The virtual launch of SheTrades and Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA) on January 18, 2022 was moderated by Amanda Ellis, the lead for global partnerships at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory (GFL) and co-chair of WE Empower UN SDG Challenge. This event marks the revolutionary launch of the free Entrepreneurship Certificate Program, available online through SheTrades. WEA convenes five UN agencies International Labor Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), UN Global Compact (UNGC), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN Women, private-sector MaryKay and includes the most recent partnership with WE Empower. These partnerships help over 5 million women gain access to certificates, networks and mentors that foster the growth and success of women-led and women-owned businesses around the globe.
Transforming the lives of women entrepreneurs from around the world is of utmost importance, which is the leading mission of MaryKay that in 2019 resulted in the formation of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator through collaboration and consultation with the United Nations. Deborah Gibbens, the Chief Operating Officer of MaryKay INC., states that “capacity building is the foundation of the program”, which assists women entrepreneurs to develop and sharpen their entrepreneurial skills. SheTrades provides virtual learning programs and certificates that help women learn how to prepare a business model, design a pitch and identify sources of funding. The program is currently offered in English, Spanish and French but the team is diligently working to expand the language accessibility of SheTrades.
Millions of women's lives from around the globe have been transformed such as Madhumita Sarkar Guha who is the Founder and CEO of Luxe Living, a company based in India which deals with the manufacturing and exports of hand-woven textiles and garments to the world. Madhumita began her entrepreneurial journey with her husband in 2003, starting off as architectural design professionals who established their own firm when the country was taking a shift to modernism. Through many opportunities and experiences Madhumita found her passion for textiles, which resulted in the formation of Luxe Living in 2016. However, for Madhumita, her business is not simply the creation of goods. Her drive is to be the hub that connects local markets to the global world as “connecting the two is what her job is because she wants them to have recognition in your store and in your platform”.
Sara Fajardo is another exemplary female entrepreneur who has brought her company, IBee Products, goods to the global marketplace through the assistance of SheTrades. At the start of 2020 she and her mother had a beehive developed in their home so they sought out the assistance of a friend, who is also a beekeeper, to remove them safely. Through this process they learned that their friend actually produced this honey but had no way to sell it since the pandemic started, halting his business. Sara’s mother expressed to her that she wanted to partner with him and begin selling the honey, so they set out to explore their entrepreneurial opportunities. They discovered a SheTrades representative that helped them to apply for a fair in Dubai where they could market their product, which only two months after their travels allowed them to sell over 8 tons of quality, certified honey.
WEA supports the UN SDG agenda and aligns with the WE Empower SDG challenge through supporting sustainable development plans and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs. By providing integrative measures into business plans, strategies and education, the Entrepreneurship Certificate Program directly empowers women to develop resilience and adaptive capacity. Both Madhumita and Sara incorporate Un SDG’s in a multitude of ways within their business models. Luxe Living shifts people’s mindset from fast fashion to one focused on quality that tells the story of the craftsman. IB Products takes the precaution to ensure that the bees are not stressed by not allowing honey production to be within 5 kilometers of where cars pass. The care and dedication each woman puts into their company shows what is possible through extended networks, mentors and supportive programs.
SDG 5: Gender Equality is pivotal in the work of SheTrades and WEA as they equip women with access to learning programs, skills and employment opportunities. Not only do these hubs of information give women the resources to grow their businesses, but they also accredit these entrepreneurs with certifications as a mark of quality and merit. Women like Sara and Madhumita exemplify excellence and professionalism that showcase the amazing skills of women entrepreneurs around the world. Together with SheTrades and the Entrepreneurship Certificate Program they are able to push through gender inequality, bringing women to the forefront of entrepreneurship. As Madhumita says, “We are a force to reckon with, and we are going to prove ourselves”.
By Ella Schneider, GFL Communications Intern