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Recent Wofford grad launches new business
Local businesswoman Mary-Grace Wallace is on the move with her new ecumenical stationery company WritefullyHis LLC.
The recent Wofford College grad turned entrepreneur celebrated the official launch of her concept Thursday night at Hub-Bub's Showroom in downtown.
But Wallace treated her guests, which included Spartanburg and national business leaders, to more than just some free cake and lemonade. She also shared her inspiration for the company and showed off some of her merchandise lines.
A focal point of the event was a colorful array of delicate paper products fanned out across a length of conjoined tables.
Wallace's company will use a portion of its sales to provide a means for children in Uganda and other impoverished parts of Africa to get something that will help them compete with the rest of the world—an education.
“I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to Spartanburg,” Wallace said. “I truly believe that if this community takes ownership of (WritefullyHis) that anything can happen. I really want this to be Spartanburg's baby.”
Wallace brought several participants to tears with a short film from her recent trip to Africa that was produced by Back Down South Films of Birmingham, Ala.
Wallace, 22, was living in the south of France three years ago when she was hit with the idea for her business.
She was reading a story by Ugandan author Twesigye Jackson Kaguri where he told of his father having to break up one No. 2 pencil between himself and his four siblings so that they could go to school.
“Children can't afford school because of the cost of one-fifth of a pencil,” Wallace said. “That's what formed my mission: one child, one pencil and one notebook at a time.”
Wallace said 20 percent of the proceeds of her sales will be used to purchase paper and pencils for schools in East Africa. The supplies are purchased locally in the village markets in order to keep the money in the communities.
WritefullyHis is currently catering to schools in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Wallace said she will begin the push to get her products into more retail stores and has even discussed placement with Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
In June, she partnered with Ugandan artists Angelo Edrine Wasike and Jaffer Buyinza of the Jinja Art Studio to produce a line of handcrafted cards inspired by Africa.
Wallace has formed an advisory board that includes former Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet, Wofford benefactor Mike Brown, Scott Cochran, dean of Wofford's Mungo Center for Professional Excellence, Steve Hahn, head of entrepreneurial services for the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Chapman Cultural Center President Jennifer Evins.
She founded her company last September at the Mungo Center while finishing up her studies, which included a major in humanities and minor in business.
“Her personal passion for this ministry is a big part of the reason for why she's been able to muster so much support and attention in the community,” said Hahn, who was born in Uganda. “In the brief time that Scott Cochran, Jeremy Boeh and Courtney Shelton have been heading up the entrepreneurial development at Wofford, the number of significant projects in this community has dramatically increased… It is on me, my office and our entire community to support these young entrepreneurs.”
Cochran said he is proud of his former pupil and said she has raised the bar for other students going through the unique entrepreneurial program at Wofford.
“The quality of this event is something you'd see in New York,” Cochran said. “I'm so proud of her… She is going to do amazing things in this world. She is a role model for our students. When we see what she's accomplished, it's an inspiration to us.”
Boeh, director of The Space at The Mungo Center, said Wallace has even returned on a few occasions to speak with students about her experiences.
“She's always learning, always thinking about what things could be and never accepting the way things are,” Boeh said. “Grace is so open to new ideas and she makes them happen. She's a pillar of what can happen if you utilize all of the resources available to you and the embodiment of what can happen when you put your mind to something.”
Wallace graduated from Dorman High School in 2009. She was a standout volleyball player with several scholarship offers, including Wofford, but decided to focus on academics instead.
Her sister, Amy-Kate Wallace, and mother, Beth Wallace, who serves as Wofford's director of health services and associate dean of students, are helping out in the venture.
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By Trevor Anderson
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
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