In just over a week, women entrepreneurs and business women (and even a couple of men) will come together at the Hilton to celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
I am very excited to see how this has taken off in Barbados and the level of interest women have shown in getting together and supporting each other, which is the theme of this year’s event. This is my third and last year as the Barbados Ambassador and while it has been a very rewarding experience, I look forward to sitting in the audience next year.
This year, my guest speaker will be Ebonnie Rowe who has done a remarkable job of mentoring and supporting women, particularly in the entertainment industry. Ebonnie has distinguished herself as someone dedicated to the growth of others and the support of charitable causes. She has founded and directed organizations that cater to the needs of some of society’s overlooked groups.
In Canada, she started the Each One, Teach One mentoring programme for Black Youth and the PhemPhat Entertainment Group, a dynamic, all-female non-profit company that provides promotional and educational opportunities for upcoming female artists and also supports and promotes women’s charities. Listed in the Who’s Who of Canadian Women, Ebonnie’s work has earned her many awards, including a Special Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada, an Ontario Voluntarism Award and the prestigious YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award for Arts & Entertainment.
Honey Jam Canada came into existence after she produced a three-hour radio special on Canada’s largest Hip Hop radio show in 1994 to discuss how women were portrayed in Hip Hop lyrics and videos after complaints from her female Each One Teach One mentees. As a result, she was asked to edit an all-female edition of a national entertainment magazine, Mic Check. The celebration party for that issue in 1995, intended to be a one-off show, was called “Honey Jam.”
The success of the show pointed to a void in the artistic community and over the last 21 years, Honey Jam Canada has provided educational, networking and performance opportunities, with the concert growing to become a much-anticipated annual multicultural showcase of upcoming artists in all genres of music, where talents such as Nelly Furtado have performed at the beginning of their careers.
Ebonnie introduced the initiative to Barbados in 2011 to rave reviews and is excited to continue providing opportunities to young women on the island. She has been an influence to many young women in the music industry in Barbados and has given tools as well as confidence to many of them to take their careers forward. I recently watched a music video by Kristen Walker, a young Barbadian singer and dancer, who was a Honey Jam participant. I was very impressed with it as well as with her dedication to pursing her art.
While there is a need for entrepreneurship in general and for people in the cultural industries to develop businesses out of their craft, we also need people to mentor and help support these fledgling entrepreneurs. I have seen the benefit of mentors in my own life and in the life and business of many others. In our WINC Acceleration Programme, each woman was provided with a mentor whom they met every month for six months.
Although this was a short time (mentor relationships are generally more long term), the mentors were able to help them in many ways. For example: to define their business model, fine tune their pitch to investors, make valuable connections, consider new sources of revenue and hire staff to enable them to step back from their business.
Having someone with experience who can make input into the life and business of an entrepreneur is key for their success. I would love to see more business people and those who have retired from active business giving back by becoming mentors. Good mentors not only help with the business, but encourage entrepreneurs and artists to deal with personal development issues that could hinder them from taking their business or craft to the next level.
I am appealing to women in business to come out and support the upcoming entrepreneurs at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day breakfast. I’m hoping that Ebonnie’s speech will encourage many others to consider becoming a mentor for an upcoming entrepreneur.
(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. Website www.donnaevery.com