This feature is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on April 12, 2017.
108 proud women entrepreneurs have graduated from the first Acceleration Program (AP) of the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC). They represent a wide variety of sectors: retail, creative, cosmetology, baking, engineering, sports, and manufacturing.
“When I heard about WINC AP, I thought it was an ideal opportunity for me to get the support I required to project my business in the direction I wanted it to go,” said Sarah Lezama of Lezara Consultancy Services in Trinidad and Tobago.
The WINC Acceleration Program
The Acceleration Program, an initiative to support women entrepreneurs in the region who have high growth aspirations and potential, provided them with a wide range of support service to innovate their businesses, improve competitiveness, and boost their growth. It involved peer learning, personal development, focused mentoring and coaching, technical workshops, and motivational sessions powered by successful entrepreneur role models. Participants also walked away with a powerful women's business network that will serve them well beyond the life of the program.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it seems to take a village to run a successful business,” said Barbados participant Malou Morgan. “The relationships you form become your support system, and I'm really grateful to have met such an inspiring group of women who lifted me up and taught me a lot about myself.”
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in The Caribbean
The initiative was part of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), funded by the government of Canada and implemented by the World Bank Group and its infoDev program for entrepreneurship. It spanned 12 Caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad &Tobago.
Thirteen infoDev-trained and -certified facilitators implemented the program, all of whom were also their countries’ United Nations Women’s Entrepreneurship Day ambassadors. They strategized for the graduation ceremonies to take place regionwide on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in November, the ideal time to celebrate and honor the talented, growth-oriented businesswomen who took the plunge, made the sacrifice and committed eight months of intensive learning to advance their businesses.
The ceremonies took different forms and brought together politicians, diplomats, business leaders, and families and well-wishers of participants.
"Celebrating, supporting and empowering women is vital for business and communities to flourish and grow,” commented Cecile Watson, facilitator for Jamaica and Women’s Entrepreneurship Day regional ambassador. “Today we come together as a network to achieve success to help and support female entrepreneurs everywhere.”
The WINC Impact
Graduates had high praises for the program. 94% said their businesses had become more focused, and 48% noted an increase in business total sales during the period and attributed this improvement to their participation and learnings gained from the programme. 43% increased the number of employees, and almost 80% cited plans to add more paid staff in the short to medium term.
For valedictorian of the Trinidadian programme, Lavaughn Marin and owner of Marin Engineering Services Limited, WINC AP was “extraordinary.” In addition to learning new business practices and processes, she says she has learned the power of trusting her entrepreneurial instinct.
Aine Braithwaite, facilitator for Grenada, said that through the highly interactive peer learning sessions, the participants created their own dynamic ecosystem, benefiting from their shared talents and skills. The program also created a safe and comfortable space for women to share their experiences and ideas to develop themselves. “A big problem with female entrepreneurs is confidence and self -esteem issues. It was amazing to see how the women transformed themselves,” she said.
The program also presented other significant opportunities due to networking. Marcella Jeremiah, one of the participants from Grenada, was empowered to enter a Youth Entrepreneurship competition which she won, enabling her to pitch her business at the United Nations in New York.
According to Trinidadian participant -Danielle Small of the Business Boutique, “it has been a wonderful experience. The facilitators are excellent. The group of women are extremely supportive and have created a dynamic network. I have begun to implement many of the marketing strategies to help grow my business.”