Monday, 27 September 2010

‘Sembang’ way to cultivate women entrepreneurs

‘Sembang’ way to cultivate women entrepreneurs
Tags: networking | Sembang-Sembang event

Written by Kathleen Tan
Monday, 09 August 2010 12:00

Networking sessions help women gain confidence to succeed by providing supportive environment

An approach to foster entrepreneurship among women through networking sessions is gaining popularity in Kuala Lumpur, with the organisers hoping to introduce it to rural communities in Sabah and Sarawak by year-end.

Organised by the US Embassy and homegrown social enterprise Warisan Global, the Sembang-Sembang — or Casual Conversations — sessions were started this year to “spread the spirit of entrepreneurship among women in a safe environment”, said Warisan Global CEO Dhakshinamoorthy Balakrishnan.

At a recent Sembang-Sembang event on July 6 at Pappa Rich Kopitiam in Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, 75 women entrepreneurs listened attentively to US Embassy cultural affairs officer Nicholas Papp as he delivered his opening remarks.

The event, marked by much laughter, was the third Sembang-Sembang networking session. In June, a Sembang-Sembang session on “Social Entrepreneurship” was held at Top Hat restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, featuring women entrepreneurs such as Gadis Manis founder Florence Lambert and field coordinator Puah Sze Ning.

“The Sembang-Sembang sessions give women the opportunity to discuss entrepreneurship and network in a non-intimidating, supportive environment and to build their confidence to become successful entrepreneurs,” Papp said.

Inspired by US President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in July last year — that entrepreneurship could be used as a force to battle poverty and foster world peace — the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur formed a working partnership with Warisan Global to conduct a series of entrepreneurship workshops for women, explained Papp in an email interview last month.

Besides providing financial support for Sembang-Sembang events, the embassy also arranges for speakers from the US while Warisan Global organises and manages the sessions.

In March, American entrepreneurship coach Whitney Keyes conducted the first “Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship” workshop, followed by the first Sembang-Sembang session.

The Sembang-Sembang sessions are growing in popularity — from 60 attendees in June, last month’s workshop drew 75 participants. Over 55% of the attendees were new to Sembang-Sembang and approximately 45% were regulars, said Warisan Global chief operating officer Vani Dhakshinamoorthy.

Warisan Global’s Dhakshinamoorthy, better known as Dash, said he hoped to eventually bring Sembang-Sembang to rural communities in Sabah and Sarawak by year-end to “create entrepreneurial consciousness there”. Warisan Global is currently putting an entrepreneurial network in place, he added. After Sembang-Sembang, the next step for Warisan Global is to move towards providing entrepreneurial training, said Dash, as “inspiration is what entrepreneurs need”.

Entrepreneurship is a key driver of the Malaysian economy in the New Economic Model, said Papp.

“As women make up almost half of the country’s population, it goes without saying that women entrepreneurs will be significant players in the NEM,” he said.

Papp added that the US Embassy believed that empowered women entrepreneurs would unleash economic opportunities for their communities as well.

Warisan Global conducts other entrepreneurship efforts for women such as its Fasttrac series of entrepreneurship programmes and Global Entrepreneurship Week activities such as “Enterprise Tuesday” together with the University of Cambridge Judge School of Business.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a global movement founded by The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in the US and Entreprise UK in 2008. During GEW, partner organisations worldwide conduct a range of activities to inspire and celebrate entrepreneurship. Among these are enterprise education, training, competitions, speeches and networking events. This year, GEW takes place from Nov 8-21.

This article appeared on the Management page, The Edge Financial Daily, Aug 9, 2010

‘Sembang’ way to cultivate women entrepreneurs


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