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Over the last day and a half, a group of women entrepreneurs, all of whom lead businesses that are ready to export to the United States, have gathered in Miami, FL to network, attend capacity-building sessions, and speak with potential buyers for their products. The program marks the beginning of a new partnership between Vital Voices and FedEx. Titled Building Businesses Across Borders: A Training Program for Women Entrepreneurs, the program invited trade-ready women entrepreneurs from across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to participate in a two-day training seminar and become part of the Vital Voices global women’s network.

While the program opened with a cocktail reception on Monday, it began in earnest on Tuesday. Following introductions, participants heard from Gina Adams, Corporate Vice President of Government Affairs at FedEx, who spoke about her progression up the corporate ladder and the unique challenges faced by women in business. The following sessions addressed negotiation techniques, procurement best practices, and the do’s and don’ts of approaching a company. The day ended with the mentoring session, done in partnership with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

For many participants, meeting with other women business owners, both from across the region and from Miami, represented a valuable opportunity to learn from others’ experiences and to gain insight into the different strategies that can be pursued when looking to export to the US. Without a doubt, all the women who attended have dynamic businesses and a vision for promoting their growth. Different countries present different challenges, and understanding each entrepreneur’s unique context will be key as we continue to support their efforts.

As we prepare to launch the LAC Businesswomen’s Network, we are reminded of the need for a platform on which women entrepreneurs from the region can connect with each other. The region is home to countries ranging from small island nations, such as The Bahamas and Haiti, to large, developed economies, such as Argentina and Brazil. Even within these sub-regions, however, domestic barriers, ranging from legal requirements to transportation costs, vary considerably. Because of this, information sharing will be an essential component of the network.

On Wednesday, the program continued with a session on leadership by Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson, whose presentation prompted participants to define leadership and identify their personal leadership qualities.

Her session was followed by a presentation by a representative from US Commercial Services. The day concluded with a trade fair where the entrepreneurs were able to speak with potential buyers of their products.

A pilot program, Building Businesses Across Borders showed the promise that trade fairs represent for women entrepreneurs with small- and medium-sized enterprises. In the coming years, we hope to replicate such programs in different countries from Latin America, making it local and more accessible to different women. Moving forward, as women’s entrepreneurship continues to gain ground as a viable development strategy in countries around the world, it is clear that there is a need to connect such emerging women business leaders, identify their most pressing necessities, and continue our work to support them.