The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) arrived in Bolivia last year amid the pandemic and has already graduated 180 small businesswomen from various cities. In La Paz, 95 women completed their courses, as well as 29 in El Alto, 33 in Cochabamba, and 23 in Oruro. The program in Santa Cruz will graduate participants in March. The most remarkable thing about AWE in Bolivia is that 93% of the entrepreneurs who signed up have successfully completed the entire program.
“In this hard time that we are living due to Covid, it is more important than ever to be able to develop new skills and promote economic reactivation,” says AWE coordinator, Mónica Chuquimia, who was recently appointed Municipal Secretary of Economic Development, in the Mayor’s Office of La Paz. She saw the potential of AWE from the beginning: “The United States has always had a comprehensive vision for the development and participation of women in the economy. This is a great opportunity to support women entrepreneurs and through them, contribute to the development of the country. Through the Academy, we have seen the great contribution that women make in the economy through their innovative endeavors.”
AWE is a program of the Department of State, supported by the Embassy of the United States. The Academy is a global project, which aims to empower more than 50 million women from 26 countries by 2025, so that they can achieve economic independence and contribute to the economic recovery of their regions.
The training courses last four months, in which workshops are held on various topics related to company management and development, including marketing, finance, product development, human resources, innovation, and technology. Online learning is supported with weekly mentoring sessions, international talks, and activities to create national and international business contacts. Networking is a fundamental part of the AWE. “It has been shown that if a person has a network of solid and reliable contacts, they can increase their business opportunities by up to 70%,” says Monica, “and at the same time the network provides them with support among entrepreneurs, who usually face the double challenge of managing their homes and businesses.”
At the end of the course, a jury evaluated the best business plans created by participants and three of them in each city were awarded an economic incentive called “seed capital” to boost business growth.
Anel Jimenez is one of the winners. She has a business called “Sweet Toffee,” which focuses on baking cakes and preparing special doughs with Andean grains such as quinoa and cañahua. “Thanks to the AWE team, El Alto, and the United States Embassy, I learned to keep better
records of my finances, determine items such as costs, prices, income, expenses, as well as conducting marketing campaigns, and establish my own salary, which helped me a lot to better manage my company and sell my products. The tools I purchased with the award will help me improve my production and decoration techniques.”
Mónica Soliz is an entrepreneur from La Paz and has developed an innovative alternative to traditional cheese. Her company, Arcadia, produces vegan cheeses made from Bolivian cashews. Her cheeses are free of chemicals, additives, and friendly to the environment. “In AWE I learned to manage my company’s finances responsibly,” says Monica. “Correct management of income allowed me to make investments in machinery to have larger and better-quality cheese production.”
“At NUDO we design and make 100% handmade notebooks, taking care of every manufacturing detail. A NUDO notebook is a storehouse of ideas and thoughts, a trunk of inspiration dedicated to anyone who trusts in keeping their best ideas in a notebook,” says NUDO’s proud owner Andrea Paredes. “Dedicated to an audience of artists, architects, designers, and writing lovers, a NUDO notebook is a design and inspiration tool. At AWE I learned business tools and growth strategies for my business. Thanks to AWE, NUDO was able to stand out from the competition, at the national level, and above all I found a community of similar interests, along with all other AWE graduates,” says Andrea.
U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Kathryn Holmgaard is proud to have initiated this program in Bolivia as women’s empowerment is a priority for the United States. “During the years that I have lived here, I have been able to appreciate the talent and determination that Bolivian women possess. I hope that this program was able to sow a seed to lead entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and in their chances of succeeding in the endeavors they set out to do,” she said.