Twenty two female entrepreneurs under the first Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a worldwide initiative of the United States (US) State Department, were feted in a graduation ceremony after completing 13 business modules through the online training platform DreamBuilder yesterday at the VIP Hall of Rizqun International Hotel.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II and Chairman of Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah graced the event with United States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Caryn McClelland and Acting CEO of DARe Daniel Leong.
The ceremony saw the awarding of USD3,000 funding to each of the top three women-owned businesses – Lane Microbakery and Coffee, a food and beverage company specialising in French pastries and bread; My Darling Baby, a children-focussed company specialising in selling educational Montessori play tools; and Thea Seera Enterprise, which develops sustainable ready-to-wear fashion.
Caryn McClelland in her welcoming remarks said, “AWE was established by the US State Department and currently operates in 80 countries worldwide.
“AWE is designed to empower woman to fulfill their economic potential and in doing so, create conditions for increased stability, security and prosperity for all.
“The programme gives enterprising women the knowledge; networks and access they need to launch and grow successful businesses.”
She added, “AWE is truly unique in that it is specifically designed for women and is a facilitated experience centred around the DreamBuilder online programme developed by Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and the global mining company Freeport-McMoran.
“The programme equips women to create a business plan, manage expenses, raise capital and effectively network with other successful business owners.”
Launched in Brunei in October 2021 in partnership with DARe on the weekend before Brunei Darussalam chaired the ASEAN Summit, Caryn said “AWE supports several of ASEAN’s socio-economic goals, including promoting investment, financial literacy, gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
The fully sponsored programme kicked off with 30 participants selected from a pool of 186 applicants.
Meanwhile, the acting CEO of DARe in his speech said, ”The AWE has served to be a great opportunity for our women entrepreneurs in taking the first steps of their entrepreneurial journey.”
He added, “Upon completion of the AWE programme, our women entrepreneurs can continue to tap into DARe’s range of micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) development support that offers access to information training, financing, space, markets and promotion to take the business to the next level.
“We at DARe will continuously work with stakeholders such as the US Embassy to customise the delivery of our MSME development programme to aspiring entrepreneurs including those from the respective target groups such as women and youth and others in our efforts to diversify Brunei Darussalam’s economy.”
Founder of Lane Microbakery and Coffee Eunice Lo Ying Ci said, “AWE has been a very useful and friendly programme for entrepreneurs who do not have a business background like myself.
“It was a wonderful experience learning how to write a business plan and how to pitch your business during the course of the programme especially alongside DaRe’s and Articulation’s very helpful trainers and staff.
“There are so many women entrepreneurs out there who have dreams and are building on them with great perseverance. It is truly empowering to be among them.”
Meanwhile Dayangku Nathea binti Pengiran Haji Mohd Salleh of Thea Seera Enterprise said, “It feels surreal! It still hasn’t quite hit me yet that I’ve completed the programme.
“Being a part of the AWE programme was quite a challenge especially with the first few months being in lockdown. It helped me solidify the vision that I have for my business and gave me the push that I needed.”