Throughout the last few months, and as a direct emergency response to the Beirut port explosion, Myriam Hoballah, has been working with Berytech to coach the 30 women entrepreneurs enrolled in the program. The one-on-one sessions identified their needs to structure the support provided to them, as part of the EU4WE project.
The European Union for Women Empowerment Project (EU4WE) was launched in October 2019 and aims to promote gender equality in Lebanon. 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, funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France is an excellent opportunity to support Lebanese women and men to become actors of change.
Myriam started with a gap analysis session for each of the 30 participants to assess their business situation after the August 4 blast. The sessions were designed to understand how each one was impacted and what are their needs. The analysis helped the Berytech team understand their vision, the key components of their business and their gaps, and how the program can support them on the technical level, in addition to the grant provided.
This gap analysis comes as part of the EU4WE support program that targeted women-led and/or women-owned businesses affected by the Beirut Blast. The 6-months program identified 30 MSMEs that could benefit from a grant to sustain their activities.
“I interviewed 30 businesses and it’s a good number to conclude a relevant idea of their needs. The program is helpful from a financial perspective, with a grant of €5000 that is designated to provide immediate financial relief to the businesses. However, their needs require targeted support. With a mix of women leading startups and established companies with years of experience, the program is helping them thorough their understanding of their situation to address their gaps, rather than coming with a set of limited sessions in general business knowledge,” says Myriam. Myriam is the Principal Consultant at Incept Hub, experienced in Business Coaching.
Participants found Myriam’s sessions to be particularly helpful because they were extremely personalized. With the one-on-one discussions, she went through their specific challenges, went deep in her analysis, and came up with specific recommendations for each business. The majority were able to build on the outcome of the sessions and were able to envision the way to move forward.
“I started my business 20 years ago and have been growing it ever since, impacting the livelihoods of more than 50 other women in the process. The intensity of the blast left a huge trail of material destruction on my business, we had to rebuild from scratch. But it also impacted my vision and my plans for it. Myriam helped me re-set these plans so I can not only survive the different crises but also grow. She pointed out the gaps that I needed to work on and the aspects that I could strengthen so that I could one day possibly franchise my business,” explained Jihan Choueir, founder of Jihan Beauty Queen, a hair salon and beauty parlor in Beirut Souks.
Remember why you started
Myriam confirms that the August 4 blast was not an easy experience for any of these women. “Some of them were extremely fragile on an emotional level and a bit lost on the way. They needed to move forward from a business aspect. Together we were able to frame things back and put things into perspective. I started by reminding them why they got into this venture in the first place: because they believed in it and because they had a dream.
When you take them back to the dream, you trigger positive emotion in them and this is the way you impact them on a positive level. Unfortunately, the session is not enough to address their emotional trauma but it’s enough to get them back on track on a business level.”
Advice for dealing with crisis
Myriam’s advice for any person whose business is going through the current crises is to be as flexible as possible and try not to mix emotion with what is happening on the ground. “Try to take a step back and see things on a macro perspective rather than a micro perspective. Leverage the kind of involvement you have during this crisis; you can cope better when you have an alternative in place. If the alternative is not there by chance, you have to create it. It could be looking into expanding or looking into a partnership to leverage the risk you are undertaking on your own throughout the crisis.”
About the Project
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 benefited from a two-month intensive training program, including capacity-building sessions, group coaching, in addition to financial support in the form of grants.
The objective of the EU4WE 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.