A guest blog by Julie Obi
Entrepreneurs are the bedrock of any growing economy, and they contribute significantly to the development and growth of a nation.
I was motivated to become an entrepreneur to provide solutions to the world’s global challenges around business sustainability. Women are my target audience because they play a major role in international economics, especially in the rise of services, the value chain, and the digital economy, opening up opportunities for other women. However, many women lack connections to help launch and sustain a viable business that can penetrate the international market. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic closed significant cross-border trade activities. When women participate in entrepreneurship development, they utilize their greatest networking power to bring about community building, strengthen women’s bonds, and launch into the international market.
Every year, a week in November is designated Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 8–14 this year). I organized a YALILearns product exhibition and seminar to celebrate. This in-person and virtual event was held on November 12 and 13, 2021, in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, with the theme “Creating Pathways for Female Entrepreneurs to Access International Markets through Exportation of Standardized Agricultural Products.”
The physical event in American Corner Abuja, Nigeria, had expert Mandela Washington Fellow alumni and U.S. government speakers. The second event took place at the American Corner Ikeja in Lagos, and participants had the opportunity to exhibit their innovative agro-products. Mrs. Jennifer Foltz, deputy public affairs officer, United States Consulate Lagos, was present to speak and inspect products displayed by some women entrepreneurs. The deputy informed participants on how to leverage the opportunities presented by the U.S. government to entrepreneurs in Africa, such as AGOA, the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Program, and more.
To organize my YALILearns event, I sent a letter to the director of the American Spaces to request partnership and usage of both U.S. government spaces. I advise any YALI Network members who want to organize a YALILearns event to follow these steps:
- Secure your space first and decide if your event will be an in-person event. Send a letter to the director in charge of any American Space you may have in mind.
- Collaborate with fellow alumni or YALI Network members to participate in your speaker or facilitator lineup.
- Know your target audience.
- Study your YALI Network course materials well enough before teaching others the course. [Review YALILearns steps. Take an online course, complete the quiz, and earn your certificate. Use the corresponding facilitation guides for discussion questions to guide you through your YALILearns event.]
- Engage other stakeholders, such as officials from the U.S. Embassy.
I took the following steps to ensure the event would be successful:
- I created an interest form. [You can find YALILearns resources such as sample space solicitation letters, certificates for session attendees, T-shirt logos, and more here.]
- Shortlisted participants for the in-person events and sent them an email.
- Sent an email with livestream connection details to virtual participants.
- I asked the YALI Network to email women entrepreneurs in Nigeria who completed YALIEntrepreneurs courses.
- Sent participants follow-up emails.
- Visited the venue a day before the event to finalize all plans.
Are you interested in finding out more about #YALILearns? Learn how you can facilitate your own session on our #YALILearns page.
Julie Obi, an alumna of YALI RLC West Africa, is a multiple award–winning social entrepreneur and changemaker who empowers low-income women in rural and suburban communities in Nigeria with entrepreneurship, vocational skills and microfunding opportunities. She is the director of programs for the African Entrepreneurs Support and Mentorship Program. She is also the CEO of Djulies Sustainable Eventplace, a company that focuses on event planning, catering services, women and girls’ empowerment and startup mentorship. Check out her YALI Network blog here.
Are you interested in business, marketing and entrepreneurship? Learn how you can create, innovate and prosper on the YALIEntrepreneurs page.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.