In the first week of February, Brilliant Entrepreneur conducted the first part of the accelerator programme to a group of 20 women entrepreneurs in Zambia… and 4 men! Our training is part of the larger AfricaFood360 project that has the aim to strengthen these entrepreneurs, in order to improve the livelihoods of the hundreds of smallholder farmer they work with. Moreover, the project will lead to better quality, higher quantity and easier accessibility of food, which is badly needed in a country like Zambia where so many people live in poverty.
The criteria that were set for the entrepreneurs were quite stringent, yet the coordinating partner WEAC in Zambia managed to bring together a group of very qualified entrepreneurs. One of the criteria was – of course – that the company was women-led and owned for at least 60%. Most of the women owners participated themselves, some decided to send a male representative. It was new for the Brilliant Entrepreneur to have men in the group, and in turned out to be a good experience. Like usual, in a short term the group turned into a close community where people openly shared their experiences and challenges and helped each other with tips, connections and solutions.
As expected, most of the businesses focused on the processing of agricultural products from smallholders. Among the participants were fish farms, honey producers, instant food and energy bars, flour, dried fruits, meat, cooking oil and essential oils. Next to processors, a number of participants offer products and services to the agricultural sector, such as fertilizers, soil enhancers, animal feed and investment schemes.
The eagerness and openness of the group made it easy to identify the unique talents of all participants. As well as with identifying the talents as with defining the unique value of each company and their products/services, it was wonderful to see how all participants helped each other finding answers. We collected information about each participants in profiles, that are open to be viewed by anyone. Participants indicated that the training helped them to become more aware of their potential and how to use it. They found out they are capable to much more than they originally thought, by using their unique talent!
On the last day of the training the AfricaFood360 project was officially opened by the Zambian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, and the Ambassador of Finland (funder of the project). Presentations were given by a number of service providers, such as the Zambian Development Agency, Zambian Bureau of Standards, AgriProfocus, PUM Netherlands experts, GreenTech, Atlas Mara bank, Agco Future Farm, etc. After the presentation a lively network meeting followed, where many contacts were made that will hopefully lead to increased growth and productivity.
BrilliantEntrepreneur plans to return to Zambia in July this year for the next training. In the meantime, WEAC arranges a diverse range of trainings and workshop for the participants, about agriculture, running a social enterprise, financials, etc. Brilliant Entrepreneur will use digital means to stay in touch and send motivational messages to keep everyone on track.