The atmosphere that morning was high and expectant. As a matter of fact, even the venue where the ladies were traditionally hosted for the Belize Cohort of the WINC Acceleration Program (WINC AP) was prepped to deliver that energy. The WINC AP is a part of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), which is a seven-year program funded by the Government of Canada, and implemented by the InfoDev entrepreneurship program of the World Bank Group.
The agenda for the session that day was focused to address two particularly gripping issues for women entrepreneurs: connecting with relatable role models and securing finance. The first is often overlooked by women in business! Women entrepreneurs rarely take time away from their busy schedule to discover and connect with other women who can relate to their journey. Truth be told, particularly for Belize, importance is not given to the need for women entrepreneurs to network with individuals of like interest as a means for giving and drawing support. In reality, most women do not realize the value of connecting and how much it contributes to entrepreneurial success. The old adage “your net worth is tied to your network” has been around a long time and speaks to the importance of making connections but is rarely heeded by women entrepreneurs.
Usually, relatable role models can be discovered through traditional mediums such as professional and business associations. One new approach in Belize is the annual LeadHerShip Conference hosted by Belize’s Women Entrepreneurship Day Ambassador, Danalyn Myvett, and is an exciting event coming up on November 11, 2016 that will provide linkages in a big way. Another comes through programs such as the WINC AP that includes networking as a component of the programming content.
Wilana Oldham of Hot Mama’s Pepper was a hit with the ladies as her entrepreneurial story, hilltops and valleys, was spicy hot and flavored the ladies’ entrepreneurial appetite with knowledge, wisdom and humor. Wilana’s further and generous offer to sponsor a tour of her factory is now being expectantly organized by the ladies.
Following Wilana‘s presentation was the agenda item that is familiar to every entrepreneur. Securing finance is a hurdle faced by women entrepreneurs and quite often a matter that gives rise to worried discussions. Yet, how to prepare one’s business to secure financing is typically shunned by women entrepreneurs, as it is often perceived as a highly technical area that requires expert skills. Indeed, business finance, investor readiness and such matters may in many instances escape an entrepreneur’s skillset. Nonetheless, they are important and not giving appropriate attention to sound accounting and financial practices can be the peril of an entrepreneurial undertaking.
Rolando Thompson of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), in addressing the finance topic, easily put the ladies at ease. The barrage of questions that were moved during his presentation unearthed both new and old information. The ever familiar issue of needing loans on more favorable terms created an animated exchange and points to the timely need for FundRiseHER, a crowdfunding grant program for women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean including Belize.
Altogether, the day was a success and raised awareness among the ladies. It cemented for them the importance of immediately embracing new opportunities such as the LeadHerShip Conference and FundrisHER.