From September 25 through October 15, 30 leading entrepreneurs from around the world embarked on the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), "A New Beginning: Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation". Now in its second year, this groundbreaking program supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to expand their networks and skills as both businesspeople and leaders in their communities. A tailored program of seminars and business strategy sessions in cities across the United States, administered by IVLP partner Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), introduced participants from 30 countries to a wealth of business networks in just three weeks.
Two participants, Rachida Aziz of Belgium and Bilkisu Isma of Nigeria, own apparel companies in their respective countries and received the opportunity to meet fashion designer Ce Ce Chin while in New York for the final leg of their U.S. visit. Their New York agenda also included a visit to New York's Fashion Center Business Improvement District to discuss the impact that entrepreneur designers have had on the historic center of New York City's fashion and design industry.
The plane ride home isn't the end for many participants. Last year's group took the essence of the program and held their own events in Southeast Asian countries. They dubbed their initiative "New Beginning: Sparks!" to symbolize the sparks they want to start in their communities, as they encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in small or big ways. Additionally, participants continue to collaborate in social media circles and many report life changing new opportunities as a result of their endeavors.