Archive for the 'Culture' Category

President and CEO Julie Smolyansky on “Following Your Gut”

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This past Wednesday September 12th, President and CEO of Lifeway Kefir, Julie Smolyansky lead a wegg® workshop about the importance of following your gut on business and personal endeavors. Her inspiring talk covered the journey of Lifeway beginning in her parent’s basement, in the mid-eighties, when they began making Kefir, a food inspired by their home country, the former Soviet Union.  It is now a $120 million publicly-traded company, thanks to Julie. She grew Lifeway to the size it is now, without a business degree, and became CEO at age 27, when her father suddenly passed away. Smolyansky shared the story of how one of her father’s friends reacted when he died and she was made CEO…

“[He said] ‘forget it, the company is done. Sell all of your stock tomorrow. There’s no way a 27 year old girl could run a company.’ This is done. Lifeway is over…I go into the office Monday morning…and everyone had sold their stock….It was devastating…[I] picked my head up and moved forward. Then, we had 70 people, today we have 320. We’ve grown our business from 12 million to 120 million…We continued to execute on the strategy we believed in, and continued to follow our gut, and worked really really hard….That man who said ‘she’s never gonna do it,’…I literally think about him every day. I say ‘thank you’, ‘thank you so much for underestimating me, for pissing me off, and making me angry…You gave me the fuel to move forward.”

Smolyansky went on to describe how being a young CEO became a strength for her. She followed her gut and made Lifeway one of the first businesses ever to have an active social media presence. She explained, “We were ahead of the game…Vogue called us ‘avant garde’ for being on social media.”

She also shared her beliefs on the importance of female entrepreneurship,

“If women were employed at the same rates as men, we know the global GDP would rise exponentially…That I think is really important. A rising tide raises all ships, and when women create jobs, an entire community is more safe and stable….Women are the key to saving the world…Entrepreneurship…can heal the world.”

Other inspiring takeaways from Smolyansky’s talk…

  • Keep moving ahead no matter what your challenges are in life.
  • Make a big impact:  it only takes one person one step at a time to change the world.
  • Follow your gut (we should all listen to our intuition on important matters in life).

Thank you to Julie, and her team, Justine and Maria, for making our on-the-ground wegg® workshop a success.  And thank you to Bank of America, Moji Eagan and Aneta Mazur, for hosting us.

If you were not able to make this wegg® workshop, we are having a wegginar® on Wednesday, October 3rd with Katie Kollhoff, CEO, NUMIX.  She’ll present on “Small Startup, Big Impact.”  Thanks to our sponsors, IBM, UPS, Bank of America and GlobalCare Clinical Trials, the program is no charge but you must register to attend, here.

How Mastercard is Investing in Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Nations

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In Michelle Martin’s recent Forbes article, “How Mastercard Could Close A $300 Billion Credit Gap For Women Entrepreneurs,” she reports,

“As of 2017, 70% of women-owned MSMEs [micro, small and medium-sized enterprises] in the developing world lack access to adequate financing, representing a $300 billion credit gap each year.”

This major finance inequality stems from MSMEs not having access to a digital record of transactions or the resources required by banks to obtain credit. Because of these issues, women entrepreneurs, in places such as Nairobi Kenya, are not able to gain the capital needed to purchase inventory in order to expand their enterprises. Expanding a business is critical to the success of a business, and makes it possible for the entrepreneur to potentially achieve success on a global level.

Thanks to Mastercard, this $300 billion credit breach is about to change. The corporation is launching technology, through the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, to aide women owned MSMEs in these countries. Martin explains,

“In partnership with Unilever, Mastercard recently launched the Jaza Duka program in Kenya, where they created a first-of-its-kind digital lending platform. The unique platform tracks how much Unilever product a store owner has purchased over time and combines that data with an analysis by Mastercard. The results are used to provide a micro-credit eligibility recommendation to Kenya Commercial Bank, who can then provide an interest-free credit line.”

The venture is already being met with success. In one instance, a Kenyan entrepreneur named Lucy Njoki, has been able to increase her sales at her shop by twenty-percent, thanks to the Jaza Duka program.

To read Martin’s full piece, and an interview she conducted with one of the executives of this Mastercard program, Shamina Singh, click here.

This support of global women entrepreneurs is the kind of change that we here at wegg™ are proud to watch. If you or a woman entrepreneur you know is trying to “go global,” we would love to help you, too.

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JOIN us for our morning wegg™ workshop on September 12th and hosted by Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle Street, 44th Floor).  Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO, Lifeway Foods, will present “Follow Your Gut,” covering:

  • How global factors influence company values and mission
  • Why we should empower women entrepreneurs around the world
  • How to channel inspiration from travel experiences into marketing initiatives

Tickets $40 ($20 for students); includes Continental Breakfast.  To learn more and to register, visit:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weggtm-workshop-follow-your-gut-presented-by-julie-smolyansky-tickets-48655708534
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Unlocking the Full Potential of Women- led SMEs in Indonesia

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In a recent East Asia Forum article, “Unleashing the capabilities of women-led SMEs in Indonesia,” author Naimah Talib reports that 43 percent of the 26 million small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Indonesia are women led or women owned (WSMEs). Not only do these WSMEs make up for ten percent of the country’s GDP, they also lead to social development of the culture by empowering women economically. Besides these major benefits, support of WSMEs aids Indonesia in achieving the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals”, specifically the tenets of ‘gender equality,’ ‘decent work and economic growth’, and ‘reduced inequality’.

