A lot of women entrepreneurs think that obtaining an investment for their project or turning their project into a business, is a way of turning their dreams into a reality.
To become inspired and encouraged, some women entrepreneurs either prefer to listen to an inspirational talk from someone who overcame many obstacles to reach national and global success, other prefer to network with business incubators, while the rest of them prefer to watch the warriors, who are struggling to keep their projects running.
At the She Can event 2019, women entrepreneurs will be given a chance to witness all of these.
She Can is an annual event which takes place for the third time this year in Egypt, kicking off on 8 March. It is one of the biggest women entrepreneurship events. It is founded by Entreprenelle, a social development and a business impact organisation, which aims to empower local women economically by educating, training, and linking them to the different entrepreneurial resources
Accordingly, Daily News Egypt interviewed Rania Ayman, the founder and managing director of Entreprenelle, in order to learn more about the She Can event and Entreprenelle. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
How did the idea of ‘She Can’ originate?
It started when I launched Entreprenelle with the objective of helping women start their own business. I discovered a lack of awareness among women who wanted to see realistic examples around them which they can relate to, in order to get inspired to start their own projects and businesses.
What is the difference between the first and the last She Can events?
The first event was a small one attended by 150 people only and was limited to hosting talks. Last event witnessed around 2,500 attendees who were able to attend talks, workshops, and it also included training, coaching, and mentoring sessions, as well as an exhibition of some the participating start-ups. The growth rate witnessed was around 150-200%. This year, we are expecting around 5,000 attendees.
What is unique about this year’s edition?
This year, I think we will focus on highlighting the different challenges and hurdles faced by the start-ups through having a different theme this year which is ‘Successful Failures’.
We chose this theme as we realised that when we only focus on the success stories, women think that the road was easy for those successful examples, so we decided to make this year’s theme different to let them know the obstacles which the entrepreneurs faced, and how they were able to overcome them.
What is the goal that She Can aims to achieve?
Let me talk first about the main goals of Entreprenelle, as She Can comes under its umbrella. The goal for Entreprenelle is to spread awareness between women through launching different events such as She Can in order to make the women further understand entrepreneurship.
In addition to the above, we aim to educate women on business purposes through launching different workshops in six different areas, in all the fields that women are interested to work in including, tourism, health care, and handicrafts.
Then, we help them by providing accessibility to the resources, incubators, and support for the economic empowerment of women.
As for She Can’s main objective, it is mainly to economically empower women and support them in their businesses, and to ensure that they understand, through the different success stories, that it is not a problem for them to start their own business, in addition to networking with different incubators.
We have around 5,000 participants with many partners offering various types of services. We also have a diversified set of speakers, celebrities, influencers, women entrepreneurs, decision makers, and stakeholders in addition to ministers, all with different backgrounds, participating in She Can 2019. We were focusing on having most of the speakers from the MENA region as well as local speakers.
What is the average age for the participating women entrepreneurs?
I think the average participating age is from 18 to 30 years old. Meanwhile, 25% of the attendees are from outside Cairo, as we try to work more with the under-privileged areas. Accordingly, we are trying to attract attendees from all the governorates. We even offer discounts for these under-privileged areas as we believe that we need to support women everywhere.
Does She Can provide financial assistance for female-owned projects? If yes, how many start-ups did you assist?
We help women during the incubation stage, which are the very early stages of entrepreneurship. We connect women with resources and introduce them to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We have managed to secure funding for a lot of the start-ups whether directly or indirectly, that was injected in the start-ups coming out of Entreprenelle. We usually have one cycle per month, with each cycle containing around 30 start-ups. The start-ups that did not get investments were introduced to several opportunities, with access to the market and the necessary resources.
To what extent did the government and concerned bodies help in launching this event?
They helped to a great extent. We have been investing in Entreprenelle for three years now, and we currently have powerful partners such as the UN Women, and the National council for Women, as well as several ministers, all supporting us because they believe in our cause. That stems from them witnessing the true impact of She Can.
The main obstacle facing the Egyptian women lies in their self-doubt. The resources are there, but unfortunately women are unable to be convinced of that fact. We believe that women should support and stand for each other, but sometimes we find that women are the ones who can discourage each other, which is our main challenge at the moment.
Do you think that the government is now more focused on the economic empowerment of women?
Yes, because they believe in the value of what we are doing. Statistics have shown that the Egyptian economy is going to improve by 34% in case women become engaged in the economic process. That is why all governments including the Egyptian government are trying to integrate women, and invest in empowering them.
How do you evaluate the success of women entrepreneurs nowadays?
We measure the success by how satisfied women are about themselves, even if they do not have an extremely successful business. If they have a charitable organisation and this is good enough for them, then we consider this as a success story. We measure success based on the standards which every single woman puts to herself.
Throughout your journey with Entreprenlle, what fields do women entrepreneurs prefer to launch their projects in?
I think that they prefer to launch their projects in advertising, fashion, and textiles, in addition to handicrafts, upcycling and recycling, as well as tourism and house care, thus we always provide our education programme on these six axes.
I joined an initiative created by Startup Grind. During one of the events, the percentage of female attendees was very low. This is where I discovered the lack of women involvement in the eco-system. Therefore, I decided to create Entreprenelle, initially as an online platform. My on-growing passion to Entreprenelle lead me to exit the agency I founded, to work whole-heartedly on Entreprenelle. Helping other women is my inspiration, this is why I wanted to work more on a cause, rather than do it for the money or profits.
In your opinion, how can Entreprenelle or She Can help entrepreneurs overcome the obstacles they face?
Entreprenelle hosts entrepreneurship programmes, incorporating the gender factor, as an example, we provide a kids’ area for moms and we teach them time management, in order to balance between pursuing her passion and taking care of her family. In addition to creating a supporting network for women which allows them to leverage on all resources.
Finally, what are your aspirations?
To become the platform/hub for all women who want to have their own business but are facing obstacles while trying to do that. We want to create a snowball effect where women would learn how to overcome any challenges that they face in order to start their own business, and also to learn how to teach other women to do the same.