Off to Guyana: seeing Road to Growth in action
Senior Programme Manager, Leanne Baker, shares her experience attending a Road to Growth session in Guyana.
Our Road to Growth training programme for women entrepreneurs has been running in Guyana since 2021. Our Senior Programme Manager, Leanne Baker, recalls her recent trip to Guyana where she got to experience the programme in person.
In early August, I was lucky enough to visit our Road to Growth programme in Guyana. Not only was this my first trip with the Foundation, having only started my role as Senior Programme Manager in April, it was the first time anyone from the team has been able to visit Guyana at all, due to the pandemic.
The entrepreneurial landscape in Guyana is rapidly expanding, with a growing number of women–owned small and medium enterprises. However, many of these women entrepreneurs lack the business skills and knowledge, as well as access to finance, services and business development tools, to enable their businesses to be sustainable and profitable. 56% of the women entrepreneurs we surveyed in Guyana highlighted gender norms as contributing to the disparity of success and access to business opportunities between men and women. Our Road to Growth programme responds to these needs by building financial literacy and investment readiness through combined in-person and virtual sessions. In 2021, 91% of Road to Growth participants around the world applied improved management practices to their businesses thanks to the programme.
We started our work in Guyana in August 2021 with a group of 25 women taking part in our Road to Growth programme, alongside launching our award-winning business skills app HerVenture in the country. We also piloted our new Road to Finance programme in Guyana earlier this year and are quickly learning the potential of women entrepreneurs in the country and the demand for business skills training like ours. This year, our wonderful partner ActionINVEST Caribbean Inc. advised that the Road to Growth programme’s second delivery in Guyana could be completely in-person. We agreed, and this meant that during my visit I’d be able to attend in-person classes for four different cohorts made up of 100 women entrepreneurs.
Before I went, I had seen the Road to Growth content. I’d even played around with the platform, to try and get a sense of what it would be like as a participant. I could see it was interesting and useful content with key localisation pieces that would make it relevant to women entrepreneurs in each country. But sitting in the training room, on my second day in Guyana, transformed my perception of the programme.
Sitting in the training room, on my second day in Guyana, transformed my perception of the programme.
The facilitators ensure energy remains high from start to finish, asking for a volunteer to take the rest of the participants through a stretch to begin the session. The session started with the women entrepreneurs presenting back the group work they had done that week. There are three case studies which feature every week, to give the women the opportunity to apply their knowledge to an example business. For these presentations, the women were feeding back their thoughts on the case study their group had chosen. It was fascinating to see the variety of ways the women approached the task and through this exercise it was clear that they learn from their peers during this course as well as the facilitators.
This was exemplified as I spoke to the women, who came from a vast range of backgrounds and experiences. Some were in the first year of running their business, others had founded theirs over 10 years ago. Some were experienced in their field but only just starting out on their own, others had recently ventured into a new sector. It was inspiring to see them sharing their experiences and supporting each other through the process.
When I was there, it was week four of the seven-week programme. The focus of week four is knowing your business, meaning a lot of financial analysis and assessment, which can be difficult content to focus on. However, the two facilitators are exceptional; dynamic and engaging, knowing exactly when to crack a joke and when to bring the class to focus. They insert their own local examples which elevate the contextualisation even further and clearly helped the women to grasp the content.
Seeing four different cohorts, I was impressed with how well the facilitators already knew the participants and adapted to each group depending on their needs, spending a little more time on certain tasks, soothing presenting nerves or even adapting their local examples further to make them more relevant to the women in the room.
This year we have also expanded outside of Georgetown, the capital city, to Berbice, a more remote area of the country where women entrepreneurs have even less opportunity to access training but have just as much potential and aspiration. We hope the programme can continue to grow and spread across Guyana, empowering women entrepreneurs and impacting not just them but their families, communities and the country as a whole.
Thank you to our partners ActionINVEST Caribbean Inc. and ExxonMobil Foundation for making this programme possible.
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