Once a year our Founder, Cherie Blair, travels with staff and a handful of our generous funders to meet some of the women who participate in our programmes around the world. This year they travelled to Mexico where, through their businesses, women have the potential to boost economic growth by 43% or some $810 billion USD.
The trip started in Mexico City at a networking event for our past and present Road to Growth programme participants. The evening served as a unique opportunity for over one hundred women entrepreneurs to come together to build connections and share their programmatic and business experiences.
The following day our group spent more time with five of the women, visiting their diverse workplaces: a training and podcast provider focusing on empowering students via soft skills development; a toys, gifts and accessories store; an award-winning media company; a restaurant; and, a yoga training centre and studio.
Our contingent then moved onto Oaxaca. Driving through the eastern part of Zaachila, they saw the home to one of the largest landfills in the state. Its population is made up of informal recyclers, known locally as ‘waste pickers’ who settled in close proximity of the landfill in the 1980s. Visiting the landfill contextualised the difficult environment that many of the women micro-entrepreneurs who are involved with our Mujeres A.V.E. programme live and work in. Cherie, our staff and donors had the opportunity to visit one of these women, Guadalupe, at her ice cream shop.
Harnessing her creativity to meet the demands of each day, Guadalupe conducts three different businesses: a popsicle shop, firewood sales from her backyard and embroidery as part of a women’s business collective.
Guadalupe started her businesses out of necessity and urgency. Her husband worked in construction, but following an accident, was no longer able to support their family. Wanting to ensure she could provide a home and education to their three children, Guadalupe took a course in ice-cream making. Showcasing her entrepreneurial spirit, she sourced a loan to buy her first freezer. Now she owns three.
Realising the profit margins in popsicles are low and because ice cream sales drop in the rainy season, Guadalupe turns her attention to firewood selling in the winter months.
Her mantra is: “What I sell today is what I eat tomorrow”.
Though she had to teach him about domestic work, her husband now helps her with both her ice-cream business and the household chores.
On what she hopes to get out of the Foundation’s Mujeres A.V.E. programme, Guadalupe is most looking forward to learning about financial administration.
As part of our new Foundation strategy, we are determined to build our advocacy efforts so it’s easier for women and girls to start and grow businesses everywhere. While in Mexico, our Founder and staff also took the opportunity to meet with a delegation from the Mexican government who discussed their focus on tackling poverty and the ways women’s economic empowerment is a priority policy area for them moving forward. We encouraged them to explore how they can support and equip organisations working with women entrepreneurs to scale their programmes to reach more women.
Reflecting on the trip, Cherie said:
“Meeting bold, determined women entrepreneurs from the Foundation’s programmes is always a privilege. Whether they are a micro-entrepreneur running several small seasonal businesses like Guadalupe or the Founder of an award-winning company, the staff and I take a great deal of inspiration from their stories to continue working hard so that more women can redefine the future. Our work in Mexico and around the world is only made possible through the generous support and commitment of our funders and partners and I thank them for making this trip such a success – we all need to capitalise on this momentum together to support a further 100,000 women by 2022.”