Dream Big. Start Small.
Those are the words I was told by the first Guyanese I ever met during my training in Toronto 5 months ago. Those are the words that I am living by. And those are the words that I continue to repeat to the female entrepreneurs that I work with.
The objective of my programme is to train and support 50 female entrepreneurs in Georgetown, Guyana. My dream is that these 50 women will become sustainable and be able to support themselves and their families comfortably. But my dream is much more than that. I dream that these 50 women will grow and grow and grow to help many other people in Georgetown who are unemployed and disadvantaged. My dream is that these 50 women will inspire others across Guyana through the media and personal encounters. My dream is that these women will be successful, providing a needed good or service to the community which will contribute to the development of Guyana. I am hoping to initiate a “pay-it-forward” type activity where the women share their knowledge and experiences including their successes and challenges to other female business owners and young aspiring entrepreneurs. Dream Big. Start Small.
All of the female entrepreneurs that I work with are really great 🙂 They have dreams and they have the desire to achieve those dreams, they just need a little extra push. They need someone who believes in them, someone who will listen, and someone who will give them some extra encouragement. As time goes on I learn more about the female entrepreneurs, their businesses, and the challenges they face. As an entrepreneur you immediately face additional pressure and challenges and as a female you must work extra hard in order to be taken seriously as a business women. On top of that, 36% of the group are single mothers (18 out of 50), and 60% have no post-secondary education.
I find that a lot of the social problems that exist here in Guyana are sometimes hidden but more and more I hear about the poor treatment of women. It is usually behind closed doors but involves domestic violence, sexual assault, unfaithful partners, child abuse, and incest. Domestic violence and unfaithfulness are the most common things that I hear about. Although I have met many very strong and confident women here, there are so many more women in Guyana who don’t have the confidence and strength to stand up for themselves and get out of the situation. They fear that there is no other option. Many women depend on a man for financial reasons as well. Some men are very controlling and will not let their wife or girlfriend leave the house.
Not only do women face these challenges, but the women in my programme face so many more challenges as an entrepreneur in Guyana. From crime and theft to unenforced laws and untrustworthy staff, business owners have so many more challenges to deal with on a daily basis. Ideas can easily be stolen, businesses are frequently robbed, and staff members are not to be trusted. Almost every business has security guards and the cashier is located behind bars or glass to prevent theft. Our training facilitator recommended avoiding developing a pattern of going to the bank on a specific day and time to deposit money. Many of the women try to put measures in place to avoid theft from staff – measuring the level of juice, avoiding sharing too much information about the business and how things work, random checks, and more. The reasons for staff stealing from the business could be out of necessity if they are not being paid enough to provide for their family.
I enjoy learning more but it is difficult to deal with the harsh realities of life as well. As much as possible, I share my words of encouragement with the women in the programme to build their self-esteem and give them that little extra push that they need to succeed.
Never give up. Reach for the sky. Follow your dreams. Don’t ever let anyone put you down. Inspire others. Be confident in yourself. You are smart and capable and you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it. Seize every opportunity. Treat your staff and customers like you would like to be treated. Support each other. Share ideas. Entrepreneurs will change the world and make a difference.
Dream Big. Start Small.
“When people are passionate and excited about what they are doing, they will move forward” – A mentor from the Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme.
– Amanda Armstrong, IYIP Intern, Guyana 2011
YCI’s International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) Interns are funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Our IYIP interns spend 7-9 months working with YCI’s partner organizations in Latin American, South America and Africa. The application process to become an IYIP intern is highly competitive. Applications for our 2012 internship positions will open in early November.
For more IYIP blogs, check out our IYIP section.