“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”
Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.
Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete). This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.
In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.
Children’s book and toys that were developed as a result of Association of Business Women in Serbia’s mentorship program.
Fear of failure. Lack of confidence. Aversion to risk. These are some of the biggest hurdles that one faces when starting a business. Around the world, these challenges are often far more pronounced for women entrepreneurs. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report noted that one of the top reasons why there are significantly fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs is because women simply believe they are incapable of launching their own businesses.
What can be done to reverse such beliefs?
One answer is fostering a network among women in business through mentorships.
The Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) both saw a pattern in their countries: women are reluctant to start businesses because they lack role models and the right skillsets to pursue entrepreneurship. To fill this gap, CIPE is supporting both organizations to empower and support aspiring or new women entrepreneurs in Serbia and Nicaragua.
What does it take to make a virtual mentorship successful? How effectively can experienced professionals share their expertise and wisdom by mentoring non-profit organizations around the world?
Through the KnowHow Mentorship platform, a virtual mentorship program that links the professional skills of volunteers with the needs of associations and chambers of commerce from around the world seeking technical assistance, CIPE is currently facilitating 13 virtual mentorships between experienced association executives from the U.S., Canada, and Europe with mentee associations all the way from Bangladesh to Tunisia.
What if experienced professionals could share their expertise and wisdom by mentoring non-profit organizations around the world?
As highlighted previously in CIPE blog (here and here), KnowHow is a virtual mentorship program that links the professional skills of volunteers with the needs of associations and chambers of commerce from around the world seeking technical assistance.
Join a conversation on Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 8 AM EST with two current KnowHow pairs to learn about the benefits of participating in the program. Hear how the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association used the knowledge they gained from the mentorship to increase its membership by over 30% in less than a year. Discover what new insights and life-changing experiences the mentors have gained from sharing their expertise and experience with organizations overseas.
The webinar will feature two mentor-mentee pairs:
Peter O’Neil, Executive Director, American Industrial Hygiene Association
Olivera Popovic, Vice President, Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW)
Elissa Myers, President & CEO, Advice & Consensus
Kakha Kokhreidze, President, Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association (GSMEA)
Please register for the webinar here.
Does your association or chamber of commerce aspire to better serve your members?
Do you wish you could manage your organization differently so that things would improve?
Or are you looking for ways to help make your association more sustainable?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then sign up for CIPE’s KnowHow Mentorship program! CIPE is recruiting for business associations and chambers of commerce from around the world looking for free technical assistance.
(Photo: The Telegraph)
Elissa Myers is the president and CEO of Advice & Consensus. She is serving as a mentor for the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association through CIPE’s Knowhow Mentorship program.
When I was offered the opportunity to serve as a mentor to the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprises Association through CIPE’s KnowHow program, I jumped at it. Earlier I spent a couple of months in the Republic of Georgia, working with two other emerging associations, and fell in love with the country, its history, its culture, its people, and its potential.
Strategically located between Asia and Europe, with Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south, the Caucasus Mountains to the north, and with glorious port towns bordering on the Black Sea to the west, Georgia represents an important opportunity for international investment. It’s a country poised to blossom as an important market partner, but to do so a stronger internal business community is needed. Under the leadership of Kakha Kokhreidze, President CEO of the GSMEA, that community is gaining strength.
How can experienced professionals share their expertise to help build the capacity of associations around the world? With this question in mind, CIPE launched the KnowHow Mentorship in the summer of 2011.