Cairo – MENA Herald: When Reem Fawzy, founder of Rimo Tours Holdings, graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program at The American University in Cairo (AUC) after the Egyptian revolution in 2011, she was able to grow her tourism business, despite the post-revolution economic turmoil “After the revolution, the tourism industry fell significantly,” she explained. “My business downsized to only two branches and 20 employees.” Soon, Fawzy’s tourism business expanded to six branches and 120 employees. “Thanks to the program, I adopted a different strategy where I developed a new line of travel packages, focused on local clients and religious pilgrimages, rather than working solely with foreign companies and tourists,” she said. “I also identified an opportunity to market online and launched a website for my company.”
Fawzy is one of many female entrepreneurs who have benefited from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program at AUC. Since 2008, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative has partnered with AUC to provide a business education to a total of 372 female entrepreneurs across the Arab region. In 2016, AUC offered a newly designed program to a cohort of 40 female entrepreneurs, who graduated last spring. The global certificate program was designed by Babson College, a world leader in entrepreneurship education and requires 15 weeks of intensive training in the classroom. It is made up of three components: practical business education, a supportive network of advisers and peers, and access to capital.

Most of the modules in the new program focus on practical skills training in topics such as business planning, negotiation, marketing, finance and human resource management. Through a partnership with Egypt’s Social Fund for Development and in collaboration with other prominent banks in Egypt, participants also receive training on how to prepare for access to capital.

Throughout the program, participants learn how to develop and implement a business growth plan, particularly how to expand their businesses, develop their strategies, streamline their operations, increase revenue and manage employees, among other things. “Successful entrepreneurship requires leadership ability, risk taking, creativity, agility and perseverance,” noted Maha ElShinnawy, professor of leadership and ethics at AUC and director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program in the Arab region. “Through our program, we provide women with the tools, skills and education necessary for success in the entrepreneurial world, as well as hands-on business advising, access to networks of mentors and the understanding of how to grow their businesses through access to capital.”

For Rania Badr El Din, a member of the cohort that graduated last spring and CEO and founder of Mother & Child, a digital publication that offers family care advice to young mothers, the program has not only enhanced her entrepreneurship skills, but also improved her ability to identify opportunities, take sound decisions and execute them effectively. “The program covers all aspects of a business and empowers us to delve deep into our own businesses,” she said. “The program is delivered with an excellent balance between theory and practice. This opportunity came at the right time for me, as I am eager to improve my knowledge and develop a solid plan for growth.”

Badr El Din’s goal is to place greater emphasis on financial planning. “Your business financials must be the guiding force in decision making,” she said. “You can have the passion, the vision and the team, but if your numbers are bad, then the sustainability and profitability of your business are in doubt, and growth is most likely out of the question.”

Upon completion of the program, participants are evaluated for 30 months through surveys. Workshops and networking opportunities also continue after graduation.

A key priority of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program is for participants to spread their knowledge and give back to their communities. And that’s what monitoring and evaluation data for the AUC program shows: average revenue growth is more than 200 percent right after graduation, and more than 150 percent six to 18 months post-graduation. As for average employee growth, data shows an increase of more than 50 percent right after graduation, and almost 35 percent six to 18 months post-graduation.

For many women, the 10,000 Women program is once-in-a-lifetime experience. “The program is perfect for women who are ambitious, risk takers and dream to turn ‘the impossible’ into reality,” said ElShinnawy. “We are proud of the success our graduates have achieved, which serves as a reminder of how hard work, perseverance, education and a network of mentors can lead to exponential growth. Women have the power and desire to be successful. Our program provides the skills and networking to allow female entrepreneurs the opportunity to achieve exponential growth and reach their full potential.”