The advantages of backing WSMEs are clear, but why are there limitations on the growth of these organizations? This is the question that Talib proposes. She illustrates just some of the difficulties women who head businesses face. Talib explains,

” …common difficulties for expansion [for WSMEs] include limited access to information about financial support, lack of business and entrepreneurial skills, lack of professional networks and limited government support and services at the local level. Financial support is available for WSMEs, but female entrepreneurs tend to lack information about these options. Female entrepreneurs find that information about government funding programs is often limited, difficult to access or unclear.”

One of Talib’s main arguments suggest that Indonesian policymakers fail to effectively provide WSMEs with the necessary resources to solve these issues. Talib writes of the necessary reform,

“Three areas require greater attention: increasing the accessibility of information, strengthening the institutional capacity of the Creative Economy Agency and improving government services at the local level.”

To read more about the specific solutions posed to the pressing issue of the neglect of Indonesian WSMEs, read the article here.

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JOIN us for our morning wegg™ workshop on September 12th and hosted by Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle Street, 44th Floor).  Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO, Lifeway Foods, will present “Follow Your Gut,” covering:

  • How global factors influence company values and mission
  • Why we should empower women entrepreneurs around the world
  • How to channel inspiration from travel experiences into marketing initiatives

Tickets $40 ($20 for students); includes Continental Breakfast.  To learn more and to register, visit:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weggtm-workshop-follow-your-gut-presented-by-julie-smolyansky-tickets-48655708534
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Closing the Confidence Gap is Key for Female Entrepreneurial Success

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In a recent Forbes article entitled, “What It Will Take For Women Entrepreneurs To Take Over The World,” author Carrie Kerpen explores what disadvantages women entrepreneurs face in our current market. Kerpen interviews Margaret Donnell, chief marketing officer of Capital One’s Small Business Bank, on how women can subvert the obstacles in their way, in order to succeed. Kerpen’s thesis is: closing the confidence gap between men and women will be a crucial factor in trying to level the entrepreneurial playing field.

Donnell attests the gender pay gap between men and women to be one of the main reasons women business owners are less confident than their male counterparts. She reasons,

“We have pretty clear evidence around us. We’ve seen studies out in media, I certainly have, that document a wage gap between men and women. It means that women don’t always have as much money as men because of that earning power. It also means that their confidence could have been eroded over time, and so I think there’s a lot we can do to lift each other up, and men as allies can lift women up, to help them feel confident and go after getting into business.”

Lacking in confidence can be a hindering quality for any business owner. Not having faith in oneself can lead to a fear of risk. One such risk could be the venture of expanding your SME into a global business, an important move for entrepreneurs.

A potential fear of risk taking is evident in statistics. Kerpen reports,

“…despite feeling more positive about their businesses than their male counterparts, female business owners are more hesitant to take big swings and heavily invest in their companies. According to the same Capital One report, 75 percent of men are likely to hire in the next year, compared to 63 percent of women.”

How do you think women can support and encourage each other to make the bold moves necessary for success in business? How can we increase our confidence to achieve heights greater than we could have ever imagined?

Read several proposed solutions to this issue, in Kerpen’s article, linked here.

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JOIN us for our morning wegg™ workshop on September 12th and hosted by Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle Street, 44th Floor).  Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO, Lifeway Foods, will present “Follow Your Gut,” covering:

  • How global factors influence company values and mission
  • Why we should empower women entrepreneurs around the world
  • How to channel inspiration from travel experiences into marketing initiatives

Tickets $40 ($20 for students); includes Continental Breakfast.  To learn more and to register, visit:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weggtm-workshop-follow-your-gut-presented-by-julie-smolyansky-tickets-48655708534
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Oxfam Helps Woman Start Jalawla, Iraq’s First “Women’s Only” Plant Nursery

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A recent article by Oxfam recounts the inspiring story of Zainab, the first woman in Jalawla, Iraq to sell plants at the town market.

In December 2015, Zainab opened her own plant nursery on the side of her house in Jalawla, Iraq. It was destroyed by ISIS one week later. When she returned to Iraq in 2017, her desire to have her own plant business was still within her. She then ” enrolled in an income-generation project run by Oxfam and funded by the United Nations Development Programme, which distributed $575 grants to 235 people—more than half were women—to relaunch their businesses.” Oxfam’s help has ensured the reestablishment of Zainab’s plant nursery, and it now exists as an agriculture sanctuary for “women only.” On the impact Zainab’s innovative business has had on her community and her personal well-being she says:

“I’m the first and the only woman to open a nursery in [my town]. After the women in Jalawla saw me opening my business, they were encouraged to open their own businesses…When Oxfam told me they would help me reopen my nursery, I became very happy. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Oxfam brought my dream back to me.”

