By Mirela Sula
With the current main disruptive changes the world is facing, entrepreneurship, creating both wealth and social justice, is key for shaping the world of 2050 – this is the vision of the World Entrepreneurship Forum.
This year the Forum was organised in Hangzhou, where more than 700 delegates attended from all over the world, and surprisingly a lot of women entrepreneurs represented their business by sharing their success stories. There I had the chance to meet Stephanie Kergall, the Deputy Director of World Entrepreneurship Forum and many other women who are now loyal members this unique forum. What they shared with me is really inspiring.
Stephanie Kergall – France
Stephanie has 20 years of experience in business development, sales and communication in multicultural environments. She is Deputy Director of World Entrepreneurship Forum and a great example for many women who dream to enter the business world.
Can you tell us about the World Entrepreneurship Forum?
Founded in 2008 by EMLYON Business School in France, the WEnF has been joined byAction Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and Zhejiang University in China. Since it’s founding, the Forum has selected and brought together more than 1,000 members from 80 countries: business and social entrepreneurs, experts, investors. The output of the World Entrepreneurship Forum is designed to stimulate creative thinking that leads to action and innovation.
The Forum is both a think tank and a do tank:
- We share the latest trends and issues about global entrepreneurship.
- We develop ideas and recommendations. We facilitate entrepreneurial initiatives.
- We promote an entrepreneurship which creates wealth and social justice. This dual approach, economic and social, is recognised as a world first.
- We offer to our members to join a network of over 1,000 members; to connect and develop business with high-impact decision makers from 80 countries; to participate in projects taking place all over the world and to get stimulated and inspired by a vibrant, positive community.
Why was it decided to be organised in China for this year?
Zhejiang University is a Founding Member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum and we do alternate the venues between Founding Members. As such the 2013 event was hosted in Singapore and the 2014 in Lyon, France. With a strong leaning towards innovation and new technology, Zhejiang province is considered the hotbed of China’s entrepreneurship. Alibaba, the internet-based e-commerce giant, Wahaha, the leader in China’s beverage sector and automotive manufacturing company Geely, who bought out Volvo in 2010, all have their roots in the beautiful capital Hangzhou, located just 200 km west of Shanghai.
I observed many women attending the forum – were you happy with the level of female representation at the conference?
We were very happy with the level of female representation at the conference but this one can always be increased as we still had a light majority of men attending.
What is your experience of the increasing number of women entrepreneurs that are members of your forum?
In Europe and other developed countries, more and more women are tempted by the entrepreneurial adventure. Their global self confidence has increased along with an understanding that entrepreneurship could also be synonymous of flexibility, at a time when women try more than ever to achieve a balance between family life and exciting professional challenges. In less developed countries, we also find a high number of women entrepreneurs, but this is often related to service entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship out of necessity. Whatever their countries of origins, women feel the need to share their experiences, to meet with their peers, to take a break from the daily routine in order to reboost their energy level. All things that our Forum allows.
Anna-Lena Johannson – Sweden
Anna-Lena Johanson is head of the Enterprise development department at the Business Region Göteborg (BRG), Sweden’s second-largest city. BRG is a public company owned by City of Gothenburg and one of our main tasks is to support entrepreneurship and growing companies. They have also created a hub for organisations in the start-up field. Previously, Anna-Lena ran her own consultancy business and for 17 years worked at the Swedish Employer’s Confederation in different positions.
Entrepreneurship can solve the challenges
It is clear how entrepreneurship can solve the challenges that the planet stands for, not least socially. Despite our different conditions, it’s about to seize the individual’s ability and motivation to create and contribute to a better and more sustainable future.
It was interesting to take part in China’s progress and their efforts to be more entrepreneurial.
My ambition for my business in the next five years
Our goal is to create a more entrepreneurial Gothenburg for the city’s 400th anniversary in 2021. Next year we launch an Entrepreneurial Centre, a one-door-in concept, where the start-ups can find the support they need, be inspired and gathering with other entrepreneurs. We continue to run our Business Centres in areas where the majority are non-native Swedes, in order to seize all the entrepreneurial experiences these inhabitants have. For example, are we involved in projects financed by the EU, where actions are directed to help migrant women?
