Monday, February 22, 2010

Women Sweep Awards

Women Sweep Awards
Daily Graphic, Monday, February 22, 2010; Page 57
Adwoa Buahema

Out of 30 entrepreneurs who participated in a rigorous three-week training exercise, 15 qualified to partake in a competitive 13-week TV reality show for a winning prize that will uplift their business game.

In a novel state-of-the-art Bullseye Marketing initiative dubbed Lift Your Game (LYG), women swept five final positions.

This is the first of its kind known in Ghana, LYG’s goal is to unleash business potential and create at least 100 new direct and indirect jobs in Ghana.

The initiative responds to several present and pressing market needs across Africa, explore real yet often elusive basic requirements in business, commands attention and indulgence from seasoned practitioners, questions prohibitively rigid credit policies for MSMEs in our financial institution, and challenges the ordinary folk in the informal sector to dare ‘fall off their cliff’ and glide into astounding returns.

And astounding indeed have been the results. The participants, who came from a diverse mix of ages, locations and industries, interacted with a team f experienced local resource persons chosen for their extensive filed knowledge, experienced, proven integrity and track record.

They expressed profound satisfaction and unqualified gratitude to the organisers, first for a uniquely enriching learning experience, and secondly for the positive exposure the programme has brought to their businesses.

Transformed through the renewal of their business perspectives, self-esteem and confidence, many of these participants have already taken new actions such as cutting down on production costs with compromising value, improving staff and client relations, streamlining legal and financial processes, strategic marketing and targeted selling, offering free services alongside the optimisation of sales, and pursuing strategic alliances which have significantly increased returns, even up to a projected 400 per cent increase.

Of particular interest, however, is the impressive performance of the female contestants which highlights an issue of global development interest: Empowering women.

Out of a total of nine women, five of them took the finalist position by storm. The Guest of Honour at the ceremony, the Minster of Trade, Miss Hannah Tetteh, congratulated the finalists for demonstrating exceptional business acumen.

They were: Vida Sarpong, CEO of Visap Seafood Enterprise, who is in the business of fish processing and distribution; Rosemond Asamoah, CEO of Women’s World Beauty, in the business of personal grooming and care; Christine Osie Doe of Unique Coffee Shop who processes mango jam and distributes to retail stores; Horlase Anku is a moringa farmer who wants to extend the benefits of moringa to her community; Jessie Bartels, who won the competition, is the CEO of Renom Food Farm, a mushroom and grasscutter farming company in Dodowa.

A panel of judges accounted for 70 per cent of votes, while the general public carried 30 per cent.

So given equal opportunities and socio-economic incentives, are women better entrepreneurs?

A study using an Austrian economic model of entrepreneurship analsyed why women in enterprise is still a relatively untapped economic resource. It discussed a list of obstacles women face in entrepreneurship process such as lack of role models, type of education, gendering of entrepreneurship, weak social status, competing demands on time (such as family responsibilities), and access to finance.

In response to research results by the Centre of Asia Pacific Studies on GE Money Bank (GEMB) targeted women, whose anecdotal evidence showed continued to be disadvantaged because of their gender, with many parents, especially in the rural areas, still preferring to send males to school, often at the expense of females; and in 2006, partnered with Let’s Go Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on entrepreneurship education, to develop its corporate citizenship programme that focuses on empowering women through entrepreneurship.

They created a curriculum for entrepreneurship training programme specifically tailored to the needs of would-be women entrepreneurs, and partnered with other women groups to implement the newly devised curriculum.

The goal was to teach women to venture into entrepreneurship even before finishing school so that they could become, after schooling, not job seekers but job providers.

Curiously, in the same year, out of 40 countries studied, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2006 discovered that only in the Philippines were women significantly more active in starting up businesses than men. Could this be a result of the developmental initiatives to uplift their quality of life and that of others, while generating the revenue of the Philippines?

In Ghana, it is recorded that women more often satisfy loan obligation than their male counterparts, yet they continue to face rigid read tape, counterproductively high interest rates, and sometimes rejection by financial institutions.

Often the industries chosen by women, primarily retail, education and other services are perceived to be less important for economic growth and development than the male predominated high technology and manufacturing industries. But the trade-offs of these “less important” trades, both tangible and intangible, are enormous for communities.

By all count, Lift Your Game is innovative, proactive, powerful, relevant and spot-on responsive, and needs to be sustained to enrich our society; and certainly, such laudable initiatives require committed partnerships with financial institutions to thrive.

Would our established financial institutions be willing to seriously bank on MSME’s, specifically women entrepreneurs, as exemplified in the Philippines to encourage them to create jobs?

But be it as may, more and more women are venturing into venture capital. With training they are better poised to embrace and overcome some of the gnawing bottlenecks in today’s market for MSMEs in general, and women in particular, and Bullseye Marketing is committed to helping transform those who dare to start into successful job creators through cutting edge entrepreneurial training.

Lift Your Game was sponsored by MTN and supported by the BDS Fund. Bullseye Marketing is also the brainchild of the popular, award-winning “M’asem” programme on TV 3.

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