A friend in need is a friend indeed
But there are number of side effects that talk very much to the issue of women empowerment.
The loans are often just the right kind of financial muscle an emerging business needs to make the entrepreneur's dream come true, but this is just one way in which the WEF team contributes to the growth of women-owned businesses.
The application procedure in itself has been cited by a number of successful applicants as a very revealing and empowering process that has given them a much clearer understanding of their business, the markets and opportunities. Katinka Bezuidenhout of Natural Science Labs recounts in one of the profile articles in this supplement that the coaxing from the team working on her application resulted in developing business processes that have been invaluable as she prepares her first major export shipment.
"Sometimes as women we think we have to do it all ourselves, sometimes to our own detriment," she says. "There's is a lot of support out there, but we don't always know about these initiatives, especially because as a small business owner you're so focused on the day-to-day activities." This view is echoed by Lee Varrie, owner of Wrap Tite, which has managed to expand its markets and identify a niche thanks to WEF funding.
"The support really helps a business to make rational decisions. So often when you're worrying about cash flow your decisions aren't necessarily rational but made from a position of desperation or fear. The WEF has really helped us to make rational decisions, and it has had a phenomenal impact," says Varrie.
Bezuidenhout says she has gained tremendous confidence from the process and new frontiers she is able to tackle because of the WEF funding. "Being a woman in business is not strange anymore, and not once have I felt I was a woman in a man's world. It really is a matter of being measured on: Are you capable, experienced, and do you have a track record?"