Podcast hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson with Elizabeth Vasquez (center)
President, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International Elizabeth A. Vazquez discusses the biggest challenges that women around the world face when trying to start and grow a business, and the one thing that they all want the most. Vazquez also talks about how watching her mother host Mexico’s “first yard sale” while she was growing up taught her the value of entrepreneurship for changing women’s lives, and the fundamental mental shift that many businesswomen need to make to reach their potential.
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Selva Constructor, Karolo’s latest business venture, is an architecture and construction firm based in Tarapoto, Peru.
CIPE began working with Peruvian NGO, Instituto Invertir, in 2008, with the belief that developing business and leadership skills in young Peruvians from the country’s diverse regions would help build a culture of entrepreneurship and civic participation – creating alternatives to the limited social and economic opportunities. This, in response to the general populations’ frustration with the shortcomings of the country’s democratic system and an increasingly anti-democratic rhetoric from leaders in certain areas of Peru. The initial vision of what program success would look like has been far exceeded thanks to the initiative of young Peruvians like Karolo Pérez Alvarado.
Long-time CIPE Development Blog readers may recall being introduced to Karolo back in January 2010. As one of the inaugural fellows in the first ever EmprendeAhora (EA) program in 2008, Karolo and his teammates were awarded first prize in the business plan contest for their idea to inject adventure into bio tourism in the San Martín region of Peru.
Having struck up a friendship with Karolo during my visit to Tarapoto, San Martín, naturally we made it official on Facebook. In the years since I have maintained contact from afar and watched as Karolo grew from a young man with a fun business idea into a successful entrepreneur serving as a driving force behind his community’s development, and an inspiration for young entrepreneurs around the country.
For the past four years, the Center for International Private Enterprise has been working in partnership with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to assist local partners in Bahrain with fostering a new spirit of entrepreneurship. The program approached this issue from two tracks: the first educated young aspiring entrepreneurs on the leadership and business skills needed for a successful initiative, and the second worked with the private sector and government entities to examine the environment for entrepreneurship and suggest necessary changes to legislation and regulations to make it easier to start and grow a business in Bahrain. As the program comes to a close, there are many outcomes to be celebrated that will likely impact Bahrain’s business environment for years to come.
Sayed Diab makes his living providing sound systems and digital services for events like this CIPE discussion. (Photo: CIPE Egypt)
By Ahmed ElSawy
This post originally appeared in Arabic on the CIPE Arabia blog.
Sayed Diab spent 26 years of his life working as a technician supplying organizations with sound systems and related digital services for their events and conferences. Six years ago he started his own business in this field and has since made his living providing his services to CIPE, other NGOs, business associations, and think tanks in Cairo, Egypt.
Diab recently sat down for an interview about his experiences running his own business in Egypt and what he has learned as a small business owner from the many CIPE events and discussions he has worked on.
Photo: BURN Clean Cookstoves
Sustainable Development Goal 5 set the bar to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. Closing gender gaps in work and society could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey Global Institute. This figure underscores the socioeconomic importance as well as global economic potential available if we achieve gender parity, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day Forum led by the United Nations and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The Forum is an annual, collective effort to convene government, private sector, and civil society and “put on our gender glasses” as one participant descriptively put it. Humbly, many stakeholders – both public and private – admitted this year that the data necessary to establish a baseline to then track our advancement towards this goal of gender parity remains either poor or non-existent. Examining both global value chains and individual business models through a gender lens allows for a foundation of knowledge that helps provide a clear understanding of how strategies and operations are influencing women’s empowerment.
Among the many conversations taking place during what should more aptly be named International Women’s Month, I found the dialogue around gender integration into business model and value chains particularly exciting. Encouragingly, more and more businesses are realizing that social impact and business profit do not always occur at the expense of one another. Not every company may aspire to be a social enterprise, but every company can become more gender inclusive by integrating women in product design, manufacturing, production, sales, and distribution channels within its value chain. In fact those that are integrating gender are, in turn, becoming more competitive. Companies from SMEs to multinationals can now tap into these social and economic impacts by adapting these lessons learned in the following areas into their own business models and value chains.
Many say that we are in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by rapid and transformative technological advancement on a scale the world has never seen before. This Fourth Industrial Revolution has already radically and fundamentally altered the way we live, work, and interact with one another, and, unlike the ones that preceded it, is evolving at an exponential, rather than a linear, pace. Its possibilities are nearly endless.
And while previous industrial revolutions were slow to spread to certain areas of the world—thus engendering spheres of “industrialized” and “non-industrialized”—the technological nature of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has meant that the playing field has evened somewhat; industry in virtually every country has been disrupted, and transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance is all but inevitable, if it hasn’t already started.
From cell phones to self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaking up what we know—or think we know—about almost everything. This presents an opportunity to recalibrate the lens through which we view and approach critical development issues, and provides a challenge to traditional mechanisms for delivering key goods and services.
Pat Agbakwu-Ajegwu in front of her store.
“As a business owner, you either choose to survive or die. And surviving in this state of economic crisis in Nigeria requires creative thinking.”
On my recent trip to Lagos, Nigeria, I spoke with Patricia (Pat) Agbakwu -Ajegwu, the owner of Xklusive Patsie and the former president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria. She shared with me some challenges that women entrepreneurs in Nigeria are facing in midst of economic turmoil.
Since the peak in 2014, the global price of oil has decreased by over 70 percent. As a result, petrostates like Nigeria, which relies on oil sales for 75 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of its export earnings, are hurting. This is especially felt by small business owners in Nigeria.