In this series of four articles, Forbes features the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an international competition offering financial help, professional coaching, and mentoring, as well as international networking and visibility to women and their enterprises.
In this article, we focus on one of the most valuable aspects of participating in the competition—four months’ collaboration with professional coaches to build a business plan that works, often a key to opening the door to outside investor financing and to creating a solid strategic business roadmap.
When you talk to the remarkable group of Cartier Women’s Initiative Award winners and finalists, they immediately reach for superlatives in discussing the coaching and mentoring they received in the program both before and after the competition.
The systematic four-week program of coaching is comprised of intensive business plan preparation, business model development, as well as pitching and presentation skills. Winners then are entitled to a further full-year of high-level mentoring to support both business and personal development.
Yet, past participants say, while the experience of having a professional coach on developing a business plan and presentation is crucial to chances of winning the competition, it is just as valuable in producing a solid roadmap for long-term business success.
“Even if you are not ultimately selected as the winner, the training you get in working with a coach over four months to build a business plan for the final competition week in Singapore is well worth the effort which can be very intensive and demanding,” says Candice Pascoal, a winner this year from Latin America, whose business is a leader in crowdfunding for Brazilian artists and NGO’s who would not otherwise have access to investment capital. “You are pushed to improve the business plan to be the best at the final event week. There is where you meet all these remarkable women who become part of your network from then on. The experience is just phenomenal.”
Sima Najjar, a 2013 award winner from Jordan who produces how-to videos for women and others in the Mideast, echoes that idea, “Even if you don’t win, the whole process including coaching and exchanging with the others forces you to ask yourself questions about your business that you would never have done on your own. You really are forced to see ‘the elephant in the room’ that can make or break your business in the future.”
The coaching provided over four months to all 18 total finalists from six regions of the world– Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East & North Africa, and Asia-Pacific—is, in itself, a course that participants unanimously rate as one of the top features of the program. They say that it can transform general business strategies into detailed and powerful roadmaps for sustainable business success with social impact.
Angela Braren, an American finalist this year, whose online platform instrumentl.com automates the grants process for scientists and nonprofits which previously had trouble finding critical sources of financing, says, “I was paired with a coach who is a business development executive at a medical skin care multinational. We ‘met’ once a week on Skype for four months and then in Singapore during the final event week. He was incredibly inspiring as well as totally concrete in answering questions we had on finances. That really matured our way of thinking, and that which was a tremendous help to us at an important time for our company.”
That sort of assistance does not necessarily end with the competition. “I still work with my mentor,” says Ciara Clancy, a 2015 award winner from Ireland, whose company, Beats Medical, delivers sound wave treatment for Parkinson’s sufferers via a mobile phone application.
She explains, “You can have a great product and great technology but you won’t be able to reach the very large numbers of people whom you could help without knowing how to manage a business and understanding how to communicate the benefits which your products can bring. The Cartier experience, including the business plan development, the mentoring and the exchanges with the other participants really strengthened my ability to do that.”
Find out more about how you can become a participant in the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards program at https://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/.