I am really happy to announce that very soon women entrepreneurs across the Caribbean will have a new way to raise much needed capital for their ventures. FundRiseHER™, the first ever Commonwealth-wide crowdfunding initiative was announced on 05 July alongside the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, which took place in Guyana from 4 – 6 July, 2016.
FundRiseHER™ is the flagship initiative of Valrie Grant, Founder of GeoTechVision and the Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. Valrie is also my WINC Acceleration Program counterpart in Guyana. The initiative has been created and powered by pitchandchoose.com the crowdfunding platform for the Caribbean that was founded by A. Cecile Watson, the WINC AP Facilitator for Jamaica. I have written about Pitch & Choose in other articles as I am very excited to see crowdfunding being used to attract new flows of capital to the region, and ultimately to create new jobs and drive economic growth.
Speaking at the announcement were Valrie Grant, Cecile Watson and Arif Zaman, Executive Director, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency. Present at the launch in Guyana were: Heads of Governments from CARICOM, Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Business, Catherine Hughes, Minister of Public Telecommunications, High Commissioner of Canada to Guyana Pierre Giroux, Deputy British High Commissioner Georgetown Ron Rimmer, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry and women entrepreneurs.
The game changing FundRiseHER™ initiative, led by these two Caribbean women who are entrepreneurs in their own right, has been developed with input from the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network. FundRiseHER™, which has been launched to be a proof of concept for crowdfunding as a vehicle of economic development in the Commonwealth, is being piloted in the Caribbean with crowdfunding campaigns starting in early September. The initiative will be spearheaded by Gr8Way Consulting Ltd. out of Jamaica, which will lead the charge throughout the region to deliver on the initiative’s 1:10:50 goal: $1 million grant funding target to be raised through a global rewards-based crowdfunding campaign by 10 participating Caribbean countries/territories and Commonwealth member states for the benefit of 50 women entrepreneurs. The size of grants will be between USD$10,000 and USD$25,000.
I am delighted to hear that it was warmly welcomed by the Heads of Government from across CARICOM (including our own Prime Minister, the Hon Freundel Stuart) as an innovative, important and much needed initiative to improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses and contribute to the economic development of the Caribbean.
I am also pleased to announce that Barbados will be one of the participating countries and I have been asked to be the affiliate for Barbados. I am very excited to be a part of this campaign, not only because it is a regional initiative and once again proves that women across the region can work together to help each other, but also because it is very much needed. Many of the entrepreneurs in my WINC Acceleration Program, and beyond, have exciting plans to grow and expand their businesses regionally and extra regionally, but many are hindered by access to finance. The crowdfunding strategy is perfect for these women and this initiative in particular because it will give them access to grant funding while spreading the risk for those who give their support. My regular readers would have heard me laud the benefits of crowdfunding on several occasions. This will also provide an avenue for other women entrepreneurs who have gained a degree of financial success to contribute to up and coming entrepreneurs. Already we are seeing that support, in that the FundRiseHER™ logo which was conceptualised by Cecile, was designed by Fallon Symes (a man) through services contributed by iPrint Digital, a woman owned business in Kingston, Jamaica. So we also want contributions from men. After all we are supporters of He for She (See http://www.heforshe.org/).
The campaign will start in early September and I hope that Barbadians will do their part to contribute to the US $1 million that we are seeking to raise. If we can mobilise 100,000 people across the region to put in only $10 each we will easily reach the target. With over 40 million people in the Caribbean that should not be hard to do! I was very pleased to hear from Cecile, who spoke to our Prime Minister, that he was very much in favour of the initiative, so I am confident that when I go to Government for support in promoting it on CBC and through the Government Information Service and other Government entities I will be greeted with open arms (figuratively speaking of course).
So the launch of FundRiseHER™ encourages me to pursue my own crowdfunding campaign (albeit on a much smaller scale) once this has one has been completed, to help fund some of the business ideas and ventures of women at the “grass roots” level. I hope I will have your support for both of these initiatives. After all, what we’re asking for (at a minimum) is the price of a snack box and a drink. Not a great sacrifice. I have contributed to a number of campaigns on Pitch & Choose and the platform is very easy to use, so let us come together and help the women of our nation and region.