We think women entrepreneurs are amazing. Across the world, these women are creating new jobs, fostering economic growth and acting as role models for others in their communities. This Women’s Entrepreneurship Day we at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women are celebrating the women who inspire us in our own work.
Two years ago on a trip to Ghana I met Comfort. Comfort saw an opportunity to support women who gather and process shea nuts – strenuous work which is often poorly paid. To help support these women and give them fair wages, Comfort started her own shop selling shea products. In 2012 she joined our Mentoring Programme and, over the course of a year, she worked with her mentor, Sally, to grow her business. Today her company works with over 300 shea producers across the country, including a number of women-led cooperatives, and over 5,000 shea nut pickers. Comfort also runs workshops to provide young children with artisanal skills. She is an inspiring leader, to me as well as to countless others in her community.
– Cherie Blair, Founder
Last year, on a project visit to India, I met Shantaben, an illiterate woman from Chikhodra village, who is a member of a women-led agricultural cooperative. Shantaben buys agricultural products from wholesalers and sells them to households in her village. Her perseverance, willingness to take risks and pride in her work totally inspired me. Shantaben was one of the women using a mobile technology system we developed which enabled the women in the cooperative to place orders for stock remotely, via SMS. Shantaben told me that before joining our project, she would place orders for products by travelling a full day from her village to the wholesaler, costing her valuable time and money. She could only procure whatever she could carry back to her village on her fragile shoulders, a maximum of two bags. She worked hard to get to grips with the mobile-based application, despite being discouraged by her family members for the fact that she was illiterate. She did not give up. With much perseverance, she learned to use the application and can now place orders remotely via her mobile phone. With the time and energy saved from travelling Shantaben’s sales have increased three-fold, and she is using her extra income to hire transportation so she doesn’t have to carry heavy goods on her shoulders. She is also investing her profits into a savings account and paying her grandson’s school fees.
– Sevi Simavi, CEO
Entrepreneurs not only build their own businesses, they also inspire and pass along skills to others. Take, for example, Linna in Tanzania. When her husband died she needed extra income to support her family, so she started a small poultry farm. She had little knowledge on how to run a business, but after she joined our enterprise development project she learned how to manage her finances and market her products. Her eggs and meat are now in high demand in her local community. Linna herself is in demand too. She told us, “Many women are coming to my place to learn from me. They say, ‘Ah! Please tell me how to do business; I would like to be like you’.”
– Lowri Gilbert, Interim Enterprise Development Programme Director
Kartina was one of the first mentees in our Malaysia project. A single mother of two who had been looking for ways to support her family, she joined the programme shortly after launching a micro, at-home hairdressing business. With the support of her mentor, she steadily grew her fledgling enterprise, expanded her customer base and increased her revenue 30-fold during her year in the programme. I recently visited Kartina and was amazed by her progress. In the past three years, she has gone on to open her own shop and hire employees, launch her own product line and start working on her next dream of opening a training centre to share her skills with other women. Technology allows pioneering, ambitious women, like Kartina, to come together from around the world to share their knowledge and support one another during the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Their passion, fortitude and drive inspires me daily.
– Allison Kahn, Mentoring Women in Business Programme Director
Aniema is the owner of a frozen foods shop in Nigeria. With the help of our Business Women mobile learning app she gained the confidence and skills to take her business to the next level by improving the quality of her customer service and staff management. Aniema was determined to use what she had learned to help other women, so she established the Women Leaders Forum, a group of women from the business and public sectors who provide support to other women in the rural areas surrounding her city. It is so inspiring to see women like Aniema pay it forward and lift up other women in their communities.
– Saloni Korlimarla, Mobile Technology Programme Director