29 November 2007
FCEM Congress in Cairo part One
I have just returned from Cairo at the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM) annual Congress. As I sit to begin my follow up with all the wonderful and inspiring women entrepreneurs I feel I must take brief moment to reflect (more specifics to come). There was such an air of optimism, of generosity and kindness, of curiosity and cooperation and of interest in collaboration for mutual benefit. No matter their origin or circumstance, from established multinational business owners to local craftswomen, from the developed and the developing, peaceful and war-torn. They each had a story and a passion for their business and their people that I have never before experienced. The true spirit of women's networking took place in "what can we do together" or "what can I do to help you", rather than (the all too often) "what do you want from me."
The work has only just begun. Now we have much greater penetration into new markets around the world after this conference. With advocates in Libya, Bahrain, Cameroon, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ghana, India, Romania, Iceland, Cyprus, Korea, Afghanistan and more. Each of them wanted to know what they could do to help. I challenged them to take action, spread the word and encourage others and other networks to participate. It has been incredibly inspiring and exhausting. I am still reeling from it all. I am thoroughly encouraged and re-energized by the validation of the need for and potential impact of 2BalanceU. Connecting supplier to distributors, consumers to products and services, connections to other women. Now we just have to keep the momentum on the build and get cranking on the fund raising for growth and support of regional networks and sponsors.
Lessons from Cairo. It is a city that you must visit. Belly dancing is truly a sport and an art form. Egyptians like to stay up all night and party (starting dinner around 10pm). The pyramids are incredible, despite the hawkers and the camel pushers. You just need to learn to say "No" and mean it. "Around 7" is more like "some time after 8." "Right away" means, "sometime in the next bit of time, not sure how long, as I might get distracted on the way." "No" means "maybe if you give me a better price", which means that if you say no, they think you want to bargain with them. It is cold in November, which is nice, if you plan for the weather, instead of reading about it in the guidebook on the plane coming there. The people are wonderful and friendly and full of smiles. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and cannot wait to return to bring my family to explore more.