Spotlighting the Cherie Blair Foundation and the power of mentorship

Aug 24, 2017

Bank of America partners with the Cherie Blair Foundation on its Mentoring Women in Business program to connect women small business leaders in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to mentoring expertise that will enable them to advance their business. The program has matched more than 2,000 women in developing and emerging countries to online mentors, including more than 400 Bank of America employees.

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From a dream to reality – Aidy made it happen

Ever since she was a young girl, Aidy Raju has loved to cook, and has always dreamed of owning her own shop. Looking for a new source of income to support her mother and son, Aidy decided to put her cooking skills into action and start her own catering company. Although she didn’t have the capital to launch a formal enterprise, she took small steps and started Aidy’s Good Food in 2014 from her home. After making her first sale of 30 hot dogs she steadily began to build her client base.

When Aidy joined the Mentoring Women in Business Program in May 2015, she didn’t have any formal business training and was looking for support to efficiently structure her business and find ways to grow it.

Through a partnership with Bank of America, Aidy was matched with Ileana Musa, a Client and Strategy Executive at Bank of America in the United States. Ileana has experience in business planning, sales and communications, and was an ideal match for Aidy. Bank of America has been a pivotal partner in the development of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Program, which has now enabled over 2,500 women entrepreneurs to access personalized support through 1:1 mentoring and an online support and learning platform.

The pair quickly developed a strong relationship as they worked together to achieve Aidy’s goals. Ileana supported Aidy as she carried out market research to identify existing businesses in the sector, determine her competitive advantage, and position her company accordingly. They developed her business plan and created a marketing strategy to attract new corporate clients, whilst also discussing delegation and management techniques.

Now, less than two years later, Aidy’s company offers all types of cuisine and includes everything from wedding cakes to food platters. She is now catering multiple corporate events per month, as well as weddings, school events and other small functions. Her revenue has increased tenfold and she has hired an employee to help her with food preparation. As her sales increase, Aidy invests her profits back into her business and is working towards a range of health and safety certifications to help her formalize and grow her company.

Alongside gaining confidence in her own abilities, Aidy also learned key management and ICT skills through working with Ileana. Aidy said, “Before I started the program, I felt like somebody who was learning to read for the first time. I was unsure of myself and having goals like a business plan seemed like a mountain. Ileana has taught me so much.”

Ileana said it’s been an honor and privilege to work with Aidy and she emphasized how much she has learned as a mentor, including gaining knowledge of a new culture and market, developing communication skills and building her own confidence.

Looking to the future, Aidy is keen to move into proper premises to grow her business and become a leader in the food industry.

“A two-way success story” – meet Suubi and her mentor Samridhi

Suubi has a love of fashion design, which includes everything from creating conceptual sketches to bringing intricate patterns to life. After studying art and design at university in Kampala, Uganda, Suubi was keen to turn her vision into reality. In 2009, just a couple years after graduating, Suubi set up shop in her parents’ garage and launched her clothing company, Suu-Bee Ltd.

For the first couple of years, Suubi focused on selling corporate and high street wear, as well as designing bespoke pieces for her clients. As she gained confidence in her designs, she wanted to expand her business and create her own mass-produced clothing line. However, without any formal business training and limited access to capital, Suubi didn’t know where to start. When she joined the Mentoring Women in Business Program in 2014, she had just moved into a studio space and was looking for support to write a business plan and diversify her products.

Through a partnership with Bank of America, Suubi was matched with Samridhi Sarin, Director of Global Financial Crimes Compliance at Bank of America in the United States. Bank of America has been a pivotal partner in the development of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Program, which has now enabled over 2,500 women entrepreneurs to access personalized support through 1:1 mentoring and an online support and learning platform.

With a wealth of expertise in business planning and product development, Samridhi was keen to support Suubi to achieve her goals. The pair first looked at Suubi’s vision, identifying options for product development. Suubi decided to focus on developing an affordable line of blouses, which, as a staple product, would have the potential to provide a consistent income. Samridhi encouraged Suubi to start small and test the market before scaling up to avoid any unnecessary debt.

With a new business plan and strategy in place, Suubi was able to start sourcing local materials, identify women to outsource production to, and research market value and competition to set an appropriate price for the blouses. The pair also worked together to create a new website and Facebook page to help Suubi increase her company’s visibility and market her products.

Over the course of the year, Suubi successfully launched her new line of blouses, gained more than 11 new clients and gained over 700 likes on her Facebook page. She has also continued to expand her product range, which now includes beautiful wedding dresses that are available to rent.

According to Suubi, one of the most important skills she learned from her mentoring relationship was how to take a big vision and break it down into individual steps and goals. She said, “Samridhi has been my sounding board and as an impartial listener, her encouragement has been amazing. With her pushing I was accountable to someone and had no excuse for procrastination; that has been the best!”

Samridhi also really enjoyed the mentoring relationship and said, “I am so proud of Suubi. Mentoring her has developed me as a person. We are opposites in personality so we complemented each other and this helped us learn and grow from each other. It’s a two-way success story of personal growth for the mentor while helping the mentee realize her dream.”

Samridhi reported that being a mentor not only helped her to build her leadership and communication skills, but also reminded her of the importance of flexibility and letting go. As a perfectionist, Samridhi said she often gets caught up by the fear of failure, but Suubi’s vision and tenacity has inspired her to finally pursue her dream of writing a book.

Optimistic about the future, Suubi is determined to continue growing her business to become a fashion hub in East Africa.

Learn more about Suubi’s business.

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