On Friday, June 28th, I accompanied beneficiaries in the Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services (NWEMVAS) training program on an Industry Tour to Fantasy, a successful woman-owned baby clothing boutique and apparel store, in Owerri.
Industry Tours are tailored to meet the developmental needs of the participants and their sectors. The visits facilitate the sharing of experiences and challenges amongst women who own businesses in similar industries. Fantasy is owned by Mrs. Abiele and was open six years ago. The session began at 12 noon with well over 200 women in attendance.
I first introduced Mrs. Abiele to the attendees. I reminded the participants of the various training components that they have an opportunity to benefit from as a part of the NWEMVAS project, the Industry Tour being one of them. Ifeoma Isiogu, YTF team member, also welcomed participants and provided an introduction to Business Women, the SMS service that is available to women enrolled in NWEMVAS. Ifeoma conducted a poll to see if there were any women in attendance that had a Nokia handset that is capable of running the service.
Mrs. Abiele addressed the women entrepreneurs and thanked them for coming. She gave the background of why she started her business from nothing. She spoke about the importance of establishing a business in an area that you are passionate about. In her experience, she enjoyed shopping for and sewing clothes for her children, hence her natural inclination to want to open a children’s apparel boutique. Mrs. Abiele shared about when she first started her business and the two things she did well – going into a business she was passionate about and making good connections with others, both men and women, in business.
In her words, “If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you will never grow”. The first question to ask yourself, she said is “what do I enjoy doing”? Mrs. Abiele encouraged the women to not go into business solely to make money, but to make a difference in the lives of their children and in their communities. She also advised the women to abstain from co-mingling personal and business funds and not allow others to discourage them. The Industry Tour ended after the women in attendance had an opportunity to do a walk-through of Fantasy and ask any final questions Mrs. Abiele. From interviews that were conducted with the women after the Industry Tour, many of them expressed gratitude to the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women for their partnership with YTF to make this important work possible. “I can’t wait to return to my business now”, another participant, Mrs. Amara, said. “It is an exciting feeling to know I can implement these strategies to make my business more successful and that I now have such a deep network of other women entrepreneurs”.
Peace Anosike is a Program Coordinator – Gender Empowerment Programs at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). She writes from Imo State, Nigeria, where she works at YTF’s Owerri Digital Village with youth and women to provide access, deliver training, provides linkages and mentor women entrepreneurs. Peace is using her passion to increase social impact and empower girls and women to use appropriate technology for education, entrepreneurship, agriculture or health.