Guest Post by Tisha Berg of Biz Mommy
“The Journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
— Lau Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
That inspirational quote has never rang more true than when considering the journey of thousands of successful women entrepreneurs around the world who started out with little more than a desire to provide the basic fundamental needs for their families.
Although female entrepreneurship has been steadily increasing over the last 10 or 15 years, there are still many hurdles to overcome. This is especially true for women in underprivileged communities here in the U.S. and abroad. While starting a new business is an uphill challenge for most budding entrepreneurs, for women living in poverty, it is often considered an impossible dream.
But seemingly insurmountable odds are no match for a woman with a burning passion to succeed.
It is in that gap, between the audacity of hope and the fulfilling of needs, that the Coca-Cola Company saw an opportunity to be of service.
By partnering with various community organizations, local governments and corporations, the Coca-Cola Company aims to provide support and opportunities for budding women entrepreneurs around the world. Since 2010, they have been organizing business skills workshops, providing training and facilitating access to grants and other financial resources that are giving women business owners a fighting chance to succeed. So far, there have been initiatives in over 44 countries, reaching more than 550,000 women, many of whom have been able to triumph over dire circumstances. Two shining examples of the successes are Candy Ramirez of Arizona and Janete Nazareth Guilherme of Rio de Janeiro.
Candy, who at 17 years old was already a single mother and working two jobs, also had the responsibility of caring for her own physically disabled mother, while at the same time attending college. In what little spare time she had, Candy loved to bake, so she started selling cakes to help make ends meet. In 2014, she was able to participate in a Coca-Cola sponsored business skills workshop and, inspired by what she learned, she conquered social media and her business went viral. Now, with over 30,000 followers, YouTube tutorials and a mentoring group for new bakers (#QueenBeeBakers), Candy has become a highly sought-after baker who has been featured in magazines and has her own store.
In her poverty-stricken Brazilian village, Janete often cared for the children of local women, who routinely had to rummage through trash bins to keep their families fed. Exasperated and heart-sick about seeing her charges constantly get sick because of eating expired foods, Janete set out to find a way to help her community rise up. With her talents as a seamstress, Janete began training other women in the village to sew using recycled materials, and soon after, the Mulheres do Salgueiro (or Women of Salguiero) organization was born. After partnering with a local NGO to purchase an office building, she was able offer classes on how to operate a small shop where these women could sell their homemade creations. Taking note of her entrepreneurial spirit, the Coca-Cola Company partnered with Janete and the Women of Salguiero to offer additional workshops and training to help the women become skilled artisans who create, design and sell crafts from recycled packaging. Since 2011, Janete and the Salguiero organization have helped more than 500 women.
To facilitate their goal and create a groundswell around the movement to support female entrepreneurship, Coca-Cola formed the 5By20 organization to, essentially, uphold their corporate mission:
● To refresh the world…
● To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
● To create value and make a difference.
The ultimate collective goal of 5by20 is to create support, true inspiration and concrete, sustainable resources for women entrepreneurs all over the world. Starting with their “value chain” of artisans, retailers, suppliers, recyclers, distributors and producers, Coca-Cola is providing opportunities and positively changing the lives of women from all walks of life.
I am thrilled to be showing my support for this movement by traveling to Atlanta next week with a group of bloggers to meet and honor some of these women as Coca-Cola launches the 5by20 online retail shop. We’ll get a firsthand look at how the artisans create their hand-made crafts using recycled beverage packaging and hear about their journeys to entrepreneurial and economic empowerment.
I’ll be sharing more information and photos from The Coca-Cola Company’s event “Art of Entrepreneurship” next week, but in the meantime, you can show your support and learn more about the creative work of these enterprising and truly inspiring artists and businesswomen in several ways:
● Read their stories and start a discussion in your social or professional circles about how you can support the economic empowerment of underprivileged women
● Share their stories on social media using the hashtag #5by20 on Twitter and thecocacolaco on Instagram
● Buy their products at The Coca-Cola Store.
● Visit Coca Cola’s partner website, Empower Women, where you can discover how you or your company can contribute tools, resources, expertise and ideas that benefit women’s economic empowerment
2020 may only be five years away, but the strides made by the women involved in the 5By20 movement are blazing trails for underprivileged entrepreneurial women all over the world. Whether or not the end goal of 5 million women is ultimately met, for those whose lives have already been positively impacted and those who have been inspired to reach higher, the 5by20 initiative has already been a resounding success.