Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a United States government program that runs in 26 countries. It seeks to train women entrepreneurs in order to achieve global growth based on sustainable businesses. Spain is one of the countries where this program operates and the US Embassy invited BBVAMF’s head of Digital & Customer Experience, María José Jordá, to lead a workshop for women entrepreneurs in the Canary Islands to improve their businesses. We talked to her about this experience.
You recently led a workshop on Innovation & Design Thinking, in collaboration with the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs. How would you apply the Design Thinking methodology in a business?
Design Thinking, in a nutshell, says “Listen to your client”. Until now, businesses have always been set up on the basis of “How do I make a profit out of a business? I’ll come up with some kind of solution, and I’ll sell it to the clients using marketing techniques or something similar”. Design Thinking says “Turn it around, start with the customers. Get to know them. What do they need? Where do they come from? What are they interested in or worried about?” If you are capable of meeting those needs with a solution, business appears.
Regarding our female entrepreneurs from Latin America: do you think they can apply this methodology to their businesses? Do you think it will be viable?
The women entrepreneurs we serve can apply Design Thinking. With just a few simple steps, they can better identify who their existing and future customers are, conduct some research (know them better and understand their reality, before, during and after interacting with them). And once they have done that, they will be able to propose solutions so that their business could respond more adequately to the customer’s reality. This is something Jessica knew how to do very well. If people don’t have washing machines, there is not much water and the neighbors don’t have the time to go and wash their clothes, the solution is to take the washing machines to where they are. If our entrepreneurs learn these simple methodologies, they will get at innovative solutions that would distinguish them from the rest and that means their businesses will prosper.
Among all of the female entrepreneurs I’ve met, I believe, share an unwavering passion for what they’re doing and what they want to achieve”
What do the women entrepreneurs who attended the workshop have in common with those we serve in Latin America?
All the women entrepreneurs I have met, I believe, share an unwavering passion for what they are doing and what they want to achieve. What’s more, many of them are solo entrepreneurs. In fact, one of them confessed that she has three email addresses, even if she’s the only one working in her company! That was a funny anecdote. But on the other hand, they don’t have access to networking, something which has traditionally been associated with men.
Comienza la sesión inaugural de la #AWE, con una conferencia de @mariajosejorda, de la Fundación Microfinanzas @BBVA_espana. Nos conocemos y empezamos a andar juntas con este proyecto de @be_heroikka y @USembassyMadrid, financiado por @StateDept. pic.twitter.com/0lc7CO1Gru
— Casa África (@Casaafrica) September 20, 2019
Imagine one of the workshop attendees and another female entrepreneur from Latin America in the same room. What could they learn from one another?
I think it would be very useful for them to meet. Someone from the Canary Islands who meets another woman developing a business with fewer resources … it could be inspiring. And one from Peru who meets someone who attended the workshop could also get new ideas on how to do things differently.
What other takeaways do you have from the workshop?
I noticed that lots of women start up enterprises with social aims. They have the drive to fix things, they want to help, more than earn money and make themselves rich. I am struck by the fact that I have seen this in several countries. That is what happens with our women clients as well: when things are going well, they invest all the money in their families, whether to improve their homes or to spend it on their children. Indeed, they are real agents for change.