Watering the Seeds of a Budding Female Founders Community–Virtually
Hub UDEP's WISE program has helped over 600 women STEM entrepreneurs access 700+ mentoring hours & start 60+ new ventures. Learn more about the blooming community Hub UDEP has created, & how Swiss EP has tagged along for the ride.
Community Building is like gardening; your community is like a living organism that thrives in a balanced environment with resources, like water, sun, soil that nourish different seeds in different ways.
Who: The program is uniquely focused on upskilling women from STEM careers or starting STEM-based endeavors. This is important because of the gender disparity in these fields. Additionally, the support offered includes a strong community to lean on through the entrepreneurship journey, which is key for reaching success.
Where: The program is based in Piura, a northern city in Peru, therefore helping create successful businesses outside of Lima, the capital. This is important for Peru because it is a deeply centralized country. Programs that bet on upskilling communities outside of Lima are supporting the decentralization of resources and opportunities.
From November 2018 to December 2020, Hub UDEP’s WISE Program has helped over 600 women entrepreneurs access over 700 hours of mentoring and start 60 ventures (30 from Lima, 30 from Piura).
During 2020, Hub UDEP’s main concern was continuing to deliver value & fostering the community despite the limitations. The silver lining they found was the unexplored possibilities of virtual convening. This virtual approach helped broaden and diversify the program's geographic reach, with more than 140 women entrepreneurs from 14 cities successfully completing the program. With the help of Swiss EP expert Maca Botta, the team went back to basics and started building their garden from the ground up.
Eva Preciado, Program Manager, and caretaker of the garden led the charge. With Maca’s guidance, she conducted in-depth interviews with WISE “ambassadors” from cohort 1. It was important for Eva to obtain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurs’ needs and wants as well as the perceived value of the program, especially based on the in-person experience.
The overarching themes were: the need to push their company forward, the desire to impact people by providing jobs, and the appreciation of the knowledge, tools, networking, and community.
"WISE allowed me to recognize myself in other women who are also working hard to move their businesses forward and to add value to my industry.”
The insights from the interviews and suggestions explored with Maca were considered when crafting the new virtual experiences for the incoming cohort in mid-2020. These experiences included:
- A Virtual Demo Day proposal with both cohorts.
- A Symbolic Manifest for new program participants to set expectations.
- The creation of networking spaces & incorporating new digital channels to facilitate conversation.
“My biggest takeaway is the importance of perseverance. Hearing Maca and Magdalena’s candid account of their struggles as female entrepreneurs is very uplifting because I can relate and that motivates me to keep going.”
Greater clarity on how to virtually nurture the garden allowed Swiss EP expert Patricia Lopez to hop back on board (she previously worked with WISE in 2018). Patricia worked with Eva and the team to redefine a path to success by focusing on:
- Enhancing the negotiation pitch of the WISE Program for possible donors.
- Reviewing and enhancing the Demo Day proposal.
- Mentoring entrepreneurs on financial topics.
Eva comments: “The WISE Peru team has every intention of continuing to strengthen the garden of women entrepreneurs. On March 8, 2021, we hosted a Demo Day, and we will also host a training course and a mentoring program from May to August 2021."
Hub UDEP’s WISE program has become a flagship program, and with such important objectives, the team will continue watering more “seeds” so that more gardens can thrive from the collective effort of a growing community.