Female entrepreneurs present 19 business plans to Steering Committee

On Wednesday, July 21, 2010 twenty-three aspiring, female entrepreneurs presented a total of nineteen business plans to the FWEN Steering Committee marking the end of the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) program’s first phase. A few participants also got a special audience with entrepreneur-extraordinaire, Terry McAuliffe!

The business plans, which ranged from developing a local recycling plant to establishing a female-run and operated restaurant, were presented to the FWEN Steering Committee, comprised of eight local business leaders. Each individual or pair had ten minutes to pitch their business, during which time they were evaluated on their delivery, their plan’s viability, their leadership and personal qualities and their economic need.

One participant, so effective, entertaining, and charming in her delivery, left the committee not only impressed by her drive and fortitude, but also cracking up from her stories about the various challenges she faced and overcame, while developing her plan. Clearly, the importance of effective marketing of both one’s business and oneself was a lesson she had learned well.

The first phase of the FWEN project began in January with a workshop under the patronage of the Minister of Social Affairs. In February, TYO identified 28 unemployed female graduated from the Nablus area to take part in an intensive training led by the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah about basic business skills, management and entrepreneurialism. Since orientation, these participants have met regularly for training and coaching, with program staff and external experts, focused on market research, product development as well as strategy, teambuilding and life skills development. In addition, they have engaged in practical work on idea generation and business plan creation. The presentations given on Wednesday represented months of hard work and idea refinement.

On Tuesday, August 3 the Steering Committee will formally announce the 6-10 business plans that will move on to be incubated in the second phase of the project.

The second phase of the FWEN program begins next month, during which time coaches will work with the creators of these plans to advance their proposals and determine the support (financial, in-kind and supervisory) required for their successful development and implementation as pilot businesses. Other participants will be free to pursue their own business plans, but may not receive any support from project partners beyond the basic training and coaching hours.

Congratulations, to all the FWEN participants on their creative business plans and their progress as developing female entrepreneurs! Nablus is lucky to have you!

Stayed tuned, all, for the final results of the Selection Day process…..!

ABOUT FWEN: During the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative (New York, September 2009), the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) committed to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Nablus. The project, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus, is now underway at the TYO Center in Nablus and is planned to begin in Lebanon in the fall of 2010.

FWEN: Meet Aya Mlettat

I met Aya Mlettat during my first summer at TYO in 2009. At the time, she was a volunteer in my girls’ dance class. She would often tell me about her passions and her plans to pursue a professional track that would allow her to help others. She would carry on these conversations about the future with ease while maintaining a watchful eye on the girls and ensuring me that I was doing a good job leading the class.

Her compassion for others and her aspirations for professional success were as clear then as they are now.  However, Aya now emanates confidence and determination to make a life that she wants for herself that was not present a year ago.

Aya has not always known what she truly wants. Before taking part in the Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship in Nablus program (FWEN), a joint cooperation between TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation, Aya wasn’t sure how to proceed. She knew she wanted to be successful, independent, and confident, with a “strong personality”, but she did not know how to make those things happen. As she stood, frustrated in place, she explained to me that before FWEN she did not know what steps to take, nor how to take them.  She needed tangible business-style skills and increased confidence — both factors being equally important.

Aya comes from a village outside of Nablus in which the societal rules governing what are appropriate professional pursuits for women are more conservative and limiting than in many neighboring villages or Nablus itself. Farming, for example, is a male dominated profession. Aya, however, decided that goat farming is, in fact, what she wants to do. So this year, despite disapproving looks and several awkward moments, Aya took part in a farming training session only composed of men.

Aya’s mission is to own her own farm and become financially independent. “I feel proud of myself”, she says. “I’m walking step by step in the right way towards my success in starting my own farm, which will be called Solidarity farm.” Aya knows what she wants and is determined to get it.

Photo of the Day: No Place for Failure

Participants of ‘Fostering Women Entrepreneurs’ gathered on TYO’s balcony overlooking Nablus on their first day of training: March 8, International Women’s Day. The slogan that they chose for the intensive training in life skills, entrepreneurship and business is ‘No Place for Failure’. This choice, as well as the young women’s enthusiastic participation in the intensive training (ending tomorrow, March 20) demonstrates their vast capacity and desire to succeed. Thanks to partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Small Enterprise Center, TYO is grateful to be able to work with these incredible women, creating the next generation of women leaders for Nablus’s economy and society more broadly.

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Photo of the Day: FWEN Training

TYO’s new project, “Fostering Women Entrepreneurs,” sponsored by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is in full swing this week as it begins its second training week. Thursday, January 28, marked the official start of this initiative, which engages 25 unemployed female university graduates in an intensive training in business skills and entrepreneurialism. Each participant will create a business plan, 4-6 of which will be incubated by TYO. Our project model engages youth as resourceful catalysts not only for their own livelihoods, but also for their communities’ well-being. You can learn more from the opening of the workshop (in English) here, and participants’ presentations (in Arabic) here.

Happy New Year!

And…we’re back! Happy 2010, everyone!

Today, the Nablus staff returned to the Center after a rejuvenating winter holiday. We are very busy planning for several programs and projects, including our Spring 2010 Session! Things you’ve enjoyed reading about like the International Internship Program, our partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Triple Exposure took large strides in the last weeks of our fall session. (PS: Have you seen the first Triple Exposure mural, yet? We love it!) And, new programs like the UNAoC youth project were announced.

Stay tuned right here for program updates, photos of the day, Kelsey’s Crafts and early childhood education and development analysis.

It is shaping up to be a very exciting new year!

-Chelsey

Chelsey is the Program Coordinator at TYO Nablus.

President Clinton endorses TYO’s women’s entrepreneurialism initiative

CGI sealFollowing our fabulous experience at CGI 2009 in New York last month, we were happy to hear from the CGI folks again today! They have made available an official seal of approval for all Commitment Makers in good standing (at left). They’ll also send a certificate signed by President Clinton that we will proudly display in the entrance of our Nablus Center, next to our other commitment certificate from CGI 2007!

In the meantime, we can confidently say that our commitment is in very good standing – we’re interviewing for Project Managers on Wednesday for the women’s economic empowerment initiative that we’ve developed in cooperation with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The Small Enterprise Center of Ramallah is the local technical partner, and has generously agreed to help out from the very first stages of project development and recruitment.

Another great development on this front this week was learning of the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab within Harvard’s Center for International Development from Henriette Kolb, Director of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The team at Harvard is studying ways to remedy the under-utilized economic potential of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. This group at Harvard, as well as Mrs. Blair and her Foundation, see SMEs as an essential ingredient for fighting poverty, in different ways from microfinance initiaitives or global expansion of Fortune 500 companies. Harvard’s site provides a comprehensive and lucid description of the issue, as well as innovative and compelling solutions that they are developing, including using psychometric tests to evaluate loan applications!

Come visit us in Nablus to see the CGI certificates in person, and more importantly, check out this exciting new project to promote women as innovative and potent economic engines in their community!

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Mrs. Cherie Blair talks about our Partnership

Mrs. Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is interviewed by Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and Washington Note at the Clinton Global Initiative 2009 in New York. She addresses the issue of women’s economic empowerment in the West Bank, and a new initiative that her Foundation is pursuing in partnership with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, which was founded by fellow CGI member Hani Masri.

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