Though they are mindful not to strike an ultra-feminist posture, both Judy Semple-Joseph and Michelle Johnson are unpretentious about the role which the Venture Out! programme has been playing in helping to balance a business climate that continues to favour men.
Semple-Joseph is the Managing Director of EMPRETEC, the organisation that invented Venture Out and Johnson is the Marketing and Communi-cations Manager of Republic Bank, the local commercial bank that has embraced Venture Out! for the past three years.
The bank’s backing for Venture Out!, Johnson says, is an expression of confidence in the capacity of women to match their male counterparts in fashioning and sustaining viable entrepreneurial pursuits. More than that, the Republic Bank/EMPRETEC relationship is a flagship partnership that makes a statement about the bank’s commitment to small business development at a time when the commercial banking sector is being cited for a posture of indifference to the needs of the sector.
This year, for the fourth successive year, Republic Bank is throwing its weight behind the Venture Out! programme, a decision that is based on the bank’s satisfaction with the outcomes of previous years. The bank, a recent media release says, is backing EMPRETEC and Venture Out! “in consideration of small businesses’” desire for improved access to financing.
Semple-Joseph’s perspective on EMPRETEC and its role, focuses on its significance as a social and economic programme for women who operate businesses on a small scale. The main aim of the initiative, she says, is to impart knowledge and skills that would enhance the quality of their lives.
This year, Republic Bank will finance a loan competition that offers three loan prizes totalling $1 million. To qualify for the prizes, graduates of the Venture Out! programme will have to submit business proposals detailing the requirements of the funding.
It is a carefully conceived competition that takes particular account of the importance of participants earning their loan prizes of $400,000, $300,000 and $300,000, respectively. EMPRETEC will be responsible for the promotion of the competition and will support entrants by offering guidance to the competitors and the proposals will be reviewed by the bank before the best three are rewarded.
Semple-Joseph says that this year’s Venture Out! programme will seek to build on EMPRETEC’s experience of the past three years. The loan competition apart, the 2013 programme will focus on a “business essentials” workshop that deals with motivation and confidence-building, fundamentals of business management and preparation to access finance. This year’s Venture Out! programme also includes a “business linkage component” with a select group of companies that will provide additional business opportunities for ten participants that will focus on access to markets. Up until now more than 400 women have benefited from Venture Out’s orientation programme which, apart from conveying skills associated with creating and growing a business, imparts important lessons about self-awareness. By the conclusion of the 2013 programme it is expected that more than 500 women would have been part of the Venture Out! experience.
Semple-Joseph says the partnership that has sustained Venture Out also seeks to teach women to respond to unmet needs. This year, the focus of the programme will be on groups of women in Regions Three Four, Six, Nine and Ten.