On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS held a closing ceremony for its second cohort of Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program. The Academy graduated 24 women creating and leading start-ups in construction, catering, fashion, education, human resource development, and other fields. The program provided them the skills, resources and networks needed to start and scale their businesses. The six-month course supplemented online learning with networking and mentorship opportunities and culminated during Women’s History Month to showcase the economic impact of women entrepreneurs.
U.S. Ambassador to Barbados Linda Taglialatela expressed great pride in the graduates, acknowledging their commitment despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Studies have shown that when women work, their countries and economies grow significantly [and so] it is important that we do this in order to bring women entrepreneurs along.”
Featured Speaker, Ms. Chiryl Newman, Owner of Champers Restaurant, encouraged the entrepreneurs to excel in the face of adversity, exceed their own expectations, and to never be afraid to empower other female entrepreneurs. “We as women have to be stronger just to gain respect but that is what we do. We just need to go out there and make our mark.”
Valedictorian, Kimberley King of Soul Fire Wellness Center, expressed thanks to the U.S. Embassy, Barbados Youth Business Trust (BYBT), and the Barbados Investment Development Corporation (BIDC) for the administration of the program. “AWE not only gave us the tools we needed but also showed us some (pertinent and practical) examples.”
Participants shared their appreciation for AWE’s high caliber of information and instruction. Highlights of the program’s activities included facilitation by Peirce College, USA Professor Dr. Charlene Glenn and Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellows: Gregory Skeete, Alian Ollivierre-Skeete, Phillip Kellman and Khala Griffith. The recently held BizTalk: How WE (Women Entrepreneurs) Do Business! and the AWE Pitch Competition were also notable features of the program. Deja Thorington of Aviom Swimwear won the award for “Best Pitch” and Malissa Cornwall of Research Matters received the “AWE-Some Spotlight Award.”
Globally, women are bearing a disproportionate share of COVID-related economic stress. National Insurance Scheme figures show that 65 percent of tourism sector
workers filing unemployment claims are female. Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins recently called this a largely untold story that must not be forgotten. Through AWE, the U.S. Embassy is committed to addressing these inequalities and empowering women to improve their entrepreneurship skills and grow their businesses.