A & B Female Entrepreneurs Carve Out a Path to Success in the International Arena

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Women-owned businesses continue to drive economic growth as many female entrepreneurs start their businesses out of necessity and channel grit and creativity to turn their passions into profits. As part of their focus on Women’s History Month, SamuelFields Consulting Group, a Community e-Learning Partner and business consultancy specializing in financial wellness, spoke to three innovative “fempreneurs” of Antiguan and Barbudan descent, who are making waves on the international scene. The discussion on the digital show Likkle Byte Ideas centered on the challenges that women face in running their businesses, but also identified some competitive advantages that Antiguan and Barbudan women bring to entrepreneurship.

The panelists were:

Keisha Schahaff serial-entrepreneur, transformative wellness coach and Antigua and Barbuda’s first astronaut who made the historic journey to space with her daughter.

Chantal Carter veteran wardrobe stylist, image consultant, and magazine style director. She is the owner of “Love and Nudes” a diverse skin tone undergarments line that celebrates diversity. She was a contestant in the international TV Show “Dragon’s Den.”

Dr. Laurie Samuel award winning criminologist, founder of “Cupid’s Sting”, a women’s safety non-profit. She is an expert in police misconduct and interpersonal violence.

Despite immense publicity and success, these women cited several personal challenges and systemic barriers that women face in their pursuit of entrepreneurship. Lack of start-up funding stood out as one of the biggest hurdles inhibiting women from chasing their dreams.

Chantal Carter shared her experience, having had the opportunity to pitch her business “Love and Nudes” on the television show “Dragon’s Den.” Although she landed a deal, the funding she received was insufficient to sustain the growth of her business. “I assumed that exposure from the show would cause the cash register to explode. You are led to believe if you follow the formula that the red carpet will be rolled out at your feet. I sucked at finance and some of the challenges I had in my personal life, carried into my business life. Getting funding to keep the business going has been tough and I must continuously seek venture capital to ensure the expansion of my business,” she said.

Dr. Laurie Samuel faced similar challenges in securing grant funding for her self-defense training programs and she describes how hard she has to work to continuously prove herself, in a male dominated field. “I try to empower women to think big. When I hear no, I know that I’m on the right track. It’s usually because they didn’t think about the idea first, or they don’t fully understand my programs. Plus, if everyone is competing for a $10,000 grant, I have to take a different path to be successful. We must get creative and not limit ourselves. I began training female truck drivers in personal safety. It is dangerous work in an industry that I had not previously considered,” she said.

Another gender bias that was cited is that women often lack the confidence to start a business, in contrast to their male counterparts. While confidence is not necessarily a predictor of business success, it is a big indicator of having the tenacity to become an entrepreneur. The panelists surmised that men tend to have more hubris, encouraging them to start a business, while women have more humility, which discourages them from starting a business.

Prior to her historic voyage to space, Keisha Schahaff started several businesses including a restaurant and clothing line. As a student of business, she had theoretical knowledge, but lacked practical experience in how to go about running a business. She also discovered that she was allowing her fears to hold her back. “I had to do a lot of work on myself and shift my mindset to address a lot of the traumas that were blocking my path. I had to accept that famous quote from Henry Forde that airplanes take off against the wind. For me, having a business highlighted what I didn’t know but needed to learn. As women, we often believe that asking for help means that we are a failure. Collaboration is the number one suggestion that I would give to women about running a business, “Keisha said.

Another gender difference that was highlighted is that most female entrepreneurs tend to value intrinsic factors like autonomy and making a difference, and often have a desire to give back to society, as opposed to just making money. Female entrepreneurs are more apt to collaborate with others and are open to developing networks of minds, talent, and time, to ensure success.

Having had significant success with her line of undergarments, Chantal Carter started looking at the cancer mortality rates among women of color. She is currently developing a line of breast cancer screening bras to help women with early detection. “I see my business as more than just a bra line, but as a vessel of empowerment and self-love for women.” Chantal said.

In discussing some of the competitive advantages that women have, panelists surmised that when female entrepreneurs present a  business opportunity, the bar is often set higher, and the idea or proposal must be superior to the average business plan to get funding. As a result, female businesses are more likely to succeed because of the rigorous approval process that women often must go through. Moreover, since female entrepreneurs generally raise less money than their male counterparts, they tend to focus more on unit economics and efficiency, leading many women to become better financial stewards and business managers than men.

Panelists were asked about any aspects of their Antiguan and Barbudan heritage and culture that gives them a competitive advantage as a female entrepreneur.

They all agreed that the Antiguan and Barbuda culture fosters a strong work ethic and treats failure as a learning experience. The country’s environment is also lauded for offering many key resources that enhance wellness.

“Our beaches, fresh air, sunlight and a variety of natural herbs provide a healing and nurturing environment. There is also a gentleness and laid-back charm that our people offer that creates a forgiving and supportive environment when we make mistakes,” said Keisha Schahaff, who also serves as a brand ambassador for the destination.

Dr. Laurie Samuel describes Antigua as “small but mighty.” She credits the determination of her ancestors from both islands, for her drive and purpose. “When I think of my paternal grandfather and what he was able to accomplish, with a little more education he would have been President of the world. That’s my legacy. I want to make my mark and be a part of that history as well. To me Antigua and Barbuda says excellence and I am a proud descendant doing this great work in the world.”

To listen to the interview click on: https://www.youtube.com/live/GcFtQ6435sE?si=HdtQDFQ3XlEtYmuP

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