Support our women entrepreneurs!
I was away for the Budget debate so I’ve only just had a chance to read the highlights. All I can say is ‘inhale and tighten!’ What the Government gives with one hand (marginally lower personal tax rates), it takes away with two – increased land tax rates, removal of allowances and now the social responsibility tax.
I have to say, though, that if nothing else, this government is certainly creative in coming up with new schemes to fund its deficit. I’ve decided not to complain too bitterly since I just experienced paying VAT at 20 per cent in England and parking fees at the airport of £9 for staying just over an hour, to name just two of the more outrageous expenses I encountered.
In order to help ourselves and ultimately the economy, we need to grow our businesses so that we do not rely on this economy solely as it cannot sustain us. We also need to earn foreign currency to increase our reserves so that we can continue to enjoy the many privileges that we have. Many of the businesses I come across are in fact looking to expand outside of Barbados, but of course the major problem is lack of funding.
That is why I’m particularly happy that next week, we will be launching the first part of the FundRiseHer initiative which is a new funding scheme that will give women entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for grant funding raised through a crowdfunding campaign.
I went through the Survey Monkey application this week to test it and I’m happy to report that it is not at all onerous as some applications can be. The slight difference with this application process is that applicants are required to also submit a two minute video pitch in the first round.
According to an article by Alan Gleeson: “A pitch is basically delivering a business plan verbally. A pitch typically takes the form of an entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs presenting or describing their ideas to prospective investors.
An elevator pitch is simply a very short pitch that distils the idea into a short summary that takes only as long as a short elevator ride. A video pitch is a pitch done via a short video rather than in person. Regardless of the means chosen to pitch, the aim is typically the same; describing a business opportunity with the intention of securing funding to develop the idea further.”
So to all prospective applicants, get out your phone or video camera and practice selling your business idea in two minutes, upload it along with your application and you may be selected for the next round. At that point, you will need to do a five minute pitch together with a slide presentation and a Q&A session with the judges. The final round will involve a three minute virtual presentation and another Q&A session.
That is part one of the FundRiseHer initiative. It is without a doubt the easier part because most entrepreneurs need money, so getting applications will not be an issue. The harder, but not impossible task, is to raise the funds to provide the grants for these entrepreneurs.
As I have said before, the beauty of crowdfunding campaigns is that they allow a wide cross section of people to participate while reducing the risk of anyone losing more than they can afford to contribute. Therefore, I am looking forward to attracting funds from the same entrepreneurs who are looking for funding, from other successful entrepreneurs, from large corporations who have a social responsibility focus and even from government entities which have been set up to help entrepreneurs.
I recall an article reporting on the launch of the FundRiseHer initiative alongside the Heads of Government meeting in Guyana a few months ago where our Prime Minister pledged his support. I therefore hope that support is not in talk only but in a tangible form from relevant government department budgets.
While these fund raising campaigns will be executed throughout the Caribbean, each country will be responsible for raising its own money. Let us not let down our Barbadian women entrepreneurs by not supporting the fund. As I said in another article, if we can get 5,000 people to put in on average US$20, the Barbados fund would have $100,000 which could easily provide grants to 10 women. That is certainly not an impossible task.
These women will be mentored and trained to make the best use of the money to expand their businesses, earn foreign exchange and positively impact the economy. I only wish that I was eligible to apply as well since I have some ideas that need funding to go regional. However, since I will probably be part of the selection committee, that prohibits me from applying.
I really hope that we all get involved in this initiative in Barbados as it has many far reaching implications beyond providing grant funding for women entrepreneurs. It will be helping to support the Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Valrie Grant, with this initiative which is her contribution to assisting women entrepreneurs as part of her year of reign.
As she is a Caribbean woman, it is my desire to see the Caribbean rally around her and show the rest of the world what we can do in the region when we work together. So please support the crowdfunding campaign when it is launched next month and encourage women entrepreneurs to apply for the grant funding starting September 15.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme and the Barbados Affiliate for the FundRiseHer Campaign. Contact her at email@example.com. Website www.donnaevery.com