interviewBy Ojoma Akor
Shimite Katung is the Managing Director of Sapphire Media Limited which is organizing a business summit for women entrepreneurs from the 19 Northern states and the FCT come November. In this interview she comments on challenges facing northern women entrepreneurs and how their entrepreneurial skills can improve among others.
What are the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs from the northern states?
One of their barriers is upbringing, the northern woman is not usually brought up to be a very forward person, but the business environment of today requires you to be a little bit pushy. That is why we now have to find out what business they can do to enable them be who they are and be the best they can be, and to also create an enabling environment taking their needs into cognizance. There are some culture barriers too so we need to find products, programmes and a business environment that will enable rather than encroach upon their cultural and religious beliefs .
What is the essence of the business summit you will be holding for Northern women entrepreneurs in November?
It will serve as a forum for northern women entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, views and also network with one another. It is also to educate them on their entrepreneurial skills. We also want to create a data base for women businesses whether it is what they call the adachie, cooperative, NGOs, or unemployed people in order to find out what their needs are generally and find sectors within which we can put them into effective use. So that they get what their portions are under different programmes, not just our own programme coming up but also any other opportunity for women entrepreneurs that comes up. If we have a good data base it will make the work better.
How can women from the grassroots benefit from the programme?
Basically this particular programme is targeted at women entrepreneurs with basic educational qualification which is the SSCE. As a matter of fact, we prefer a woman with a minimum of an OND. There are many other products for less privilege women, the physically challenged, illiterates, widows and other vulnerable groups and we will treat them another time but I wouldn't want to target them for this particular summit. People have the notion that women particularly those from the north only fall within the aforementioned groups. We want to use this particular platform to correct that and show that we do have people who are educated, people who are computer savvy and all of that and for those sectors that they haven't seen a lot of work being done there are huge candidates for train the trainers programme.
In what ways do you think women entrepreneurs in the north can be made better?
Everything stems from training, they need to be trained, better educated on entrepreneurial skills, better informed, they also need to have more efficient communication system for them to know what is going on, what they can tap into, and how to pick the right business to mention a few. For example like the Youwin programme targeted at women, women entrepreneurs need to know when such programmes are available, internet information like the website and how to send their entries, how to write business plans in order to qualify, and they also need a forum of encouragement and where they can ask questions .
Many women are interested in business lack capital, is there away to help them?
Nobody is going to just dash you money no matter how poor you are. You must package yourself for the person to feel comfortable to give you that money. As an individual if you want to borrow somebody money for business you will gauge the person and know that the person is serious and will be able to pay you back. So a woman interested in business should be able to say what business she wants to go into and how she wants to do it to be able to access money for it. Some women when asked what business they want to do when they ask for loans will casually say anything, or when asked how do you want to sell, their reply is 'I don't know.' How will you give the person the money then? So women also need training on how to access funds. We need to get them trained on confidence to talk and get money, know how to have good relationship with banks and which banks are more friendly towards women development, businesses that are profitable and other basic know-how on accessing money for business.
Is there any other thing you want to say?
We encourage northern women entrepreneurs to get in touch with us and ensure they are listed in the data base. We want to get as much women entrepreneurs on the data base, so that such issues like there are no women entrepreneurs from the north will no longer arise, and if there is any sphere where they are needed, it will just be a case of checking through the data base and as many as a list of 200 women can be sent. Information on opportunities can also be easily circulated to them.