Posted on August 7, 2021
Following the catastrophic Beirut Post explosion on the 4th of August 2020, Expertise France partnered with Berytech, through the European Union funding, to support 30 women-led businesses affected by the blast. The selected participants will benefit from a two-month intensive training program, including capacity-building sessions, group coaching, in addition to financial support in the form of grants.
This initiative is part of the EU4WE (European Union for Women’s Empowerment) project aiming to promote full and unconditional equality between men and women in Lebanon. Its specific objectives are to reduce gender-based violence through women empowerment and to enhance existing institutional mechanisms working towards gender equality. EU4WE is funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France.
The training program will be ongoing throughout July and August 2021 where the 30 selected participants will receive a mix of theoretical knowledge, best practices, and case studies. The sessions will be based on and interactive group coaching, promoting knowledge and experience sharing within the group.
“All participants went through extremely valuable experience and have a lot to share based on the previous year and a half of operations in crisis,” points out Joanna Abi Abdalla, Berytech’s Director of Business Support and Development.
Sessions will cover stress management for leaders, decision-making in difficult times, team management, supplier and customer management, accessing new markets and exporting, business model adaptation and transformation, cash flow management, access to funding, digital transformation, and online sales and communication.
The objective of the training program is to provide women business owners with the needed understanding of the crisis mechanism and the required tools and frameworks to understand the impact of the numerous ongoing crises (economic crisis, currency devaluation and hyperinflation, Covid-19, the Beirut port explosion, etc.) on their business, and to help them develop adequate mitigation plans to navigate the repercussions of the current crises and ensure sustained operations.
Cynthia Nakhle, the cofounder of Something Blue, a bridal shop targeting modern brides has joined the program with the expectation of receiving guided financial support to help her business overcome the current situation and thrive through its transformation from a traditional brick-and-mortar model to an e-commerce platform. The business will switch to an e-commerce model with periodical pop-ups in the region, pioneering a gradual digital transformation of the regional bridal industry.
“We will be using the grant to finance the production & marketing of one local collection of wedding dresses and accessories. The main spending will be on the salaries of our underprivileged skilled local seamstresses as well as on fabrics for the new collection. We want to re-use as much salvageable fabric from damaged dresses from the explosion as possible. This would be our small contribution to fashion sustainability. We will however need new fabric to have a complete collection” says Cynthia.
“This program is a great way to make SMEs in Lebanon feel supported in times like these, especially women-led SMEs. I feel that I am supported and appreciated as a woman entrepreneur during the hard times the country is going through, which is giving me hope to keep on striving at what I do. We need more opportunities like this for Lebanese entrepreneurs so that we can rise together, create more jobs, help our economy, and hopefully contribute to altering the situation of our nation for the better,” comments another applicant, Jihan Choucair, founder of Jihan Beauty Queen, a family beauty salon that has been operational since 1999.
Marina Araigy, the founder of Bridge of Minds, a marketing agency, has joined the program to be part of a community of women-led business owners: “I want to be able to share the experience we had after the explosion with other similar businesses and to learn more how can we maintain the business and manage the consequences of the crisis. SMEs don’t have any public support in Lebanon. Such programs provide the necessary management, business operations, and financial support for us to survive, grow and expand and therefore be a shifting success story in our industries. Lebanese entrepreneurs have high potential and highly competitive advantage on the international market,” Marina says.
The selection was focused on Women-led and/or owned businesses of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with a registered Sole proprietorship, SARL or SAL that engage in economic activities, in the industrial, trade, agricultural, or services sectors, based in Greater Beirut and affected by the explosion of August 4. The selected businesses are, listed in no specific order:
The European Union launched the European Union for Women’s Empowerment (EU4WE) project in October 2019. The project aims to promote full and unconditional equality between men and women in Lebanon. The specific objectives are to reduce gender-based violence through women empowerment and to enhance existing institutional mechanisms working towards gender equality.
The project has been launched at a time when Lebanon is facing a major social, economic and financial crisis, as well as a lockdown and social distancing measures due to the Covid-19. In this specific context, the EU4WE’s project is an excellent opportunity to support Lebanese women and men to become actors of change.