Photo of the Day: FWEN Participants present businesses to CBFW


P1030291, originally uploaded by tyo_nablus.

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 Jillian of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women visited Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and met with members of the TYO-CBFW collaboration Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus. Check out all the photos from the meeting on Flickr.

Former FWEN Participant Haneen Successfully Launches Business

Haneen’s business was not one of the 10 business plans that was selected to move onto the Second Phase of the FWEN program. However, she has nonetheless successfully pursued her business through her own resources and is thus supported by the FWEN program. Her profile is below.

Name: Haneen
Age: 22 years old
Location: Borqa village, outside of Nablus
Business Plan: Pastry Shop

How did you decide to participate in FWEN? What have you gained from the program?

Haneen had a two-year degree in educational science and was a volunteer at TYO when she heard about the FWEN program from another volunteer. She wanted to become more independent and had always done baking as a hobby, so Fatima (the FWEN Program Coordinator) encouraged her to pursue this as a business.

Before participating in the FWEN program, Haneen had this idea in mind but had little initiative to move forward into action. After receiving training, she not only had the skills and knowledge necessary to create a business, but she had the strength and confidence to make it happen. She says she has become more insistent on achieving her goals and becoming successful. At first, her husband did not want her to participate in the FWEN trainings, but now that he has seen that she is taking it seriously and will soon have her own successful business, he has become supportive of her work.

What is your business plan?

Currently, Haneen makes pastries in her home and sells them around her village, but in order to create a formal business she will expand to have her own store and better cooking equipment. She will hire two employees to assist her. In addition to selling from her store, she has an agreement with the Borqa Secondary School to sell her products to students at the school.

What are your next steps? What help would you like to receive?

Haneen needs funding to get her business off the ground. As soon as she is able, she will rent a store in her village and buy the equipment she needs to expand her business.

What are your dreams for the future, and how will your business help you to achieve them?

Looking to the future, Haneen has modest goals that she will soon be able to achieve: to become a small businesswoman and to have two locations in which she will sell her products (at her store and inside the school). She says she will be happier if she is an independent woman, especially in terms of having her own income.



The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and The Portland Trust Visit FWEN at TYO

Nicola samples FWEN participant Nehaya’s homemade Palestinian cuisine

Martin Kaye, a trustee of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFW) and Nicola Cobbold, Managing Director of The Portland Trust visited the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) project at TYO on Wednesday, November 24, 2010. Their visit came at the height of the project’s first phase as the women behind the ten leading business plans work diligently to advance their proposals and determine the support (financial, in-kind and supervisory) required for their successful development and implementation as pilot businesses.

The FWEN participants created booths displaying their business concepts and sample products to the visitors and received personalized feedback and suggestions. Several invited guests took the opportunity to purchase jars of specialty coffee from Rima and Afnan and clothing from H2 Fashion Design. The Portland Trust contracted Sahar to design a flyer for an upcoming event.

Mr. Kaye and Ms. Cobbold also met with the FWEN Steering Committee, comprised of leaders from diverse areas of the public and private sectors in the West Bank, who provide guidance and expertise within the context of the Nablus economy to the young businesswomen. Katie Highet, Client Outreach and Account Manager at long-time partner SoukTel, also joined the meeting. They shared a stimulating session on the possibilities and challenges of securing funding for the innovative business plans.

Mrs. Blair and Hani Masri, a Palestinian American businessman and founder of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, launched the FWEN project as a 2009 Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. The Small Enterprise Center (SEC) in Ramallah, the technical partner for this project, provides invaluable and ongoing training and mentoring support. At the 2010 CGI conference, TYO signed a new three-way CGI commitment with CBFW and SoukTel to offer FWEN participants and their mentors cutting-edge mobile technologies to launch and advance their businesses.

FWEN Participant chosen as one of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women

Nehaya, a participant in TYO’s Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) project, has been chosen to participate in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Leadership (WEL) Certificate Program sponsored by Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women project, which began this month at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

The five-week certificate program, which began in Cairo on September 18, is for a select group of women from Egypt, Jordan and the West Bank, who have nascent business plans and leadership potential. At AUC, they will develop skills in business and entrepreneurship to support their business plans and ensure their future success.

Nehaya, 25, developed through her work with FWEN a business plan for a female owned and operated restaurant that serves traditional Palestinian cuisine. In July 2010, her exceptional business plan was among the ten chosen for the second phase of the FWEN project at TYO.

“Nehaya takes time to think and analyze before she acts,” said Fatima, the project manager of FWEN. “She is one of the most willing and engaged participants in our program.

