The inspiration and impact that comes from mentoring women in Central America
By Maria Teresa Morazán, Thunderbird ’12, WEAmericas Accelerator Mentor
When I studied my MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management, I always admired the female entrepreneurs who came from Thunderbird for Good programs, such as the Artemis Project. These women came from remote places
like Afghanistan where adversity hinders female leadership in business. Thanks to Thunderbird and valuable networks such as Fulbright and SHARE Fellowship, professional doors opened for me to enter an international career that would take me to meet in person examples of female entrepreneurs from Latin America to Southeast Asia. With obvious cultural differences, these women learned to overcome the different obstacles that their respective environments presented. I also realized the importance that as women we need to support each other so that more women can hold positions of power in companies and other important roles within our societies.
Thunderbird for Good & WEAmericas Accelerator
In 2016, when I found out that Thunderbird for Good with funds from the US Department of State would be supporting women in Central America through the WEAmericas Accelerator, I was happy to see that attention was being paid on
women from my region that also face a complicated business environment. As I was struggling being an entrepreneur in Brazil and recognizing how much help a support network can be in any entrepreneurial ecosystem, I offered to help in any way I could. So, I gladly collaborated in the interview and selection process of the first cohort of businesswomen. What the applicants did not know was that for a while I had been considering returning to my home country Honduras to start my own business with fear that the environment might be a hindrance, just as the news circulating on the media. However, listening to these women with such a resilient spirit and optimism, never complaining, talk about how they worked so hard to raise their companies and families was really inspiring. Their testimonies confirmed what many of us know but sometimes forget: that Central America is a land full of unexplored market opportunities, that its people are its best resource and that women are the ones that can multiply the change of the societies in which we live.
Becoming a Mentor
Naturally, when I was invited to join the mentors network for the second cohort, I did not hesitate to accept that honor. In February 2018, during a capstone event in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to get to know the businesswomen and the other mentors from the region.
And what is it like to be part of this mentorship network in Central America? It is an opportunity to support a group of diverse and talented businesswomen from different areas where they see opportunities, not obstacles: from the one that works for better waste
management in a country where there is no recycling (Recyproco) to an artist producing stained glass and ceramics with unique local designs and export quality (Arte, Tierra y Fuego). All of them have already survived the entrepreneurial “death valley,” but with an acceleration, the process can only get better. WEAmericas makes an effort to match each businesswoman with a mentor from their country or industry who can transmit valuable experience, give them access to connections and tools that can accelerate their growth. And among mentors, we have communication channels to enrich the support we can give to the rest of businesswomen that we do not support directly.
After an intense week of training with Thunderbird faculty, the businesswomen
shared with me that they felt empowered to
return to their countries now with more tools and a mentor who will be assisting them in the process. We have 9 months ahead that, in the midst of our busy schedules, we will be supporting our mentees in different areas of their business plan to help them increase their sales and be better prepared to access capital that could allow them to advance to their next stage.
Mentors share a genuine desire to help businesswomen and our countries grow; we have the humility to accept that we do not know everything, but we recognize that the impact we generate with the support we give is multiplied with each woman. Personally, the inspiration I get only convinces me to continue working to support more women entrepreneurs through my own venture – Impact Hub Tegucigalpa.
Since it is so difficult to measure, a doubt remains: In an acceleration process, who wins the most? The mentor or the mentee, the entrepreneur or the investor? – be it public or private. In the end we all win: mentors, businesswomen, their families, communities, and with more women multiplying jobs in their countries, economies strengthen and less people will feel forced to migrate looking for better opportunities in other markets.
Want to be a part of the WEAmericas Accelerator?
Interested in becoming a mentor for the next cohort of women, apply here!
Are you a female business owner in Central America and ready to accelerate your business? We’ve just opened the application and encourage you to… Apply today!
Want to in investing in these incredible women? Find out more here!
Check out the catalog of all of the first Cohort’s businesses!