Road to Growth is a collaborative venture developed in partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, designed to build the business skills and financial literacy of women entrepreneurs. After an initial pilot in Nigeria in 2015/6, Road to Growth was launched in Mexico in January 2018. One of the Road to Growth Mexico participants, Dafne Marenco, recently wrote a blog about her experiences, which we have published below. Dafne’s business, DM Soluciones, provides consultancy services within the transport sector.
By guest writer and programme participant, Dafne Marenco
On October 5, 2017, I received an email from the Mexican National Entrepreneurship Institute (INADEM), talking about a call for Mexican women entrepreneurs who could benefit from education and mentoring programs at no cost. All this promoted and supported by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Without hesitation, I applied, hoping to be one of the 500 selected.
On December 1, I received the notification that I could participate in the Road to Growth Mexico programme. The adventure began at the inauguration event on January 17 when we got to know the program thoroughly, in a meeting where 500 businesswomen started a journey of learning, renewal, and networking.
I must confess that I am not a fan of such large groups of women, I like the balance of feminine and masculine energies. However, I understood that there was something more to learn in these groups besides purely business topics.
During the first phase of the program I worked with beautiful and hard-working women who wanted to renew themselves, grow and venture by taking a bigger, firmer and longer step in their own companies. The course took 6 weeks, with some sessions taking place in-class, and others online.
It has been several years since I attended formal school, and I hadn’t experienced this blended learning model before: face-to-face and virtual. Throughout the course I grew my responsibility and discipline to study and investigate and do tasks, and shared more with my colleagues and expert instructors.
I felt like I had taken off a blindfold and could suddenly see all the challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that comes with being an entrepreneur. I realized that, like me, many of my colleagues became entrepreneurs almost by chance or through difficult circumstances, rather than by a conscious decision. I also learned that being an entrepreneur is a completely different skillset to to whatever you have studied at university or what you have learnt in your career. Being an entrepreneur requires dedication, hours of work, constant training, continuity, projection, relationships, work/life balance, rest, holiday, fun, investment, support, experts, mentors and friends. It requires patience, intelligence and passion. If you do not have this, you will struggle to be a real businesswoman.
In the second phase of the program, the groups were different, and there was only 100 of the original 500 spots for participants. It was 3 months of classes every Friday, each week on different topics from leadership and negotiation to scaling up your company. We went through strategic planning, marketing and sales, operation and processes and much much more. It required studying every day: read, explore, investigate, do homework in addition to running the company, continue with my daily life and maintain good spirits.
Perhaps the greatest learning came not from the course, but from my own classmates: from those women with such commitment to themselves, their companies and their families. From their own experiences, from our successes and from everything they have experienced on the road since we decided to start a business. The humility of recognizing our mistakes, our shortcomings, our needs. The willingness of the experts to share their knowledge and experience and those crucial tips that make the difference.
I learned to recognize myself as an entrepreneur, to accept that responsibilities can be carried by many, societies do work; that we are all capable of creating businesses and jobs, that we must keep learning to continue progressing, that there are no failures. We are all responsible for our economy and we can all contribute to it. Sharing knowledge is the key. The most important thing that I learnt: that working with women, many or few, is rewarding, important and necessary. That once we recognize ourselves in others, we are able to respect, support and walk together.
Today ends this great experience. I am deeply grateful to all my colleagues from Road to Growth Mexico, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the ExxonMobil Foundation, INADEM, my mentors and the BEDU experts. To my family and friends who supported me throughout so that I could complete my Road to Growth journey happy, exhausted, and thankful for this great experience. Road to Growth has been a gift, and one that I hope to repay by sharing my experience and skills with more businesswomen and entrepreneurs.