On Tuesday November 22, 2016, the U.S Embassy in Yaounde organized a “Women Entrepreneurship Workshop” to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) and Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) 2016. The workshop was an opportunity for 40 women in business to network, learn from each other and find solutions to common challenges.
Cultural Affairs Officer Nitza Sola-Rotgers opened the program with remarks on the importance of women in business. As chairperson of the U.S Embassy’s Gender Equity Working Group, Mrs Sola-Rotgers encouraged women to confidently take a seat at the economic table of Cameroon. As guest speakers, 4 women entrepreneurs with established businesses shared their stories of starting and running a business in Cameroon. Cultural Affairs Specialist Gladys Viban moderated this panel that featured three U.S. government exchange alumni.
** Alice Kamga Mootso (President of Ladies Business Network, & African Women Entrepreneurship Program 2015 alumna) shared her story: A few years ago, with 10.000 FCFA ($20) she started a honey production company. She went from producing 10 liters of honey in 1 year, to producing 70 liters of honey per week. While she still has challenges with balancing work and family life, she attributes her success to her curiosity to seek for information and opportunities, and her capacity to identify her market before making her production.
**Barbara Njoh (General Manager of EasyRide), in little over a year since July 2015, established her car rental company, that now has 25 vehicles spread between Yaounde and Douala, 70 employees, and over 2000 subscribers. She attributes her success to her capacity to focus on her objectives and execute her work in an organized and methodic way.
**Vumomsi Vutumu (CEO of VUVU Fashion, & Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellow 2016 alumna) shared how she started her business with 40.000 FCFA ($80), and used her creative passion to design and sell fashion items. She added sophistication to everyday women outfit and apparels. Because she tested her prototype products on the market, she was convinced she was on the right business path.
** Janet Bih Fofang (General Manager of Tassah Academy, & Techwomen 2013 alumna) told the participants that it’s thanks to networking programs like this Women Entrepreneurship Workshop that she transformed her idea “STEM box,” that was only a project on a piece of paper, into a concrete initiative that impacted teenage girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM); and that made her win the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) Grace Hopper Award. Mrs Fofang encouraged the women to expand their networks, in order to sell who they are and what they do.
Following the guest speakers’ session, Cultural Affairs Assistant Olivia Mukam-Wandji coordinated the business workshop. Split in 3 teams, participants worked to pinpoint some of the common problems they face while doing business in their communities, e.g. (1) Access to finance to launch one’s business, (2) packaging of products, (3) sales of their products, (4) outshining competition. They proposed solutions to overcome these challenges: (i) opening a saving account in a microfinance institution, joining a “njangui” group; (ii) partnering with graphic designer; (iii) using all venues to market – e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp marketing; (iv) provide excellent customer service and improve one’s product. At the end of the workshop, business women presented and sold some of the products they made, such as: spaghetti made with cassava flour, mixed dried rice and vegetables, 100% natural honey, smoked chicken, cocoa and shea butter, and make many more nutritive, cosmetic and artisanal products.
The U.S Embassy shared The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) information with participants. AWEP assists women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa. These small and medium business owners are transforming their societies through economic development and social advocacy in their communities. Through the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), approximately 30 African women entrepreneurs arrive in the United States each year to attend professional development meetings and network with U.S. policy makers, companies, industry associations, nonprofit groups, and multilateral development organizations. The three-week program allows the AWEP participants to share best practices, discuss common challenges and learn about the global economy and factors that lead to long-term business growth. For more information, find it here: https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/african-womens-entrepreneurship-program-awep.
View pictures at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembyaounde/albums/72157677121251046