Trade Forum Features

Inspiring women to achieve more in business

14 January 2013
ITC News
The Global Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum (WVEF) helps women entrepreneurs create new business contacts and develop revenue-making opportunities for their companies, but who are the attendees and what stories do they have to tell about their business experience and views on women in business?

We asked two women business owners about their time at WVEF. Why did they attend the event and how do they see the battle for women’s equality in the workplace? They also have some inspiring tips for female business leaders of the future.

Laura Busnelli, President of Buplasa

TF: Tell us about your company.

LB: Buplasa was created by my father in 1982 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It specializes in the production of plastics for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and promotional materials, supplying customers like AVON.
I have been president for 12 years, having joined the company in 1997. I worked alongside my father for three years, but when he passed away in 2000 I took over at the age of just 26. I was very young, relatively inexperienced, and the plastics industry is traditionally a very male-dominated environment.
Luckily I had a great support network around me, both within the company and in my family. They helped me bring the company through one of the worst recessions in recent times and ultimately allowed me to re-shape the company to be the success it is today. Over the years I have managed to develop a great network of contacts, and completed a Master’s degree in business management to help give me the skills I needed to take Buplasa forward.
The financial climate and the steep learning curve were real challenges for me and the company, but we got there in the end.
We’ve implemented a new business plan, leading to turnover of US$ 2.5 million last year, with US$ 3.5 million forecast for 2013 – more than a 40% increase.

TF: What did you hope to get from WVEF?
LB: It’s the first time I’ve been to WVEF, so it was a new experience for me! I was there for the buyers' roundtable in particular, to make new friends and business contacts, and of course to see what other women are doing to support and grow their businesses.
I was also there as a representative of Vital Voices. I helped co-found Vital Voices in Argentina, part of a global partnership that helps women realize their full leadership potential and thereby transform lives in their communities. Vital Voices is active in over 144 countries worldwide, and I help coordinate the Argentina and Latin America activities to get more women into business.

TF: Do you think progress has been made in achieving equality for women in the workplace?
LB: Yes. It is easier for women to run a company today than it has been in the past, and it is easier for women to advance their careers. There are more opportunities for women, but also I see younger generations of women being more entrepreneurial, courageous and ambitious, and there are fewer and fewer disparities between men and women.

TF: Do you have any tips for aspiring business women?
LB: I think women will always find it difficult to balance work with family life, but I am proof that it can be done! I take things day-by-day and rely on the support of my family to help me achieve everything I want to do.

Janet Estrada, Co-founder of Evolusion IT, Mexico

TF: Tell us about your company.

JE: I founded Evolucion IT in November 2004 with my business partner, who is also my husband. We specialize in software and application development for businesses and the government. We now employ nine people, five of whom are women, but this isn’t by design; I find that men and women tend to have slightly different skill sets. Men are often more adept at the technical side of our business – only one of our developers is a woman, while women excel at the creative, interpersonal and management aspects of the business.
My background is as a technical specialist and systems engineer, but now I am a manager who only occasionally gets involved with the nuts and bolts of our projects.
I have a Master’s degree in business management that has helped me keep my company on track and moving in the right direction, but I truly believe it is my love of competitive athletics that has given me an edge in business. I love track and field events. As a keen amateur athlete and sports fan, I‘ve been to the last three Olympic Games as a spectator. The same level of determination and persistence that athletes demonstrate is also needed to succeed in the business world.
When I was younger, I would ask my father if I could go out; he would say to me ‘you need money to go out.' So I decided I was going to make sure I earned money to go out whenever I wanted.

TF: Do you think there has been progress in achieving equality for women in the workplace?
JE: The Mexican Government has done a lot to make sure women have equal opportunities in business and in every area of life. We have the Asociación Mexicana de Mujeres Empresarias, which helps promote women entrepreneurs, providing training, investment and general support for Mexican women who are looking to move their careers forward.
I really admire the policies of companies like Procter & Gamble, which provide flexible working hours for women with families. To me, there is no difference between men and women – they are equal in business and in life, but at the same time it is important that we all believe in women in business. WVEF helps inspire women to achieve more in business.

TF: What did you get from WVEF?
JE: It was a great networking opportunity. I had meetings with companies like Accenture, HP and FedEx, so I guess you can say it was a success. It was my first time at the conference, but I can really see how ITC has helped women in business, and it was very educational to understand how other cultures approach business in general.

TF: Do you have any tips for aspiring business women?
JE: Be disciplined, be determined, be persistent and make sure you have a great support network. Friends, relatives and your workmates will be vital to your success, so make sure you share your strategies and opinions with them to get their viewpoint. But at the end of the day, the final decision is yours.
It is said that ‘behind every great man is a great woman’, but the inverse is also true: behind every great woman there is often a great man – and friends, and family and colleagues.
Accept that you will make mistakes, but the most important thing is to learn from them.