“I am excited to meet new people and learn from them,” Nehaya told TYO before she left. “I think I will meet many people who will be very helpful as I start to implement my project.” Nehaya is also very committed to acquiring new skills as a result of this program, particularly skills in finance, research and marketing.

The WEL Certificate Program, implemented by AUC and The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania was designed specifically for young, underserved women from the Middle East. This program is part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women project, a global initiative that will provide 10,000 women with business and management education.

American small business expert Steven Strauss speaks to FWEN participants

On Sunday, September 19, 2010, American small business expert Steven Strauss led a business workshop at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) in Nablus. Mr. Strauss addressed an audience of twenty-five, including the participants in TYO’s Fostering Women Entrepreneurs (FWEN) project and invited guests from Nablus’ business community. Mr. Strauss discussed entrepreneurship strategies and recommendations that resonated with the entire audience from the young female entrepreneurs just starting out to the veteran business owners looking to break into the international arena.

Exhibiting a sound understanding of the local Palestinian context and its challenges, Mr. Strauss focused on the importance of marketing, the web and social media to drive investment and business through captivating local and international supporters and clients.

“Having a small business is a lot like being alone in a dark room: You know you are there, but no one else does,” said Mr. Strauss who went on to explain how a strong marketing campaign turns on the proverbial lights. Mr. Strauss is a world-renowned expert on small business as well as a lawyer, an author and a senior business writer for USA Today’s Ask an Expert column.

“His workshop was inspiring and encouraging,” said Saher, 27, an aspiring graphic designer and FWEN participant. “We are ready to start real businesses. We have so many of the ideas and skills he mentioned like logos and marketing. Now, we know we are on the right track.”

Mr. Strauss’ two-day program in Jerusalem and the West Bank was sponsored by the US Consulate General in Jerusalem and is one of many professional development and exchange programs that encourage mutual understanding between Americans and Palestinians.  “It is a new thing to meet an American expert. They are different than experts here. It is nice to learn from them because they present a different way of thinking and a different vision,” said Aya, 22, an aspiring goat farmer and FWEN participant. “It was a great opportunity to meet him.”

In the final hour of the workshop, each FWEN participant spoke briefly about her business concept and received personalized feedback and suggestions from Mr. Strauss. “This meeting confirmed our potential,” said Hayfa, 24, a FWEN participant who aspires to start the first recycling plant in the West Bank.  Per Mr. Strauss’ suggestion look for Hayfa’s profile on LinkedIn in the coming days!

Synergy and its best: aspiring female entrepreneurs and their fearless leader

Since the beginning of my stint this summer as an intern for the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus project, a day has yet to pass in which I don’t find myself in awe of the dedicated female participants in the program and of the woman who basically runs the show, Fatima Irshaid. Fatima’s family is originally from a village outside of Jenin but she was raised in Nablus and now lives in Ramallah.

Not only does Fatima provide a space in which local Nabulsi women with an entrepreneurial spirit can obtain business development training and access to her pre-existing network, but also a role model for the possibilities of personal and professional growth.

Fatima is their support system and their tough love. In turn, the female participants are her inspiration and, at times, her frustration. Demanding, yet compassionate, she understands where they are coming from and acts accordingly with fairness. As she told me, “Everyone has a story. What matters is how you move on with it.”  Fatima is dedicated to her participants and their futures as female entrepreneurs. They are in turn dedicated to her, the result truly being more than the sum of its parts.

The local staff’s dedication to TYO and to their respective missions within it is admirable and more than visible on a daily basis. Fatima is no exception to this rule and it has been an honor to work with her and the FWEN program.

- Maggie

Maggie is an intern at TYO Nablus.

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 Winning Business Plans Announced!

On Tuesday, 3 August 2010, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) program, under the patronage of Nablus Governor Jibril Al Bakri, celebrated the completion of the project’s first phase. During the ceremony, TYO announced the 10 winning business plans that will continue to the second phase of the FWEN project.

In his remarks to all the FWEN participants, Gov. Al Bakri expressed the importance of empowering women economically, and the government’s commitment to developing the community and allowing for the flow of creative ideas.

The second phase of the FWEN program begins next month, during which time coaches will work with the creators of the winning business 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 the winning entrepreneurs:

Hayfa, 24, and Ayat, 24, Recycling project
Aya, 22, Sheep farm
Hana, 25, Heba, 28, H2 Fashion project
Sahar, 27, Graphic Design project
Nehaya, 25, Restaurant
Rima, 23, and Afnan, 27, Coffee roaster project
Yasmeen, 24, Clothing store
Hadeel, 24, Intercultural cooperation project
May, 24, Chicken farm
Rose, 25, Hair Salon project

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.

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.

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