together, and their collaboration was evident through the strength of their strategies in both areas.”

Nazeem Junggee of Mauritius found it compelling to learn more about the operations of the brand he has loved for many years.“For me, growing up as a kid [I was] thrilled to be outdoors, I always saw ‘Timbs’ as the footwear to have,” said Junggee.

Among the other distinguished entrepreneurs are business professionals from industries in graphic design, IT, digital marketing, finance and accounting, video game programming, hip hop and dance, agronomy and many more. The Fellows come from many diverse backgrounds and cultures, but the desire to find sustainable, responsible solutions to encourage youth and create opportunities in their communities resonates within each of them.

“This has been a terrific experience for our team here at Timberland,” said Atlanta McIlwraith, senior manager of community engagement & communications, who hosted the group during their visit. “These Fellows are so incredibly talented and passionate about what they do. We’re glad we were able to share our experiences, but even more grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to learn from them. These young entrepreneurs are quite literally changing the world around them.”

For six weeks, the Fellows will be based at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH where they will learn to apply design-driven entrepreneurship and find ways to combine social impact and ethical principles into one cohesive plan for their business ventures. All of the Fellows have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. The Fellows’ itinerary includes site visits to other New England businesses including Ben & Jerry's and King Arthur Flour. When they aren’t busy learning through their coursework at Dartmouth, the Fellows will spend their time engulfed in the rich culture of New Hampshire’s Upper Valley including a homestay weekend with local families.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship provides outstanding opportunities for these young leaders who, at the end of the day, will go on to inspire even more young leaders. For Timberland, the real success is the curiosity, willingness and devotion from these Fellows to make it better for their communities at home.