Hnin Aye joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme in 2016, matched with mentor Dessy Ohanians. After finishing the programme, they reflect on their journey together.
Myanmar and the UK
I gained as much as I have given, or even more.
Hnin Aye has always been passionate about mathematics and spent 12 years teaching at an international school in Myanmar. She saw the low quality of education in state schools, where the ratio is one teacher to 70 students, and recognised that pupils weren’t learning skills needed to compete with those educated outside of Myanmar. Hnin saw a gap in the market and an opportunity to help her community prepare for the future. In 2011, Hnin and her husband launched T&H Maths Centre, a personalized one-to-one tutoring service for children and adolescents aged 5-14 years old.
Over the next few years, Hnin developed a customized math curriculum to overcome these learning gaps and help students build key skills. Starting with just one pupil, she quickly expanded her work and opened up in four locations across Yangon. Despite this rapid growth, the need for her services and her mathematical expertise, Hnin recognised that she didn’t have the business background needed to take her business to the next level.
In November 2016, Hnin joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme, wanting to work with a mentor to build her financial skills, create a strategic plan and diversify her product offering. Through a partnership between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, Hnin was matched with Dessy Ohanians, a managing director in the education sector based in the United Kingdom. They have now worked together for two years.
During their mentoring sessions, Dessy introduced Hnin to budgeting templates and worked with her to track her company’s finances. With a better understanding of her costs, Hnin was able to create realistic financial projections and use these to inform her business strategy. Dessy also encouraged Hnin to overcome her fear of launching another product by conducting market research to identify in-demand teaching tools, adopt best practices and create a clear project plan. The pair discussed marketing and distribution methods and how to effectively reach Hnin’s target market.
Dessy and Hnin took a holistic approach to their mentoring sessions, covering off business objectives as well as topics related to work-life balance, managing young families and growing businesses, stress, leadership, and more. They focused on key objectives while also discussing challenges and opportunities as they came up.
Hnin has made incredible progress. She developed and successfully launched a new line of textbooks and DVD trainings, which has nearly doubled her revenue and enabled her to hire new staff members to support the centres. She now employs over 150 teaching staff. Hnin has also opened two new centres in new cities in Myanmar and doubled the amount of students (2,000) across her six locations. She now has a year-long waiting list to get into her centres! Hnin’s students are now able to compete on an international stage and participate in various math competitions, including the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Hnin is proud of her students and her achievements. The Mentoring Programme has helped Hnin to build her confidence as a leader and decision-maker. Connecting with many other women leaders around the world has also inspired her to share her experience and mentor others, including a refugee girl living on the Thai border. Hnin said, “Dessy has taught me to be a kinder and more patient mentor.”
Likewise, Dessy gained insight into the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Myanmar, which in turn put her struggles as a woman entrepreneur in the UK into perspective. She told us, “I gained as much as I have given, or even more.”
Hnin dreams of franchising her business and delivering other school subjects, such as English, Science and Art at her centres. She has already received several prospective investment offers for this expansion.
The pair are grateful to have developed such a strong mentoring relationship throughout the last two years, and were thrilled to meet in person when Hnin received a scholarship to attend business training in London in autumn 2018. Dessy will be visiting Myanmar in spring 2019. They both say they have gained a friend for life and plan to stay in touch for years to come.
Find out more about our global Mentoring programme
Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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