An array of business ventures, from the sale of pepper sauce, to travel and event planning to art done using coffee, were either on display or represented at the #HER Women's Summit 2019, on May 26 at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya. Themed Balance for Business, the all-day event was hosted by the non-governmental organisation EmpowHerTT and saw close to 100 women gather to support, encourage and inspire other female entrepreneurs or those who might be thinking of starting their own businesses.
"There is a decided difference in a business owner and an entrepreneur. The first will do things by the book. Will be given an item, a product and will seek to market, brand and sell, as is, maybe to the best of his or her ability, but the latter will take that product, transform it into something innovative, something radical and begin a viable, sustainable entity, that will only keep evolving and growing," explained Avalon Gomez, founder of EmpowHerTT and Avelle Branding. The initiative was used as a forum for the women to network, promote their brand, ask questions and share their own experiences in the business arena.
She said EmpowHerTT will celebrate its first anniversary this month and its ultimate objective is to assist others by presenting a one-time start-up grant to one female member at the close of the year and watching it took root. That grant, she said, will be funded through a series of events and workshops the organisation would have hosted throughout the year. Gomez hopes, that in years to come, EmpowHerTT will be able to offer an open call to women to apply for the grant to see their business off the ground or grow to what they want it to be.
With over eight years experience as a brand strategist and coach, and just as much know-how in marketing and business management, Gomez told Business Day when she first started, aside from her personal mentors, there was a decided lack of support from her own peers. As a self-confessed visionary, she said she strove to always focus on problem-solving rather than lamenting and became bent on helping other women do the same. These same ideals has seen her "blessed with many collaborative opportunities including speaking engagements, workshops and mentorship programmes."
Panel speakers at the event included Caribbean Airlines chief financial officer Marina Chase who advised attendees on being effective as leaders, with the first tip focused on being visionaries.
"Your vision, where you see yourself, unconsciously programme yourself to act and to become. In finance, if you have a vision of profitability, your foresight enables you to take action to achieve," Chase said. While her presentation focused mostly on the importance of being able to understand and manage finance in business, she also urged the women to be brave even when the situation may not look as promising as they would have it."Courage is about grace under pressure, not the absence of fear, but rather it is the ability to move forward, despite how you feel about business and finance. It is about taking calculated risks and stepping forward in confidence."
Image consultant Anastasia-Nicole Thomas recalled how low self esteem and a nonchalant attitude as a student had once affected her education and emotional development. However, she said she had been fortunate to take life's lessons and use them as motivational tools, which saw her become mature enough to persevere, pursue and accomplish her education and business goals.
Delicia "Dime" Patterson, of DiMedia, spoke about sacrificing her steady job with a fixed income, yearly salary increase and promotions, for the uncertain. She had been in corporate banking for seven years with her passion for media communications and marketing shoved on the back burner, simply because it seemed the more sensible thing to do at that time. "I stayed behind my desk for years because it meant a fixed income, it meant financial security and didn't require me taking any risks, but it also meant I became stagnant, with very little creative outlet," she lamented. Patterson eventually took that bold step and launched her own company, which now enables her to set a lucrative course for her future, while working in a field she loves.
Fellow panellist Hadassah Gordon said she dealt with her own uncertainty and fears by adopting the mantra, "fake it till you make it." However, she said, as her faith in herself grew, she realised that her confidence knew no bounds, once she pushed self-doubt aside.
Gordon works as a product manager for a global mobile/electronics company, but has also delved into business through her own clothing and jewellery line. She admonished the women to always be true to themselves, not to be pigeon-holed into a path that society or even loved ones wanted them to follow.
Marketing guru and co-host of the event, Shenell Felix advised the women to hold on to self-belief.
"If God wasn't by my side, I would have bowed out with fear, when things looked like they were above or beyond me, but I stayed," she recalled with an encouraging smile. She commended Gomez's foresight for "creating a network of support outside of immediate family and friends."
For more info. visit @iamavalongomez and @empowher.tt on Instagram and Facebook.