Photo: Cherie Blair Foundation
E-mentoring: an innovative way to support women entrepreneurs
There are many women in developing and emerging economies who have the ideas and ambition needed to become successful entrepreneurs, but are held back by a number of barriers.
We often hear about the micro-finance or credit schemes that aim to help these women develop their businesses. However, in addition to a lack of finance, it can also be a lack of access to business skills, technology or networks that prevent women from gaining economic independence.
Delivering business skills, technology and networks through e-mentoring allows women entrepreneurs to be flexible with their time and fit the growth of their businesses around their busy schedules. Mentoring women online gives them easy access to a sounding board and to new networks.
A few years ago, I started my own business and soon found out that being an entrepreneur is an exciting but often difficult journey. Handling the pressure of keeping customers and employees satisfied while generating revenue and scaling up a business can sometimes lead to isolation and intensive stress, especially because failure in one area of the business can have significant repercussions on the overall enterprise.
At a time when I really needed support, I found a mentor who helped me gain more confidence and develop a clearer idea of priorities. It made a real impact on me and that’s one of the many reasons I have such confidence that the Mentoring Women in Business programme will support our women entrepreneurs with their ventures. We are already seeing the benefits.
How it works
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s e-mentoring programme combines mentoring with technology to offer cross-border support to women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies.
Benefits are tangible for mentees as well as for mentors. Benefits to mentees include improved self-confidence, business knowledge, marketing know-how and new technological skills. For example, Nehaya, a mentee in Palestine, was able to build the necessary skills to successfully secure funding for kitchen equipment with the guidance of her mentor, Giles. This enabled her to open up a catering business and employ two women in her community. Nehaya now encourages other women to start their own businesses.
Benefits to mentors include a rich intercultural exchange, revitalised interest in their own business and the satisfaction of seeing their mentee develop their business and technological skills. For example, Ritu, a senior advisor at leading private equity investment firm Actis and mentor to Karon in India, provided advice on how to structure Karon’s business and at the same time gained an understanding of the challenges smaller companies face.
Become a mentor
The Mentoring Women in Business programme is expanding, and we are currently recruiting a new intake of mentors to support pioneering women from Kenya, China, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.
To get involved, please visit www.cherieblairfoundation.org/mentoring
Follow us on Twitter: @eMentor4Women
Join us on LinkedIn: Mentoring Women in Business