The workshop for women entrepreneurs focused on:
- Structural challenges
- Decreasing consumer demand
- Financial constraints
- Digital and technical problems
Tasneem Siraj Mahboob, an associate professor of English, has also been running a small clothing shop called "Hooked" for around two years. Since the pandemic started, she moved to an online platform to boost her business.
She already had a page about her shop on Facebook, which notified her many times that she needed to complete a few more steps to complete the page. Such notifications did not stop her and she kept the page incomplete. However, recently she noticed that the reach of her page was not mentioned and many of her regular buyers were not seeing her posts, although she was frequently updating the page.
She got worried and wanted to know what could fix this problem. Then, one day, she came to know of a virtual workshop titled "E-Clinic for Women Entrepreneurs – Exist or Exit?" organised by the Edward M Kennedy Center (EMK Center) and decided to attend it. The workshop helped her to solve exactly the problem she was facing, along with many others.
The workshop was for women entrepreneurs focusing on: structural challenges, decreasing consumer demand, financial constraints, digital and technical problems, along with other issues that have put them at a critical juncture.
To assist the participants, three experts delivered lectures at the five-day virtual workshop that was held from 21 to 27 November, 2020.
Taswar Hossain, senior graphic designer at Asiatic Marketing Communications Digital Ltd, was the trainer for the segment called "Introduction to Canvas" on the first day. For the next two days, Tajul Islam, manager – digital marketing, Concord Group of Companies, led the segment named "Digital Marketing and Analytics for Business."
And on the last day, Suman Saha, director, YSI and YSI Bangla Ltd, was invited as a trainer to guide the segment on "Business Canvas Model Designing."
The E-Clinic is a unique initiative to provide women entrepreneurs with one on one counselling service to help them decide on critical business issues.
For example, Tasneem had little knowledge about costing before attending the workshop.
"I calculate my effort and my phone bills into costing now. The workshop has also helped me in many other ways. Most importantly I am saving more time than before by updating the automated question and answer section," said Tasneem.
Another woman entrepreneur, Annesha Chakma, owner of clothing shop "Saaba," also learned some new things at the workshop. Like most of the other participants, she, too, was facing the problem of not reaching enough customers.
"Now, I know that adding a short video with a post can help me to reach a larger audience. A 1:1 size picture gets more attention from the audience and I can pay for boosting posts by using an EBL Aqua card," said Annesha.
The EMK Center arranged this workshop to help solve the problems small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been facing. The partners of the E-Clinic are BDOSN, Chakri Khujbo Na Chakri Debo and Shahoshika.
Asif Uddin Ahmed, assistant professor at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh and acting director at EMK Center, said, "Diversity is who is in the room, equity is who is waiting to join the room, and inclusivity is who can hear."
"Sustaining diversity and inclusion while dealing with the obvious business fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will not be easy, but it is possible," he added.
However, a few participants shared that the workshop could have been more helpful had EMK planned more strategically.
One participant said, "I could not get a grip of the very first class as I have some technological limitations and I believe many participants like me went through the same problem."
She further said, "The trainer could have allotted more time for the first segment as that topic was important and had enough potential to use in numerous ways."
Nonetheless, participants were satisfied with the overall output. Now, they are demanding that the centre arrange such workshops on a daily basis so that other SMEs can also benefit from this platform.
Participants have also suggested organising its next series of workshops on F-Commerce, which stands for Facebook Commerce, marketing.
Sharmin Akter Shakila, entrepreneurship coordinator of EMK Center, said "Since its establishment, the EMK Center has provided 101 small grants to young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Our core focus is to ensure inclusivity and diversity through our grantees. This pandemic has widened opportunities for F-Commerce."
"With E-Clinic, we are trying to boost the capacity of the female entrepreneurs of Sahoshika who are working day and night to build their brand identity despite all the obstacles," she added.