In support of President Obama’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative, the Department of State hosted the third TechCamp for women entrepreneurs on March 13 and 14, 2015, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This WEAmericas TechCamp provided technology training to 100 Bolivian businesswomen to help them grow their businesses.
Embassy La Paz Chargé d’Affaires, Peter Brennan, opened the WEAmericas TechCamp by warmly welcoming the women entrepreneurs and emphasizing the positive roles they play in Bolivian society. The Bolivian entrepreneurs, who traveled to the WEAmericas TechCamp from provinces throughout the country, identified challenges they face in growing their businesses and worked with the technology experts and each other to identify solutions and strategies to overcome those challenges. Through a series of interactive training sessions, technology experts from the United States, Spain, Guatemala, Colombia, and Bolivia helped the 100 women learn how to apply low-cost, easy-to-implement online and mobile technology tools to professionalize their branding, amplify their marketing, and increase efficiency within their businesses.
— TechCampGlobal (@TechCampGlobal) March 14, 2015
Following the first day’s training sessions, the women displayed their products and services to each other and to potential buyers. Embassy La Paz Chargé d’Affaires and members of the local chamber of commerce networked with the women entrepreneurs and noted many of their unique and high quality offerings.
On the second day, the women presented what they had learned during the first day’s sessions to the entire gathering of TechCampers. One entrepreneur conducted a live SMS advertising poll with her fellow participants. She described how she planned to advertise her products online and incorporate an SMS strategy to interact more directly with potential customers. During this demonstration, the women in the audience played the role of the customer, using their personal cell phones to express interest in the entrepreneur’s offer through text messages. They were impressed with the valuable information the entrepreneur was able to pull from her “customers” through use of this simple technology.
Another group of women discussed the organizational challenges their respective businesses faced due to inefficiencies in information sharing and archiving of important business information. They created an animated cartoon to present a strategy for better information management to the audience.
Guided by two of the trainers, fifty percent of the participants worked together to create a website and Facebook group to unite Bolivian women entrepreneurs. The website will be used to highlight their respective products and services to consumers and customers while the TechCamp Mujeres Empresarias Facebook group -- which now hosts nearly 300 members -- will serve as an interactive platform for the women to share ideas and maintain the benefits of cooperative networking.
The Beat Goes On!
In addition to the in-person and virtual networks formed during the two-day event, eleven women were selected to receive additional business planning and technical support. TechCamp’s public-private partnership with Ernst & Young continues to bear fruit as a representative from Ernst & Young’s Bolivian offices awarded six women, six months of business planning and advisory services.
Inspired by Ernst & Young’s example, Bluumi, a leading mobile application development company, announced their company would award six months of ongoing tech training for five named participants. Bluumi’s representative, a first-time TechCamp trainer, cited his enthusiasm for the TechCamp training model and dedication to supporting Bolivian women entrepreneurs as the motivation for his company’s surprise announcement!
About the author: Laura E. Williams serves as an e-Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.