Mentoring Women in Business, a new program launched by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFW), aims to help women business owners in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East further their marketing, technological and financial skills. On October 5th at the three-day conference held to launch the program, Mrs. Blair dubbed the entrepreneurs the “missing middles”, and said she hopes to match 1,000 female entrepreneurs in developing nations with business mentors from around the world by 2014.
One of TYO’s very own women entrepreneurs, Nehaya Bader, was chosen to join the program launch, and TYO caught up with her after her trip. She beamed, “I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing experience, travel to New York City to meet dignitaries like Cherie and Tony Blair, and all on my own no less. I learned how strong and self-sufficient I am. I felt a great responsibility and was proud to represent myself and my business amongst so many strong women at the conference in New York”.
On Wednesday, October 5th, Nehaya met fellow entrepreneurs for breakfast – a mentee from Kenya and a mentee as well as her mentor from India. In their meeting they were able to get better acquainted with one other, exchanging information about their businesses and how the CBFW mentorship program has been incredibly helpful in excelling them to the next level of their endeavors. Introductions were followed by a debriefing on the conference lunch that was to follow, which would bring to attendance Cherie and Tony Blair, Christiane Amanpour, Melanne Verveer, Aeneas Chuma from UNDP Kenya, and Google’s Nikesh Arora.
At the conference lunch entrepreneurs were greeted by Mrs. Blair, who spoke to each of the women individually regarding their projects. Nehaya was asked about the challenges she has faced since starting her restaurant, to which she responded by expressing the struggle of marketing her restaurant to the appropriate audience and in the most effective way. Because there are so many competing restaurants in the Nablus area, Nehaya voiced her wish to create a marketing campaign that would set her apart from her competitors.
“The personal care and attention that was paid by Mrs. Blair to each of the entrepreneurs was much appreciated and made the foundation’s dedication to the women clear” Nehaya commented. The lunch menu did not disappoint Nehaya either, as she found some great inspiration from the lovely spread of international cuisine. She especially loved the chocolate-covered strawberries and couscous (great to see Arab cuisine being represented, she said).
The next day Nehaya took an elevator 50 flights high in the McGraw Hill building, which she admits was both scary yet thrilling to see the breathtaking views of the city. There she finally met her mentor, Giles Hankinson, after countless email and phone exchanges. Getting a chance to meet with the mentor who has been coaching her to reach full success in her business made for an ecstatic moment. She gushed to Giles about how much she has already achieved in her business, especially the success catering orders from university students and local organizations is bringing. “Meeting and thanking Giles in person was very nice, but I had to ask him for more help with my finance plans going forward. Of course he was very willing”, she told me smilingly.
When Cherie and Tony Blair joined the guests Nehaya had the fortune of having a one-on-one talk concerning her business with Mr. Blair. She told him about her business venture, how she has secured funding, and how the CBFW has been most helpful in providing trainings and mentoring for her and the other women involved in TYO’s Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus program. When asked about her challenges, she reiterated the need for marketing funds in order to reach the level of the old-established restaurants in Nablus, and to make her restaurant well known through impressive marketing efforts.
Following lunch, Tony Blair made introductory remarks on CBFW’s mentoring efforts, new projects and goals, as well as the numbers of growing mentors and mentees. Mr. Blair commented, “Good entrepreneurship is part of a good country,” he said. “If women do well, the region will do well.” The UNDP followed with a panel discussion on mentoring and technology. Also on the panel were Karon and Ritu from India, who discussed the ease of having a mentor and mentee in the same country (making communication much easier). Nehaya chimed in to add that having a foreign mentor can be helpful for the added component of cross-cultural exchange. She also did not forget to mention her fellow FWEN peers, Haifa and Ayat, who also created a recycling business as Karon has in India; relating that such an undertaking in Nablus provided great challenges, as being in the recycling business is not seen as appropriate work for women in their community. However, with the proper trainings and willing mentors such obstacles become easier to overcome and make for a more successful project.
On the final day of Nehaya’s visit, CBFW arranged for her to make three restaurant visits in order to give her a better understanding of how to find greater efficiency and success in her restaurant, as well as other tips and tricks of the trade. Nehaya’s first visit was with the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which houses a large kitchen with several employees. At the hotel, she first met with the event coordinator and discussed catering, specifically packaging and managing big orders. Later, she met with the chef, who gave her a signed copy of his recipe book, shared secrets of managing a large kitchen and several employees, working with industrial sized machines, and most importantly providing the best in customer satisfaction and service.
Next, Nehaya visited an American cuisine restaurant called, Recette, which was small in size in both the kitchen and seating area. The chef gave her a tour of his facility, giving her advice on optimizing space in small kitchens along the way. Nehaya was very impressed at how the kitchen was used so meticulously, supplies placed so calculatingly so as not to let even a square foot of space be wasted. The chef also gave her a tutorial on how orders are placed; a waiter tending to a table and noting down each dish that is ordered in detail on a slip of paper that is then passed on to the chef for preparation. Furthermore, Nehaya was shown a very useful computer program for keeping accounting and finances in order, which she hopes to use for her own purposes now. One key piece of advice the chef gave Nehaya was to make sure she saved all of her treasured recipes and to always record new ones as she discovered them. When asked for his best recipe, the chef requested Nehaya’s email so that he could send it to her straight away.
Finally, Nehaya visited a market/restaurant fusion. There she saw how the restaurant devised a clever way to market the food in their restaurant by packaging and showcasing it on the market side of their facility. Additionally, she enjoyed the idea of providing samples of food – breads, cheeses, honey, and so on – to allow customers to have a small taste of their options before ordering. Her favorite piece of advice from the chef was that if a customer is unhappy with his/her food then make it better, and if that fails then withdraw the item it from their bill. Satisfy customers to the best of your ability because it will ensure their continued business.
Nehaya felt a second wind summon after returning from her trip. More than ever she wishes to take her restaurant to the next height, along the way offering her customers some of the delicious foods she sampled while in the states like couscous, pizza bites, hot chocolate and chocolate covered strawberries. Not only has Nehaya’s list of friends grown internationally, but so is her success story and self-confidence. She commented that “this trip taught her that she must take advantage of opportunities being afforded to her and speak out with pride regarding her ventures.” Once daunted by the adventure of traveling to the Big Apple, the girl from a conservative and relatively small city in Palestine managed to find courage and her own way to a local mall in the evenings to shop for souvenirs. The route she became most comfortable with was to the local coffee shop, where she enjoyed a nice, tall cup of hot chocolate every night.
Thanks to the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women for their ongoing support and dedication to women entrepreneurs around the world. And congratulations to Nehaya on her trip and continued success of her restaurant. On behalf of TYO, we hope to support you and all of the members of the FWEN program through more growth opportunities in the future.