Florence was a mentor on the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme, in collaboration with Fossil, between November 2019 and November 2020. Two months on from graduation, we caught up with Florence on her treasured experience.
Florence is a Senior Retail and Allocation Manager at Fossil Group Europe, based in Switzerland. At the start of the mentoring programme, she was a Senior Demand Planning Manager. She became interested in participating in the Mentoring Programme with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women after she realised her company was offering the opportunity to be a mentor, which she thought would enable her to help and get to know someone from a different background, develop her network and increase her Mentoring skills.
The Foundation matched Florence with Samar from Egypt to work together for a year. Samar runs a bookstore and culture space. She wanted support to develop her business skills and expand her business. Samar also wanted to have someone to whom she could talk to and discuss the challenges she was experiencing as a woman in business.
Based on the programme specifications, Florence and Samar used their first meeting as a chance to build rapport. During their first meeting, Florence understood from Samar’s body language that she felt pressured. She also found out more out about Samar’s business by asking questions and listening to her.
This made Florence realise that Samar needed a sounding board, a person who could support her, listen to her and also hold her to account and help motivate her during the disruption of the global pandemic. According to Florence, Samar was “very proactive and she really wants to succeed.”
The pair worked together through the challenges caused by the global pandemic, as Samar was faced with closing her book store due to lockdown restrictions as well as having to pay her rent and supplier expenses. While the store was closed, Samar had to adapt to the new reality of social platforms to promote and sell her products for her business to bounce back. Florence was delighted of the fact that Samar had trust in her on the various strategies she proposed and was able to implement them to develop her business through uncertainty.
The biggest challenge that Samar had to endure was to pay the rent for her physical store, which was closed for months due to the imposed restrictions. Without customers visiting her store, Samar felt a huge strain on her business. However, because the pandemic had changed the popularity of one of her products, educational toys, due to schools and families around the country in lockdown, her business’ online sales of educational toys increased. Florence therefore encouraged Samar to focus on promoting the educational toys on her online social media platforms, so that she could attract more customers and balance her cashflow.
As this was Florence’s first year of mentoring on the programme, she felt that she became more engaged in Fossil’s Corporate Social Responsibility response than ever before. She also became more aware of the challenges that women entrepreneurs in low-income country’s experience. She also informed us that the sessions she had with Samar helped her “to learn a new culture and explained that she “had to adapt my way of thinking to match the culture and the way people behave from a country I am less familiar with. This is the best way I could benefit because I opened my vision and my mind to propose ideas that would fit in to Samar’s country.” Adding, “It was also important to listen and to provide comfort to Samar about various projects she was initiating”. Overall, though they graduated from their year-long mentoring relationship in November 2020, Samar and Florence remain in contact.
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