After two weeks, 15 entrepreneurship training sessions, a handful of off-campus site visits and final presentations to a panel of potential “investors,” nine Pakistani businesswomen have completed Project Artemis Pakistan at Thunderbird School of Global Management and moved on to Washington, D.C., for a third week of business and cultural immersion.
The women’s empowerment course, designed at Thunderbird in partnership with the U.S. State Department and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program, was modeled on the school’s successful Project Artemis Afghanistan.
The Arizona portion of the Pakistan program ran May 2-15, 2011. Classes covered business topics such as best financial practices, accounting and bookkeeping, business planning, management and leadership, decision making and setting expectations, negotiating strategies, customer service, market evaluation, marketing and human resources consulting, and goal setting.
The nine women, ranging in age from 25 to 50, individually presented and “sold” their businesses to a group of Thunderbird professors. Among the businesses owned and operated by the Pakistani entrepreneurs were human resource consulting firms, an event management company, interior design business, virtual services provider, a home textile and tableware company, a clothing and fabric company, a finishing construction business and an herbal hair and skin product line.
“It is amazing to see the concepts we suggested applied almost instantaneously in their organizations,” said Mary Sully de Luque, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management who joined fellow Thunderbird faculty in teaching courses, preparing the women for their presentations, and serving as business investors for the program-ending simulation.
“Their participation in this program was sincere and genuine, and that came through clearly in the work they did on their presentations,” said Sully de Luque, a Research Fellow in the Garvin Center for Cultures and Language at Thunderbird. “They openly sought solutions to their business problems.”
Many of the Project Artemis participants founded their businesses with a focus on bringing more women into the Pakistani marketplace, a wobbly-legged business environment that is not as welcoming to female entrepreneurs as more developed countries.
“We now bring the work to them”
Maria Umar, owner of Women’s Digital League, which provides virtual services such as content writing, blog posts, back-end data keeping and even travel reservations, built her company around opportunities for women.
“I wanted to help other women who can’t leave home to work outside, because they don’t have the opportunity to do so,” said Umar, whose company is based in Peshawar, a city of 1.5 million that serves as the capital of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“We now bring the work to them,” she said. “We train them and we empower them. We give them hope for a better life, while we also provide international services to start-up companies and established businesses; this is all very important to me.”
“If women learn a skill, they become empowered”
Bushra Hyder, another 2011 Project Artemis fellow, started a business two years ago that trains women to modify their handicrafts based on market demand. She connects the women directly to local and national buyers. Jwandoon, which translates to “life,” is Hyder’s company and the motto of the enterprise is “Help them to help themselves.”
Hyder, also from Peshawar, told the presentation audience she was a teacher in Pakistan in a community that daily suffered bombings at the hands of extremists. Schools, the hospital, the bazaar, the police academy – all were targets of violence. She asked the audience, “What would you do? Would you stay at home, or would you pick yourself up and do something valuable?”
She began the laborious process of earning the villagers’ trust, going door to door and visiting with families who had lost their sources of income.
“It is tough for the women to work in a male-dominated society,” she said. “It took time, but I found out who made pottery, who made clothes, who produced handicrafts; things such as these. My reasoning was that if women learn a skill, they become empowered; when they are empowered, they become more confident; and with confidence they can influence others, they can open doors for others.”
Her growing network of 12 employees has opened doors. In just two years, Hyder said, Jwandoon has trained more than 300 widows, employed more than 150 women who are now supporting their own families, and watched as three former employees have gone on to start their own businesses.
“Every minute at Thunderbird taught me something new”
Syeda Shafi, another 2011 Project Artemis fellow, owns a business in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city with 20 million residents. Her company, 360M, offers event management, corporate training and management and human resource consulting services. Shafi said 360M has four employees and provides one-stop shopping for businesses in Karachi.
Her experience as an Artemis fellow was both memorable and rewarding. “I would not have had the chance to meet such wonderful people as I have met here, ‘rock stars’ as I would call them,” she said. “In Pakistan, before coming to this program, learning from their experiences would surely be next to impossible. But every minute at Thunderbird taught me something new that I had probably not thought of before.”
Shafi said she will take her knowledge from the program and share it with other women in Pakistan. “I wish to pass on my knowledge to other women so they can benefit from it just as much as I did,” she said.
She said her most important takeaway from the two-week program was the 30-second pitch. “The hook in the initial contact you have with a potential buyer, it has to be strong enough to get them hooked,” she said. “Apart from that, dealing with finances, the negotiation skills, and above all, the communication skills were highly emphasized.”
Thunderbird was chosen o be an initial partner in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program in 2008. 10,000 Women is a global initiative that will provide 10,000 underserved women, predominantly in developing and emerging markets, with a business and management education.
Read more comments from the businesswomen in their Project Artemis Pakistan Facebook community. Or watch these Thunderbird Knowledge Network videos:
|Maria Umar: Owner of virtual services firm in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. View the video on YouTube (2:29).||Shah Rukh: Owner of an interior design firm in Islamabad, Pakistan. View the video on YouTube (1:50).|
|Syeda Shafi: Owner of management solutions firm in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. View the video on YouTube (1:44).||Ambreen Bashir: Owner of a human resource consulting firm in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. View the video on YouTube (1:16).|