During my term as President of the (NAWBO) National Association of Women Business Owners – Charlotte (2006-2007), I was pleasantly surprised by a request from the Charlotte International House. Previously, I had met the manager of this establishment (at that time) and agreed to be of assistance with an international businessman, who had a business in a small country in Asia. His business included aspects of my businesses (at that time I had both an outplacement firm and a staffing firm). He was visiting in Charlotte for a few days, and the International House asked if he could spend a day with us to see how we handle our business. My husband/partner and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting this man and learning about each other’s worlds and cultures, etc.
When later I was contacted by the International House during my NAWBO presidency, there was a small group of black African women, who wanted to become business owners. Since NAWBO was a professional organization to assist and support growing women-owned businesses, the IH believed it would be helpful and insightful for these African women to meet with a few of our members to discuss our experiences and information that could help prepare these visitors, who were seriously interested in becoming business owners.
I was honored to assist however I could. I selected about 6 of our NAWBO members who were more experienced as business owners, as well as those with a variety of businesses and were willing to share their experiences with these visitors. I believe there were about 6 or 7 African women.
We met at the International House in a small conference room and sat around a table where we could share stories and information, as well as answer questions and learn more about the situations and challenges of this group. First, let me say that all of these women came across as confident, strong, intelligent women, who seemed focused and determined to become successful business owners.
Secondly, all women were clear about the businesses they had chosen for themselves and had already learned good information about each of their industries, though they were at a point of needing guidance on what specific areas of expertise and resources they should seek in order to create a solid business plan of action. (Such areas included financing, marketing, aspects of operations, etc.)
What we NAWBO women didn’t realize was that these women were actually at risk since the men in their communities were part of a culture and environment where it was forbidden for women to embark upon such independence. However, this did not seem to shake their determination to have a business, which could help to support their families, as well as provide items and services others in their communities needed. Still, it was a real concern.
I share this story as often we don’t realize how fortunate we are in this country. Yes, we see stories in the news and social media, but to sit down with such determined and dedicated women as we did, this was an eye-opening experience.
Obviously, being a business owner is no “piece of cake” for us in America, as this is a HUGE responsibility, as well as lots of competition, and challenges like we are experiencing now with the Coronavirus. But we can still each do all that is necessary to have a business, applying our intelligence and resources as best we can.
When you wake up each day, you may have many hurdles to cross in order to accomplish your goals and needs, but with hard work, research, sharing of information, a determined spirit, and the support of others, there is much we can do.
The International House has been a beacon of hope to many here in the United States, and there are a number of local and regional businesses who have been of support to them. Today many businesses are struggling to stay alive, but there have also been some remarkable stories of how many of these same businesses are helping others in the community. If you want to do something positive, there are many excellent organizations who would value your support and contribution. A young neighbor’s child has had a “lemonade” stand recently, and I applaud her for her efforts. Give thought to what you can do to help others today.