30+ NAWBO Women Travel to the La Ville-Lumière (City of Lights) For an Event Hosted By Partner FCEM
Delegations of NAWBO women business owners have taken part in a variety of international opportunities over the years. These are chances to see other countries and the challenges and opportunities their women business owners face, and find commonalities for supporting and collaborating with one another.
A record number of took part in NAWBO’s most recent international delegation to Paris, France to attend our partner organization FCEM’s World Congress with the theme of “Smart and Inspiring: Women in Business.” While there, NAWBO delegates also met with representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Paris—including Deputy Senior Commercial Officer Rafael A. Patiño and Economic Officer Raphaël Sambou—to discuss international small business opportunities and resources available to our members.
Below, three of NAWBO’s international delegates share about this incredible experience and why they’d do it again:
Bevan Evans, president of Evans Industries, Inc.:
I am so glad that I chose to attend FCEM-Paris as part of the NAWBO delegation. This was my first trip to Paris and despite the rain, I had a great time exploring the city and attending the conference. It was my first time as part of a delegation to an international event.
I wanted to be part of the NAWBO delegation because I wanted the opportunity to be part of the larger picture; part of a global organization. I wanted to better understand topics of interest to women business owners on a global level. It was meaningful to me to hear the speakers and to realize that the issues we struggle with as women business owners are felt by women all over the world. And in today’s world and global economy, the more that we understand that our issues in our own countries are the same issues elsewhere and that if we work together as women business owners in our own countries to level the playing field, the more all women business owners across the world will benefit.
For me, as a side note, one of my customers was exhibiting at a tradeshow in Paris on the day before the FCEM conference. So, Janet Kendall White (a NAWBO Cleveland member as well) and I went to the trade show and met with my customer. That afternoon, NAWBO HQ’s Becky Ragan had arranged for our delegation to meet with representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Paris regarding international trade. After the presentation, I met with Rafael Patiño. I told him we had been at the trade show that morning and he asked if we had stopped by their booth! We hadn’t, but he gave me his contact information and told me to follow up with him. I did, and to make a long story short, we now have an international trade specialist from the U.S. Commercial Service coming to our facility to work with us on finding new international customers.
Another highlight for me is the connections I made with other members of the NAWBO delegation. For me, there really isn’t a better way to get to know someone than to spend time with them. I met a lot of NAWBO members I’d never met before and I got to know some women that I already knew even better. And we had a great time and made new memories doing it. What’s better than that?
Diesha Cooper, founder and fractional exec of Execuly:
Traveling to Paris for the FCEM conference was my first time to be part of a NAWBO delegation. I hoped to connect with other women and learn more about global economics and environmentally responsible industries. I was not disappointed! One of my biggest highlights was sitting around small tables in a café and talking for hours with several other women from the delegation. I came away from this trip full of joy and optimism. I hope to join a delegation again in the future and would highly recommend it to others as well.
Samara Hakim, JD, president and founder of CulturGrit:
I am always seeking opportunities to see how the world of business is doing across the globe, to hear stories of other leaders and business owners as they navigate an interconnected, digitalized, complex business environment. I also felt that it was important to have a presence from the United States.
The U.S. used to be in the top 4 countries of the ease of doing business index, and I wanted to learn what other countries and economies are doing, especially those that have moved up the index in recent years. As a women’s association that does advocacy and can influence laws and regulations, we need to learn new perspectives and we have a responsibility to make the business environment the best it can be for everyone.
Personally, being in the presence of women who had carved their paths in their own way, in the face of adversity, from different identities was inspiring and motivating. As a business owner, I connected with others who could be possible collaborators, and some have already reshared my posts on their own platforms and provided reactions to the work posts I have put out there.
Growing a network is very important for my business, and especially a diverse network. I learned so much from the stories I heard, from the amazing thought leaders who presented and from observing the cross-cultural interactions. Being able to practice cultural intelligence is essential for any business owner to grow their business, and it is especially important for the work I do in Cultural Intelligence, Communication and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). It was also very refreshing to hear the opportunities available to us through the government/embassy channels.
Definitely, my top highlight was being among women who provided support and shared openly about their challenges and their triumphs. I got to know NAWBO National’s leaders and felt valued for my strengths and ideas. It also helped that we ate amazing food, got to dance together, got to experience great products by the small business owners who were exhibiting and got to hear about innovations in AI, toward Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and other issues that concern all of us.
I would recommend this to anyone, and I hope to go to the next one because doing a Zoom gathering, a virtual conference in your own state, country or even an international one, cannot give you the intercultural perspectives that you get from talking face to face with people from all walks of life. We were practicing the business language, nonverbal behavioral cues, figuring out how to share about ourselves and our products/services and seeing how they are being received by people who are different than us.
Being thrown into an environment that implicitly communicated how we are all interested in the same goal helped us to bypass the guess on each other’s intentions. We were all there to learn, grow our businesses and make an impact while doing that. Consequently, we can go straight to thinking about how to do this with others and how to clarify and improve our offerings/pitches. With an international gathering, we can see new possibilities that we had not realized about the problems we can solve with our business. The only way to know oneself is to be exposed to the others, and whether a business owner realizes it or not, they are competing on a global level these days.
Finally, this trip was the most sense of community I have felt through NAWBO, outside of my chapter level. It was really nice to see the NAWBO leaders be approachable and so committed to bringing the best to the members.
Join Our Next NAWBO International Delegation to Madrid
We’re headed to the Global Summit of Women, May 9-11 in Madrid, Spain, and NAWBO members can receive a discount code for registration. Contact Becky Ragan at [email protected] if you are interested in learning more.