A Tale of Two Alumni: Helping Your Business Survive this Crisis – and the Next One


Sheila showcases her designs on Austin, Texas television channel KXAN’s Studio 512 segment. (Photo courtesy Sheila Hawkins-Bucklew)

When COVID-19 brought the world economy to a standstill in early 2020, every business around the globe was affected in some way. After prolonged lockdowns in many countries, the world has entered a recession that has the potential to shrink the global economy by more than 5%, the worst recession since World War II.

While many businesses have shuttered in recent months due to decreased profits and an inability to make ends meet, it doesn’t have to be that way, advises Sheila Hawkins-Bucklew, 2017 Reciprocal Exchange Awardee, serial entrepreneur, and owner of Hawkins-Bucklew Jewelry Designs in Austin, Texas. Though this is a challenging time to be a business owner, companies can use opportunities presented by the pandemic—and any other downturn or crisis—to realign themselves to the new market and come out on top.

From Austin to Lagos

When Sheila met 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumna Hauwa Liman during Hauwa's Leadership in Business Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, they immediately connected over a mutual love of fashion and empowering women. Later, they applied for a Reciprocal Exchange Award, through which Sheila traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to run creative women’s entrepreneurship bootcamps with Hauwa.

Get the rest of the story behind these two exchange alumni's partnership on the MWF Success Stories page.

This story was written by Meredith Lopez, with contributions by Alison Boland-Reeves, Abbie Wade, and Trace Olson. It was originally published on the Mandela Washington Fellowship site.