June 5, 2015
Meet Maggie Musonda.
She is an entrepreneur and quite a successful one at that.
Over the past 10 years, she has built a small business that is responsible for construction and infrastructure in Lusaka, Zambia. Recently, she even won a contract to build drainage infrastructure alongside roads.
She faces some real obstacles. She needs capital. She needs machines. She needs a talented workforce. These are obstacles that every entrepreneur faces, but in some parts of the world, these things are harder to overcome.
The Caterpillar Foundation and Caterpillar Inc. have endeavored to join forces with the U.S. State Department and StartUp Cup to help women like Musonda all over Africa. Through the We-Create Center for Women Entrepreneurs, individuals like Musonda will have the opportunity to learn how to scale their small businesses across their countries and regions, and even into global markets.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) project, these women’s entrepreneurship centers will advance gender equality and address entrepreneurship skill barriers faced by women and girls. This investment in the centers marks the first ever private-public partnership between the U.S. State Department, Caterpillar and StartUp Cup, an organization that provides global end-to-end solutions for accelerating entrepreneurial ventures, creating jobs and building local and regional entrepreneurship ecosystems. StartUp Cup will be the implementing partner managing the centers.
“The Caterpillar Foundation is focused on building sustainable, thriving communities around the world,” said Caterpillar Foundation President Michele Sullivan. “These centers will help put women on the path to prosperity by helping them develop the skills they need to run successful businesses and become economically self-sufficient. Our hope is that these centers are more than just brick and mortar buildings, but rather a place for families to go for the skills and resources they need to flourish. These centers can help families become stronger, because when we invest in women and girls, the men and boys in a community will also benefit with additional opportunities. Only together can we tackle the root causes of poverty. When economies grow, everyone benefits.”
StartUp Cup estimates more than 7,000 jobs will be created in the next two years due to these centers, which will provide programs focused on financial services, startup and small business loans, networking and access to technology. Mentoring will also be a component of the programs, developing more than 600 mentors and coaches for women.
This all suits Musonda quite well. Because as she told us this morning at the launch of the center, she is just as excited about mentoring younger entrepreneurs as she is about learning to scale her business to the next level.
Never has this Zambian proverb felt truer: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone, but if you want to go far, then walk together.” Today Caterpillar began the long walk towards sustainable progress with a group of mighty Zambian women. Together we are stronger. ToGetHER.Stronger.
To learn more about new entrepreneur center, read this press release. Denise Johnson, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for Material Handling & Underground, recently discussed women in business and opportunities in Africa with Power 98.7, a talk radio station in South Africa. You can hear the full interview here.