Fatima Al Ansari – Bahrain
Fatima Al Ansari is currently a Community Engagement Officer at Tamkeen, which is an organisation that supports Bahrain’s private sector and positioning it as the key driver of economic development. Since 2014, Fatima has been engaging with the local community to raise awareness of Tamkeen’s products and services to the public, especially with micropreneurs segment and women engagement.
Fatima obtained her MBA from Malaysia in 2014, a BA in Banking and Finance from the UK in 2010, as well as an Islamic Finance Diploma from BIBF in 2008. She started her career in the field of micro and social businesses at the Family Bank, a micro finance institution inspired by the Grameen Bank model. Fatima also worked as a non-financial services officer for almost four years, and was responsible for the training, counselling, marketing of customised projects to micro and home based businesses.
I have exposed the spirit of entrepreneurs from around the world
This is my first year experiencing the World Entrepreneurship Forum in Hangzhou, the entrepreneurial city in China, and I really find it beneficial to network with participants from around the world and get stimulated and inspired by positive vibes.
This forum allowed me to experience what I had read, about having an entrepreneurial attitude which makes you a leader in a world of followers. I have exposed the spirit of entrepreneurs from around the world, from both male and female business owners, non-governmental organisations, outstanding institutions and motivational speakers. I have also learnt that the word ‘impossible’ is out of the dictionary, when one of the speakers from Tanzania mentioned that she started from selling the cow’s milk, and now she has taken the role of micro credit, by leasing micro services, especially to widows and young girls. Nevertheless, exchanging best practice within the members of the forum and identifying new models, such as an entrepreneurship elevator from academics, and discussing a potential ecosystem with experts and policy makers.
My Takeaway lessons:
- Think global and act local
- Create a sustainable social business and do it with joy
- Fail it or nail it
- Always look to failure as a path to success
Maryam Khavazi – Iran
Maryam Khavazi was born in 1964 and same as the decade she was born she is full of hope, love for the homeland and building the future.. Her childhood was in a warm and friendly family in Mashhad and passed through that environment she learned many valuable lessons that fight for her demand, build her future have perseverance and love to work are some of the most important of them.
After years of hope and peril of revolution and war, she is now a young woman with her own special perseverance and obstinacy would pass all barriers to enter the university and managed to get BA degree in Russian language from Tehran University. The reconstruction following the war and the need to attend all men and women for building the future and prosperity of her country Led her to the field of Labor and Social Affairs. But this was not an easy matter to go through and a it was like fighting in the war. She started working in the IT field and after 11 years he started his own company in the field of designing and producing different type of kiosk system like bank kiosk, information kiosk, advertising and… she see the knowledge as a guide of her activities and thus got a master’s degree in MBA.
Adran Computer company have twelve years of product knowledge and management by a team of highly qualified young people who gathered in the shadow of Her wing which made great strides in the field of domestic production and bank kiosk. The sweetest and most meaningful achievement after these effort receiving award of the best entrepreneur in ICT industry and industrial software in national production – national glory festival celebration in 2011-12, and award of woman job creator in the national entrepreneur congress in TCT in 2012-13.
After all she started to empower other women in his country and transfer all his experience to them and now she is CEO and board membership of national association of women entrepreneur. Maryam Khavazi is still full of hope for the future, and now has strong support of experience with her and in different areas of work, women, charity, etc., works with love, knowledge and confidence and also gives hope to others.
I learned that the sky colour is everywhere
Attendance at the meeting was a good experience and useful to hear the experiences of women entrepreneurs, especially from China and youth entrepreneur panels, sharing ideas and comparing Iranian women entrepreneurs with their counterparts in the world. I learned that the sky colour is everywhere. Women around the world have faced many hardships to get their rights and that personal development is going the way of sustainable development. Our ambition for the next five years is to develop and promote entrepreneurship and self-employment for women, and young girls who are college graduates. Through networking we can we highlight the role of women in our country. My aspiratons now are to be a model for new entrepreneurs. and to increase the participation rate of women in Iran.