In its business development strides, the African Foundation for Development Sierra Leone AFFORD-SL is starting the implementation of the business incubation phase of the Organization of Women Entrepreneurs OWNERS project.
This phase follows a regional networking event for women entrepreneurs held in Kenema on the 19th and 20th of June 2012 which was attended by over thirty women in business from Kenema, Kailahun and Kono. The women explored the specific issues facing women in business in the eastern region as well as providing a valuable opportunity for women to network and find new customers and suppliers during the two days workshop.
Following the event, over 50 business women in the eastern region applied to be one of the businesses to be incubated. A panel of credible, experienced business development oriented female judges judged the applications and chose the two top businesses run by women and based in the eastern region to be incubated over the next two years.
AFFORD and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women will work with the chosen businesses to assist them to strengthen their business plans, hone their business skills and grow their businesses. They will also get assistance in accessing financial support should they need it, and help in reaching new markets via a network of global partners.
The application phase for the western region commenced on the 25th July 2012 and will end on the 3rd August 2012. At the end of the application period, another panel of credible, experienced business development oriented female judges will judge the applications and choose the top four businesses run by women and based in the western region to be incubated over the next two years.
The eastern and western regions will serve as the pilot spots for the OWNERS project for a year. At the end of the first year of the pilot phase, the project will be extended to the northern and southern regions where two women-owned businesses will be chosen to be incubated in each region.
The long-term desired outcomes of this project are to increase the number of women in sustainable business in Sierra Leone, create employment and overall strengthening of the private sector. Over the next two years, ten businesses from across all four regions of Sierra Leone will be selected for incubation, a further 200 women will receive training in basic business skills and the network will provide advocacy and lobbying to improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.
OWNERS is an initiative of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women CBF and AFFORD-SL who have come together to support business women in Sierra Leone by establishing a national network of women entrepreneurs to give women in business a unifying platform and to provide training, networking opportunities, lobbying and advocacy for female entrepreneurs; incubating ten women entrepreneurs' businesses and developing their business skills increasing the capability and confidence of ten businesses women by making their businesses more sustainable and assisting them to grow; and commissioning a study on women entrepreneurs' access to finance in Sierra Leone to act as the basis for developing a national strategy for improving access to finance for women.