The women behind the 10 business plans selected to continue through Phase II of the FWEN initiative have been hard at work over the past several months. And, their work is paying off in tangible ways – each woman is a few steps closer to achieving her dream of becoming an entrepreneur, owning and operating a small business.
In the past several months, the women have participated in a number of activities intended to hone their skills and their business plans. First, staff from the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah led intensive coaching sessions in which they revised and edited all of the women’s business plans. Another coaching session on financial management is planned for the near future. The women also participated in training sessions focusing on improving their English and computer skills. Finally, several of the women produced samples of their products, which allowed them to test the feasibility of their plans.
Another exciting activity during Phase II has been the connection of five of the projects with international mentors located outside of Palestine. The women are able to connect with their mentors and chat in real-time via a special Internet platform designed by Google and supported by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The mentorship program will continue for 12 months, allowing these women to learn from their mentors’ business experience. “After being connected with my mentor, I feel there is a solution for any business problem I might face,” said Saher, 27, one of the FWEN entrepreneurs.
Currently, the women behind all 10 projects are hard at work finalizing their business plans. Their primary concern now is finding funding that will allow them to launch their plans into reality. The FWEN staff plan to translate all of the business plans into English in order to increase their exposure internationally and to reach potential donors.
Many of the individual projects have also seen exciting developments in the past several months:
· Heba and Hana of “H2 Fashion” created a sample batch of 200 keychains, made using traditional Palestinian embroidery techniques, which were purchased by TYO – the women’s first official customer! – to be distributed as gifts at the TYO gala event in Washington, DC.
· Yasmeen, who owns a clothing store in her home village, received a loan from the FATEN microfinance organization in order to expand her store’s stock and formalize the business. She plans to complete the official business registration process in the near future.
· Rima and Afnan, whose plan is to roast and sell flavored coffee, produced a sample of several flavored coffees and distributed them to local supermarkets. The feedback from these vendors was overwhelmingly positive, indicating that there is a local market eagerly awaiting their products!
· Aya, who is creating a sheep farm in her home village, received land from her father and is beginning to build her first barn on the land that will become her farm.
· Ayat and Hafya, who will create Palestine’s first recycling plant to convert waste paper into egg cartons, have entered their idea in the “Made in Palestine” competition for new inventions created by Palestinians, being held at the end of November. The three winning entries from this contest will be sent to Egypt to compete against other inventions from across the Arab world.