Musical Ole launches her social venture startup in Senegal
Entrepreneur and music lover Anna Wolle ’18 is putting her dreams into action.
Shortly after graduating from St. Olaf College, Wolle relocated to Dakar, Senegal, to work full time on her musical startup company, Teranga Strings.
Using a model that combines business and philanthropy, Teranga Strings enables students of all ages and from a wide range of backgrounds to study violin. Lessons are conducted one-on-one and in small groups, and are offered weekly throughout the year. Students engage in outreach performances and cross-disciplinary art projects in order to exemplify community building, inclusivity, and passionate creativity.
“I believe that learning to make music is learning to speak the world’s universal language,” Wolle says.
“I believe that learning to make music is learning to speak the world’s universal language.”
Wolle created Teranga Strings to advance music education in Senegal.
“Putting an instrument in a child’s hands gives them a new and colorful way to express themselves and communicate with others,” she says. “The mission of Teranga Strings is to promote well-being, passionate creativity, and community building through artistic expression for all.”
Teranga Strings is partnered with two organizations that provide education and housing for young orphans and children rescued from forced labor. Wolle is able to provide free lessons for the students that supplement their education.
In addition to providing lessons for orphans, Teranga Strings offers paid lessons to the Dakar public by providing one-on-one lessons or lessons in small groups. This business model enables Wolle to offer popular lessons to the public that help support the free lessons she provides to children in need.
An entrepreneurial education at St. Olaf
At St. Olaf, Wolle studied French and visual arts. She was a violinist in the St. Olaf Orchestra for four years; a participant in the senior studio art project and exhibition in Flaten Art Museum; a violinist in chamber groups and lessons; the editor-in-chief of The Reed, an undergraduate journal of existentialism; a member of the French honor society Pi Delta Phi; and a member of the former ‘bloom’ creativity club.
In addition, Wolle worked as a peer advisor and arts representative in the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career.
“The most impactful experience at St. Olaf was working the Piper Center,” Wolle says. “I learned so much from the team of bright and motivated students and enjoyed their daily company inside and outside of the office.”
Inspired by a six-week visit to Senegal during the summer of 2017, Wolle felt compelled to return to the African country after graduation.
“The constant requests to teach friends and others how to play a simple song or several notes inspired me to take my music teaching in Dakar to the next level, and to offer violin lessons that were relevant, enjoyable, and engaging.”
“I saw a high interest to learn the violin as I toted my instrument around the city to teach and perform,” Wolle says. “The constant requests to teach friends and others how to play a simple song or several notes inspired me to take my music teaching in Dakar to the next level, and to offer violin lessons that were relevant, enjoyable, and engaging.”
During her senior year at St. Olaf, Wolle developed the business plan for Teranga Strings. She pitched her business idea in the 2018 Ole Cup, an annual student entrepreneurial competition at St. Olaf. She impressed judges and won the Best Social Venture award, which is given to the startup aimed at making a difference in the world.
The $5,000 she won in the Ole Cup competition — combined with a $3,000 Finstad Grant that she received from the Piper Center — enabled Wolle to purchase 40 violins of three different sizes and ship them to Dakar.
Wolle is currently teaching violin to 30 students. She hopes to create more opportunities for local artists of traditional Senegalese and West African instruments, particularly in the teaching and performance spheres. As Teranga Strings grows in number and stability, Wolle hopes to provide internships to Senegalese musicians and St. Olaf students as well.
To learn more about entrepreneurship at St. Olaf, visit the new Oles Innovate web page.