Never Go It Alone

“¿Puedo sentarme con ustedes?” (May I sit with you all?) I asked. “Claro que si,” (sure) they responded. And just like that, they welcomed me in to their group, conversation and business exchange.

The women I joined were part of the U.S. Department of State’s  WEAmericas Initiative that brought 34 women entrepreneurs from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States. The purpose of the international exchange is to provide training and mentoring to women entrepreneurs, to support market access initiatives and to launch and expand initiatives that facilitate access to credit and other financial services for women-owned SMEs with a focus on business growth.

The women entrepreneurs spent the day at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, under the very able guidance of Alana Muller and her team at Kauffman’s Fast Trac. The discussion, learning and insights shared during the day included a guiding principle shared by Alana termed: “Never go it alone” – meaning success in business is never achieved alone by oneself, but instead requires friends, family, teammates, partners, a network, advisors, mentors. The day of training started with a workshop titled “Listening to your Business” expertly facilitated in Spanish by Karen Sebastian with simultaneous translation into English, French and Portuguese by the U.S. State Department team. Karen took the group through exercises and activities designed to guide each woman entrepreneur in thinking about:

  • Where she wanted to take her business in the future
  • What it would take to transition her business to the future she envisioned

As with many entrepreneurs globally, the women talked about how they rarely had time to strategize, think and plan. The women did not have a problem envisioning where they wanted to take their business. Rather, their challenge was an age-old one common to many entrepreneurs: figuring out to who and how they could delegate more so they could free themselves up to grow their businesses.  Some help in this regard came later from Alana Muller who guided the entrepreneurs in developing a specific networking plan. The entrepreneurs determined specifically with whom and how they would network to build the types of connections that would help them create the growth they envisioned.

Many of the women recounted often feeling all alone in dealing with their business challenges. What was most notable to me was seeing the principle Alana had previously shared in action. The women business owners listened to each other, discussed common challenges, shared advice and exchanged contacts with each other, the Kauffman Foundation team and with me.  They were building a network with each other and with everyone they would meet during their time in the United States. As we hugged and said our good byes I found myself hoping that they , we and all women entrepreneurs globally would never have to go it alone.