U.S. Embassy and AMFCE announce participants of AWE Startup Challenge 2021

  • The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs Startup Challenge 2021 is the first program of its kind to be implemented in Mauritius
  • 25 women entrepreneurs from Mauritius and Rodrigues, including two members of the Global Rainbow Foundation, have been selected to join AWE’s DreamBuilder program

October 28, 2021: The U.S. Embassy in Mauritius and the Association Mauricienne des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises (AMFCE) officially introduced the first 25 women entrepreneurs from Mauritius and Rodrigues who have enrolled in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Startup Challenge 2021. The 25 women, who include two members of the Global Rainbow Foundation – a local NGO that specializes in the empowerment of persons with disabilities – will be in the program for a year.

The presentation ceremony was held at the Caudan Arts Centre. U.S. Embassy Chargée d’Affaires Judes E. DeBaere and AMFCE President Rima Ramsaran gave remarks at the event. A representative from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare was also present.

AWE was established in the United States in 2019 by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and it was launched in Mauritius in July 2021 in partnership with AMFCE, the island’s leading women entrepreneurs’ organization. AWE provides women entrepreneurs with the skills, tools, resources, and networks that they need to start and grow a successful business, raise capital, and effectively network with other successful business owners. Through AWE, the 25 women entrepreneurs will participate in a localized entrepreneurship program supplemented with networking and mentorship opportunities. AWE is based on the online training program, DreamBuilder, developed through a partnership between Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and global copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare Kalpana Koonjoo-Shah said, “The importance of female entrepreneurship for economic development is widely recognized yet under exploited to its full potential not only in Mauritius but worldwide; strangely enough despite the fact that economies characterized by high levels of female entrepreneurial activity are more resilient to financial crisis and economic slowdowns. We need to collectively support the growth and development of our women entrepreneurs, and I want to give a new impetus to this sector of growth. I am very pleased today and I congratulate the AMFCE and the U.S. Embassy for the launch of a Training Academy for our Women Entrepreneurs. Training is a continuous process for the acquisition not only of fundamental knowledge but also of the critical know-how that all our women entrepreneurs will absolutely need.”

During her remarks at the event, U.S. Embassy Chargée d’Affaires Judes E. DeBaere said, “AWE has been implemented in 75 countries, including 17 in Africa. Today that number will grow to 18. We are proud to include the first cohort of participants from Mauritius in this global initiative. Entrepreneurship is a key field for the U.S. Embassy to Mauritius and Seychelles. Over the years, we

have collaborated with a number of organizations to promote this sector. This year, we are very proud to partner with AMFCE, who has left no stone unturned to find the best partners who understand the entrepreneurial environment in Mauritius and its challenges but also how to overcome them. We hope AWE will equip the participants with such skills as the ability to plan for the future, the ability to share their story, improve their self-confidence and boost their perceptions as businesswomen.”

Rima Ramsaran, the AMFCE president, highlighted the importance of this program: “The response to our call for participation was amazing. There has been great interest in the AWE Startup Challenge, and we are very proud of this first cohort and of their entrepreneurial projects. We are also proud of the profile of professionals and established entrepreneurs, who have embarked with us on this journey.  We believe that the AMFCE’s mission is to be inclusive, and we welcome Priyanka and Kirti from the Global Rainbow Foundation within the AWE and AMFCE family. We feel privileged that they chose our program to fulfil their entrepreneurial ambitions. This collaboration with the U.S. Embassy contributes to develop a sustainable eco-system to accompany and support women in their entrepreneurial journey. The AWE Startup Challenge 2021 will boost the spirit and culture of entrepreneurship in Mauritius.”

The program will be rolled out on an online learning platform, and courses will feature tried-and-true methods based in today’s technology and market. Participants will be able to rely on their handholder to provide advice, counseling from personal experience, and support to help them stay focused on their long-term goal of making their venture a success.

Priscilla Benidin, the Human Resource Manager of the Global Rainbow Foundation, said, “The AWE Startup Challenge is a laudable initiative as it is important to provide the same opportunities to everyone, including persons with disabilities. Through these types of program, they have the chance to gain autonomy and become more independent.”

Sébastien LeBlanc, founder of MIPS, a 100% Mauritian Fintech company, and mentor for Stephany Noalli, new entrepreneur, in the AWE Startup Challenge said, “It’s great to give back what I have learnt over the past years. I am already enjoying this experience as I am learning so much from Stephany. Coaching is an important aspect of an entrepreneur’s career. Teaching has always been the best way to learn.”

Stéphany said, “I have been thinking of launching my own business for some time. I was drawn to the AMFCE and the AWE because of the support they provide and particularly the fact that we are assigned a dedicated mentor. It was an opportunity that I could not miss. I am thrilled to have been selected. I am entering the program with the objective of creating a strong and thriving business.”

Anuradha Nunkoo, mentor in the program and a seasoned professional in the training industry who has long been involved in the fields of women empowerment, said, “Sharing my experience and my passion for people brings a great degree of self-satisfaction. I see myself mainly as a facilitator and an enabler. I am thrilled with my mentee because I believe it will be such an enriching journey of self-discovery, sharing and learning filled with limitless inspirations.”

Anuradha Nunkoo has been paired with Priyanka, one of the beneficiaries of the Global Rainbow Foundation, who said, “I joined the program because I wanted to learn about creating the right business strategies and building my skills in finance. I am happy to join this program and I am ready to take on this challenge.”

About the AWE Start-Up Challenge

The AWE Start-Up Challenge is designed around the following key parameters:

  • Participation in the program for the emerging women entrepreneurs is free;
  • The duration of the program is 12 months and consists of comprehensive knowledge-transfer components through a series of workshops, one-to-one exchanges and regular networking.
  • The 25 participants have been paired with handholders (mentors) – established entrepreneurs – who will guide them through their journey.

Media Relations

Nicholas Von Mertens
Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Embassy Mauritius and Seychelles
Email: VonMertensN@state.gov

Darina Naidu
Press and Media Coordinator
U.S. Embassy Mauritius and Seychelles
Email: NaiduD@state.gov

Marie-Noelle Elissac-Foy
Public Relations Strategist
Email: mnef@talentfactory.mu