Helping women entrepreneurs, like Zainab, are what organizations like Oxfam and wegg™ exist for. Read more about Zainab’s revolutionary success, and how Oxfam helped make her dreams real, here.

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Why go global?  How do you start?  Where can you find customers?  How do you get paid?  Find out these answers and learn other best-kept secrets to expanding a business globally. 

JOIN us for our first weggchat™ (#weggchat) Wednesday, August 8 from 11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central time on Take Your Business Global! and facilitated by Laurel Delaney, President of WEGG and founder of GlobeTrade.com.  Laurel will field questions and add insights on how to take a business global.  Small business owners can join the conversation by using the hashtag #weggchat to chime in with questions and answers.

Event is free of charge but you must use tchat.io or twubs.com to follow the conversation using the hashtag #weggchat.  See you there!
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Why Are There So Few Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda?

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A 2014 census report conducted by the National Institute of Statistics in Rwanda,  revealed that only 26.8 percent of sole proprietorship establishments are owned by women, compared to 73.2 percent owned by men.

What are the reasons for this imbalance?

In Donah Mbabazi’s article for “The New Times,” she shares a telling quote from the first Vice Chairperson of the Private Sector Federation Chamber for Women, Sarah Kirenga. Kirenga speaks to the challenges that Rwandan women, and all women, can face when it comes to business:
“The number one challenge women in business face is the fear of failure. Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture, but when it comes to women in business; fear to fail becomes a great concern to growing the business, hence, women are afraid to take up big risks. I believe you need to have massive failure to have massive success, you may need 100 ‘nos’ to get one ‘yes,’ but that one ‘yes’ will make you more successful tomorrow than you were today.”

Further in the article, the CEO of the Rwandan stock exchange, Pierre-Celestin Rwabukumba, cites Rwanda’s social climate as a cause for the lack of female participation in business: “It’s because of the general patriarchal kind of environment we have been living in for decades. Business doesn’t change because it is done in the same society.”

This poses an interesting question: Do social norms surrounding gender equality have to change in order for patterns in business to evolve? Or would change in entrepreneurship affect society? What do you think roadblocks women from achieving their full potential as entrepreneurs? What can women do for themselves to get in the game?

Read Mbabazi’s article, and her account of some solutions to the inequity in Rwandan business, here.

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Why go global?  How do you start?  Where can you find customers?  How do you get paid?  Find out these answers and learn other best-kept secrets to expanding a business globally. 

JOIN us for our first weggchat™ (#weggchat) Wednesday, August 8 from 11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central time on Take Your Business Global! and facilitated by Laurel Delaney, President of WEGG and founder of GlobeTrade.com.  Laurel will field questions and add insights on how to take a business global.  Small business owners can join the conversation by using the hashtag #weggchat to chime in with questions and answers.

Event is free of charge but you must use tchat.io or twubs.com to follow the conversation using the hashtag #weggchat.  See you there!
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Diversity is Correlated with Business Performance

Many people think that if you can build a case on global diversity, things will shift and improve.  That’s not necessarily true.  The reality is that a lot more work needs to be done.

In the interview below with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet talks about what is working—and what is not—when it comes to building a more equitable workplace. An edited version of her remarks follows.

Here’s a snippet on one of Kirkland’s remarks relative to diversity and inclusion:

Based on that evidence, maybe we shouldn’t be quite as shocked that diversity training doesn’t have the impact that we were hoping it could have. Because even though you and I might agree now that we will be inclusive tomorrow, it is hard to follow through on those virtuous intentions.

Read more …

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Note: Don’t miss our next WEGGinar™ 6/7/17 on “Go! Go! Global With Sourcing Products,” and presented by Jodi Bondi Norgaard, speaker, consultant and founder of Go! Go! Sports Girls and JB Norgaard Enterprises, Inc.  Register here:  https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7576894438194026755.
Event is no charge but you must register in advance to attend.

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It’s Time For Women To Take On the World

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The Story Exchange featured this 3-part series on exporting, which is excerpted from Laurel Delaney’s new book, Exporting:  The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.

1.  It’s Time For Women To Take On the World

Having women involved in international trade is good for the global economy.

2.  Resources For Women Business Owners Who Export

Female entrepreneurs face challenges when pursuing business overseas.  This article talks about ways to overcome them.

3.  Why Women Are Particularly Good at Going Global

Female entrepreneurs often bring sensitivity and human connectedness to international business, writes Laurel Delaney.

A big thank you to Colleen DeBaise, Director of Digital Media at The Story Exchange.

Special note to readers … get involved in the research project called “1,000 stories,” which involves The Story Exchange and Babson College.  They are asking all female entrepreneurs to fill out a form and share your startup story.  They will collect the data and publish it on The Story Exchange.  The goal is to understand the needs of women business owners while also giving them media exposure.  Here’s a link to the form:  http://thestoryexchange.org/feature-startup-story/  Start talking!

Illustration credit:  The Story Exchange

Posted by:  Laurel Delaney


WEGG Mission

Our mission is to educate, inspire and nurture women business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide on how to go global so they can run healthier businesses and create a new future for themselves, their families and their community.


Women Entrepreneurs GROW Global is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. EIN/Tax ID #47-2956522.

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