Ora Barclay-Keller tells young women entrepreneurs
SMART Liberia, a non-profit organization, on Friday, June 16, held its first Town Hall event to celebrate, empower and support Young Women Entrepreneurs through panel discussions, trade fair and musical performance.
Delivering the keynote address was Mrs. Ora Barclay-Keller, founder and Executive Director for Girls for Change and Founder/CEO for Le Mirage International a fashion design enterprise. She advised the young women to believe in themselves, respect the work of others, work hard and never take no for an answer.
Explaining her success story, Keller said she started her career at age six while living with her mother. “I started designing clothes, because my mother was a seamstress and I would take all the cut-offs, design them and put them on dolls.
Barclay-Keller says she started a joint mentorship group with young girls in her community on the importance of health and hygiene and adult literacy program. The organization is called Girls for Change and was founded in 2013, holding regular sessions with girls on her front porch. “Later, I worked with the Ministry of Agriculture for three years and all my salary was used to develop the organization and bring it to where it is today,” she explained.
To compensate the girls, Keller said she provided gari (farina), sanitary pads and soap to the girls at the end of every month, which kept them coming.
“One of the major business problems we have as young women entrepreneurs is start-up funds. That is why you should do more networking and promote one another, engage in joint venture businesses and build yourselves up”, Keller noted. “Women should patronize and respect the work of each other.”
Speaking earlier was Mrs. Kula Thompson-Williams, one of the panelists and training manager at Building Markets. She stressed the importance of female entrepreneurs being offered Training of Trainers (TOT) opportunities. “TOTs affirm the presence of skill,” she said, “but offers the advantage of training or teaching others, which sustains learning; increases turnover of newer and better-equipped entrepreneurs; focuses on innovation for local entrepreneurs, because women are good at multitasking.
“If you don’t have the experience, you still have the advantage”, she added.
She encouraged them to do more networking, which brings mentorship and that they should “do what you can do, which no one else can do,” stressing the importance of being unique.
Williams has more than 14 years’ experience developing entrepreneurs. “I opened my first legal business after graduating High School at 16 years old and this equates to 25+ years as an entrepreneur,” she told the gathering.
The program climaxed with musical performance by Project Fame West Africa 20132ndrunner-up, Margaret Cephas, and a trade fair comprising over ten female entrepreneurs in their twenties through early thirties.
One of the entrepreneurs, Joy E. Richards, CEO of Joy Creative Life, impressed onlookers by performing a live painting. Hers is an enterprise based on her passion for art, fashion and photography. Other entrepreneurs on display included, Naz naturals (natural hair cosmetics), Bosh Bosh (African slippers, bags, dresses), Wonseh Designs, J-West clothing, among others.
The Town Hall event is an initiative of SMART Liberia, powered by SUNDIAL, a Liberian-owned cosmetics company based in the United States. SMART Liberia, a non-governmental organization who believes that educating the young generation of Liberia is the only way we can rebuild this country and lift our people out of poverty.