Thirty-eight female entrepreneurs from Matabeleland region graduated from the United States Embassy’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program on Tuesday.
AWE is an exchange program that started in 2019 to empower women with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch or scale successful businesses.
Three of the 38 women won seeding funds of US$1,000 each to help boost their businesses.
Addressing the graduates, Public Diplomacy Officer for the US Embassy, Zimbabwe, Rebecca Archer-Knepper, applauded the women for their hard work and for having brilliant business ideas capable of improving the economy.
“I’m delighted to recognise the hardworking women entrepreneurs, who invested time and resources to strengthen their business skills and broaden their networks. I know these experiences will lead to the growth of your businesses and help you reach your full economic potential. Because of your participation in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, we expect you will have increased income, create jobs in your communities, and expand your operations,” she said.
“The U.S. Embassy cares about and supports the AWE program and women entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe because you broaden and promote equitable access to resources, invest in your communities and families, and facilitate economic reform.”
Program Implementing Partner for AWE, Thubelihle Ndlovu, said over 75% of the women who complete the AWE program go on to formalize, monetise, and put structure to their business ideas and ventures. More than 30% hire more staff, while 90% increase their earnings.
“When you go back to that business, you will correct a lot of things, improve a lot of things, and sometimes outright drop some things. This year we introduced seed funds, wherein we are going to award 6 women $1000 USD for being finalists in the pitch competition that we held this year: 2 from Harare, 2 from Bulawayo, 1 from Mutare, and 1 from our smaller cities and rural areas,” Ndlovu said.
Patience Kasere from Hwange, owner of Battery Quip Enterprises, a company that retails automotive and solar batteries and accessories, was one of the three winners of the seed fund.
Her business is based in Matabeleland North and supplies products to Hwange, Victoria Falls, Binga, and Lupane.
“I realised that some areas do not have electricity at all and they are in need of smaller accessories that are solar-powered. I have managed to tap into that niche and with the knowledge I have gained here I will improve my business,” she said.
Another female entrepreneur who won the seed fund, Sifiso Agbetorwoka, focuses on animal husbandry at Bulembe Farm in Fort Rixon, Matabeleland South. She is doing cross-breeding of Boer goats and Kalahari Reds to produce breeding stock for people who want to venture into breeding as well.
Linah Tapera from Bulawayo, a baker and owner of Ultimate Cake Delights, said she started her business during the COVID-19 era and is amazed by the growth of her company over the past two years. She said the AWE program has given her ideas on how to create more streams of income and she is ready to expand her business further.
The graduation of these 38 female entrepreneurs is a testament to the success of the AWE program in Zimbabwe. The program is empowering women to start and grow their own businesses, which is essential for economic development.