Story: ITC and Twill by Maersk offer specialized coaching to help women entrepreneurs in Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico and India scale up
A new one-on-one coaching programme for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico and India looking to enter international trade has been launched by ITC’s SheTrades initiative and Twill by Maersk.
While more than 95% of all companies are SMEs, only one-in-five exporting businesses are owned by women, and they are more likely to face obstacles to trade according to ITC research.
ITC and Twill by Maersk, a freight logistics service, have joined forces to offer highly specialized coaching to help women entrepreneurs overcome these obstacles.
During a four-week pilot phase in April 2020, four Twill employees based in the Netherlands were paired with four women-owned businesses from Nigeria and Kenya.
The programme is now open to women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico and India. They are encouraged to apply by filling out this form by 19 August 2020.
Before participating in the coaching sessions, Caroline Chepkemboi Tormoi, owner of Eldo Tea Enterprises Ltd., Kenya, found it challenging to establish favourable rates for her customers.
Twill coach Matt Gielkens helped Caroline use Twill’s platform to find favourable rates for her customers transparently and cost-effectively.
“Having a logistics partner with an international presence gives us a credible image and more trust by our customers,” Caroline said.
In the future, those who have been coached will be able to become coaches themselves to share new knowledge and good practices that will help empower other women entrepreneurs in their communities.
With female empowerment at the core of her social enterprise, Hyelni Hassan, owner of Enterprises Limited, Nigeria, not only wished to boost her sales but also her vision and impact.
Sheelda’s Steak Seasoning/Yajin Kulikuli (Suya Spice) is made by rural women, helping to support local communities and empower women to become drivers of socio-economic change and agents of resilience.
Hyelni and her Twill coach, Daisy Zhang, broke down ways of using different sales channels to enter the international market successfully. Hyelni will now re-brand, re-vamp and renew her business to adapt it to the global market and the ‘new normal’ in the international economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hyelni said she had gained confidence and clarity in the possibility of making more sales, which would lead to more women becoming empowered through the Sheelda initiative.
“I am now 100% convinced that with the right mentorship, Sheelda can do more and be more,” she said.
Communications was a key focus area for Adetoun Ajeigbe, owner of Joel Lani, Nigeria. Her company manufactures handmade leather fashion accessories.
Adetoun’s coaching sessions meant a return to the drawing board to map out the specific brand values of Joel Lani, and in turn, a company strategy.
From speeding up the company website to harnessing social media channels, Adetoun and her Twill Coach, Menno Veen, identified the importance of maintaining effective communications with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and adapting the business to a post-COVID world.
Like many business owners at this time, Adetoun has strived to seek new opportunities during the pandemic by shifting her focus to e-commerce. She believes this new strategy will make Joel Lani more internationally competitive.
“I have learned that you can never stop learning. I can keep pushing myself to get beapply through this formtter results for my company and also for my personal growth and improvement,” she said.
As a driven and independent woman entrepreneur, Aisha Achonu, owner of Aisha Abu Bakr, Nigeria, had previously found it challenging to spend time expanding her team and delegating tasks to other people. Addressing this formed much of the work she undertook with her Twill Coach, Esteve Hartensveld.
Aisha has now successfully hired a remote team with the right expertise. Like for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has also shown Aisha that several tasks previously done on the ground can be done perfectly well remotely, and are less costly to her business.
SheTrades aims to connect three million women to market by 2021, while integrated logistics giant Maersk has a mission to connect 100,000 SMEs, including women-operated business, to international trade by 2025.
Become a member of ITC SheTrades at www.shetrades.com and send an email to womenandtrade [at] intracen.org (womenandtrade[at]intracen[dot]org) if you have any questions.