• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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From mentorship to funding: How AWE is helping women entrepreneurs thrive

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…graduates fresh cohorts in Nigeria

All business owners face hiccups when launching and maintaining a company, but some issues seem more common among women. Fortunately, virtually all of these challenges are solvable.

Not all start-up founders look for potential investors to help get their businesses off the ground, but those who do know how difficult the pitching process can be. Raising capital is even more difficult for women-owned businesses. A Babson College report found that less than 3 percent of companies with venture capital (VC) funding had female CEOs.

Another challenge is getting the right mentor that understands the businesses of these women. Mentorship can provide women with the guidance, support, and resources they need to navigate the business world.

Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) provides women with the relevant practical skills required to establish sustainable businesses and enterprises in support of the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP).

AWE is dedicated to giving women the information, resources, and networks they require to develop their ideas into profitable ventures. Women across Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Papua New Guinea, and Spain will develop their entrepreneurial skills, connect with mentors, and see their ideas come to life through assisted online learning.

AWE aims to enhance the transformation of women with great ideas into successful entrepreneurs by fostering a comprehensive, inclusive learning community. This will contribute to overall economic prosperity and global stability.

Speaking during the 2023 AWE graduation ceremony in Lagos Nigeria recently, Amanda Roach, the deputy public affairs officer at the US Consulate in Lagos said the US Consulate has been sponsoring the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) since its inception in 2019 here in Nigeria.

She said last week, they came together to graduate the newest cohorts; 60 women who participated in the 2023 Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria, adding that two weeks ago, the academy graduated another 60 women in Northern Nigeria in a similar programme in Abuja.

Roach noted that all together, this year, 120 women graduated from the AWE in Nigeria.

Read also: Meet women entrepreneurs from AWEAA exhibiting at FITCC Houston

“For us, it is a fantastic thing because since we have been doing this in 2019, we have trained 890 women in Nigeria with business skills so that they can scale their businesses and impact their community. We understand that we are in a very difficult economy and for the US government; this is one ways in which we are working with the Nigerian people to help strengthen what they are able to do in response to this economy.

“We understand that when you invest in women, you are not just investing in one person. It is proven that women then take what they earn and invest it back in their families, in their communities and eventually in the larger county. We are so proud of all these women here today who have dedicated their time to learning new business skills,” she explained.

She noted that one of the unique things about the partnership is that those women who graduate from this programme have access to funding. “We also provide programmes for alumni. There is a unique opportunity given by the US development foundation in which they can apply and receive $20,000 in funding to help support their businesses,” she added.

Inya Lawal, Programme partner for AWE who also spoke at the event said, the programme gives women everything they should have such as access to facilities, mentors and finance. These things, she said are essential for businesses to grow in Nigeria.

According to Lawal, small scale businesses in Nigeria are doing very well for the economy and when women are empowered, they empower the economy as well.

“We have seen these women come on this programme and also empower their communities and we are encouraged each year to put all our efforts into getting this programme done. I’m very grateful to the US mission in Nigeria, seeing it as an important programme to get done and choosing me as a programme partner till now,” she said.

Speaking on processed for selection, Lawal said the call for application is done and that goes into newspaper, TVs and our social media platforms and people apply from all over Nigeria.

She further explained that there are readers who go through these applications and they select the best to participate in this programme. Once they are selected, they are given an orientation programme and they are put through the process of doing 13 courses that is on a platform called ‘Dream Builder,’ Lawal explained

“Once they take the courses, we have virtual sessions for them where we bring mentors and specialists to take them through all the programmes and courses they have been through. We have some added sessions as well on financials and funding. From there, the women come together for the in-person programme which takes about three days and graduation happens,” she further explained.

Adeola Kingsley-James, a participant of the programme said she decided to participate because she loves to learn, adding that any opportunity she gets to learn, she throws herself into it.

“Last year after being a mentor and facilitator, I thought, ‘why not join the group as well and be one of the members of the sisterhood’ and I’m really happy that I did.

“For me, the most important things that I took away and I’m holding very dear to my heart is the fact that women and sisters need to come together to tell each other the truth and also learn from one another because we are going through the same thing in different ways.

“If we are able to show each other that we are not alone and other people are going through the same thing and then hopefully, we are successful at it as well, we can then say we have been through it, we are learning from it and have grown from it. I also saw the importance of connectedness, community and also a space to continue learning and that stood out for me,” Kingsley-James said.