Twenty-three ambitious young women hailing from Kingston and Clarendon have joined the ranks of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Jamaica Chapter. This dynamic programme is designed to empower them with comprehensive training and invaluable mentorship, propelling them towards expanding their businesses.
The women aged between 18 and 35 were selected from a larger group of 256 applicants from the programme sponsored by the United States Embassy.
They included Sashelle Thomas, CEO of We’re Jammin Caribbean Foods, manufacturers of green jerk seasoning and pepper mash sauces in real fruit flavours.
“Let me tell you, people are raving about it”, a confident Thomas said of her products. “I shine wherever I’m at, and I’m in it to win”.
Thomas, and her fellow entrepreneurs, introduced themselves at the launch of AWE 3.0 at the Embassy last Thursday, November 16.
Other participants are involved in several endeavours, including cosmetics, skincare, agricultural produce, furniture, natural juices, a beauty salon, virtual office services and jewellery making.
The programme, according to the Embassy, aims to support a bigger objective of encouraging gender-inclusive economic growth and improving justice for all Jamaicans.
Michael Lavelle, recently appointed Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in his remarks, commended the women on their creativity, drive and ambition in venturing into the business world.
“This group is filled with agents for change, and I’m pleased to see that you’re taking steps to empower yourself financially and to grow your businesses”, Lavelle said.
“Supporting women entrepreneurs is one of the best tools we have for advancing equity for women and girls. That is because entrepreneurship includes financial empowerment and financial freedom. Granting financial independence to women directly correlates to reducing poverty for women and for their families at large.”
The Public Affairs Office said when women are more fully able to participate in their societies, “we will see stronger, more inclusive economic growth which will lift economically challenged families and communities”.
“Put simply,y we cannot build the world that we want to see without the full and equal participation, rights and dignity of women and girls everywhere”, Lavelle noted.
Kiddist Cowans, a lead facilitator of the new cohort, said AWE provides a network of women not only in Jamaica but in 100 countries worldwide.
“We will also provide training from a massive open-source platform called a Dream Builder where you will do courses and receive a certificate at the end”, Cowans said.
Ten of the young businesswomen will also receive grants of US$1,000 each to use in their businesses following a pitch competition early next year.
Meanwhile, Marjaalaine Francis of Youth-For-Development Network, which is partnering with the US Embassy to deliver the programme said AWE aligns with the sustainable development goal of gender equality.
She urged the budding entrepreneurs not to be bashful in expressing their ambitions but to freely share their experiences for the benefit of their colleagues.
“What you put in is what you’ll get out, so put your all into it. Don’t be so shy about making money, but also make a difference in the lives of others”, Francis said.
She later told Loop News that each AWE member will be aligned with a mentor already in business.
“For the most part, the training will be online, but there will also be in-person creative reframing sessions where participants will be taken to a location where they can get to know each other and to learn from each other”, Francis said.
“There will also be a Fireside Chats where persons from different sectors will share their experiences and lessons learned”.
AWE (Jamaica Chapter) is a program for women entrepreneurs developed by the Embassy of the United States in Kingston in partnership with the AWE is tailor-made to fit the local needs of urban and rural women in Jamaica.
Other aspects of the programme, which runs until March next year, include: writing business plans, financial management, marketing, crafting a business pitch and cognitive behaviouraltherapy.