I can’t believe that in less than two months we will be celebrating Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) again. At the same time, the WINC Acceleration Programme that I started in February will come to an end and the graduation will be merged with the WED event.
Our theme for WED this year is WE Matter – Supporting Each Other. (WE means women entrepreneurs).
This week, the WINC entrepreneurs and I met after a two-month break. I was therefore very keen to hear what had happened since I last saw them, and I was not disappointed. One of the challenges I had given them before the break was to lend them $100 and ask them to come up with a business idea or project to make at least ten times that amount. This was a sort of a $20 Challenge with more start-up capital.
While not everyone got a project off the ground, there were some great success stories. One entrepreneur used her money to invest in increasing her marketing on Facebook where most of the bookings for her sitting services come from. She was able to attract additional bookings and generate revenue from that small investment.
Another entrepreneur, who is into health and fitness, used her investment and added another $200 to produce branded T-shirts for people who attend her fitness workshops and events. She made $1,070 on her investment.
Another lady who makes spa products used the $100 to produce samples in smaller containers so that customers could get an opportunity to try out the products at an affordable cost. She was able to sell products to a hotel spa for $1 500, making 15 times her initial investment!
In the final success story, one of the entrepreneurs who makes amazing and innovative products like pepper sauces, relishes, chutneys, etc. from all local ingredients, got an additional investment of $40 from one of the other ladies in the group and she therefore started out with $140. She purchased jars, picked fruit and vegetables that she grows on her farm, and was able to make over $2,000 after selling products and putting money back into the business each time.
Those stories just show what the children in the $20 Challenge have been learning each year: Even a small amount of money, with work and creativity, can produce a lot of money. I was very encouraged, and so were the others who had not fully got their projects off the ground. What was also gratifying was to see how the women supported each other by buying each other’s products and services.
We then had feedback on the mentorship part of the programme and I was impressed by the value of the input that the mentors gave and the progress that the entrepreneurs were able to achieve. Mentorship is key to the success of entrepreneurs. I was very fortunate to have in my network, mentors of the highest calibre, who agreed to participate in the programme for a fraction of what their time is really worth.
Their mentorship enabled the entrepreneurs to say things like: “I am so much more focused in my business”; “I am able to articulate what my business does so much better”; “I have been able to put a lot more structure in my business”.
One of the stories that really encouraged me was when one entrepreneur shared that her mentor helped her to find an assistant manager that she knew she needed for a long time but had been hesitating to put in place. Once she did that, she felt such a burden lifted from her, especially since the person has been a dream employee. She was also able to take a weekend off work and have a staycation with her husband – the first time they had been able to get away together in years.
As a motivational speaker my role is usually to motivate people. But these ladies motivated me so much that I am ready and raring to start the next round of the WINC Acceleration Programme which InfoDev is able to fund in part. I am looking for partners to fund the shortfall, so please feel free to contact me to help another group of women entrepreneurs.
One of the wonderful things about this programme has been the way the women have supported each other, by sharing what has worked for them in their businesses, by buying each other’s products and services and by meeting outside of the sessions to just hang out. This is something that women entrepreneurs in Barbados and the region need.
This will be my last year as the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (three terms only), but my involvement with entrepreneurship is far from over; it really is just moving to another level. So I look forward to the support of corporate Barbados and women entrepreneurs as we prepare for November 18 and our WED event: WE Matter – Supporting Each Other.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme and the Barbados Affiliate for the FundRiseHer Campaign.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org