For all the women out there thinking of starting a business – or have recently launched a business – you will have already discovered that there are very few “Women in Business” Awards out there – particularly for those that are focused on the development of a social enterprise. That’s why Benita and I were so excited to discover the Cartier Awards about two years ago.
We actually first applied back in May of 2010 but we hadn’t even launched a site at that point. Considering that we didn’t even get a call back – we figured we were too early stage. After launching our Public Beta site of Source4Style in October 2010, we again applied, this time with at least six months of a site launch under our belts and real traction. Luckily, the selection committee selected Source4Style as a finalist from over 1,400 other applicants and thus began a very rigorous and disciplined series of coaching sessions, business plan development, and oral presentation in front of a panel of judges.
On Sunday, October 9th, we got to meet all the other finalists – from Lauren at Mozambikes (in Mozambique) to Svati who is working on energy-efficient cook stoves in India to Zein who started an e-commerce site for trainers and trainees in her native country of Jordan. The 18 Finalists were in one word: Inspirational. Admittedly I’m not always into the whole “feminists-unite women empowerment” thing – but to be honest with you – this was truly a r-e-m-a-r-k-a-b-l-e experience. We had opportunities not only to work in non-competitive work groups and critique other business presentations – but also engage with a tremendous amount of incredible women, coaches and jury members at the Women’s Forum in Deauville, where the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards took place.
Deauville – a charming little town about two and a half hours Northwest of Paris – provided a terrific backdrop for the presentation day. On Wed, October 12th Benita and I gave our 30-minute oral presentation for Source4Style. Jury members deliberated that evening. And this past Friday, winners were announced for each region during the Women’s Forum. When our project came up on screen as the North American Laureates, well…we nearly wept…It is such an honor to be recognized with all the other fabulous women in the group. Lorna from Kenya gave a tremendously heartwarming speech, as did the other ladies who were given a chance to let their businesses grow and shine.
We are simply overwhelmed, overjoyed and deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from the community and look forward to rising to the occasion. Thank you for the opportunity Cartier. And thank you to all the other women who have the fearlessness to start something they believe in and see it through.