Mexico Days 4-5
The week concluded on March 8 at Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus, Mexico City, for a Mentoring Walk organized by Vital Voices network leader Luz María de la Mora. More than 100 local businesswomen and professionals were paired with mentors drawn from the community and from Global Ambassadors Program participants for a morning of sharing insight, skills and connections.
Mexico City was just one of 45 cities participating in Vital Voices’ Global Mentoring Walk on International Women’s Day, sponsored by Bank of America.
The Mentoring Walk was the perfect ending to an intense week of business and communications training, strategic planning, one-on-one and group mentoring, excursions to an employment readiness and microfinance center managed by mentee Yemy Zonana, and receptions hosted at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence and at the Frida Kahlo museum.
Read highlights below from our sessions on Friday — open discussions on specific business challenges presented by each pair:
Rosa María Barreira and Laura Patiño Mejia
As general manager of Picados, a family-owned fruit and vegetable processing business, Laura Patiño Mejia wears many hats — CEO, equipment mechanic, conflict resolution expert. Competing priorities have resulted in production disruptions, which hurts the bottom line. Her mentor Rosa María helped Laura prioritize setting up an advisory board, focusing the production line and expanding her customer base — all while preparing for a new facility upgrade.
Guadalupe (Lupita) Casteñada and María Claudia Vargas Solano
María Claudia’s challenges in running a gluten-free products business with her family are export opportunities — food safety certification requirements are time-consuming; and marketing — it will take creativity to convey the full range of health benefits of her products beyond those that cater only to the gluten-intolerance crowd. Her mentor Lupita suggested a range of strategies to focus on planning and goals, and also offered to introduce María Claudia to other brother-sister business owners for best practices and to look for changes she may need to make at home.
Gema Moreno and Grace Foster-Reid
There was lively debate around Grace Foster-Reid’s honey business. Her whip-cracking mentor and Deloitte Mexico partner Gema Moreno admitted when she learned of her mentee match, “I was worried when I saw her business plan. I don’t know anything about honey.” After just a few days together the whole group felt like honey production experts. “Guys – I lost my job this week,” Grace said in her opening remarks. “I am no longer chief beekeeper.” Instead, through the mentorship she called “Gema 101,” Grace came to the conclusion that it was time to delegate tasks and resolve conflict quickly in order to focus on business growth. “My new role will be visionary, strategist, innovator and business development director.”
Yemy Zonana and K. Shelly Porges
The way Global Ambassador Shelly Porges sees it, her mentee Yemy Zonana is a world-class fundraiser responsible for successfully managing ProEmpleo, an employment readiness and microenterprise center, for almost two decades. Change management in the Mexico City office, creating a new network office and legacy planning are Yemy´s challenges — in addition to achieving more work-life balance. She also needs to make the board members more involved in fundraising and diversify funding streams.
Julie Harris and Margarita Robles-Martinez
Julie Harris prescribed a 360-degree review of financial and human resources management for Margarita’s boutique marketing and communications firm catering to the tourism industry in Mexico. “Don’t try to become an expert on finance,” cautions Julie, managing director and CFO, Global Commercial Banking for Bank of America. “Just know the questions to ask — and when you get your monthly financials — keep asking questions.”
María Fernanda Villamarin and Yanina Faour
“Miracles have come to Oleana,” says fourth-generation jeweler Yanina Faour. “But I need to put things in order.” With sales declining and a complicated currency climate in Argentina, her mentor Maria Villamarin agreed — it was time to find a business operations partner that would allow her to concentrate on design and production. Robust group feedback included working with Chambers of Commerce and expat publications, and conducting country assessments for expanding into regional markets.
Denise Abulafia and Sandra Slavkis
Denise Abulafia’s online education platform has the potential to transform academic excellence in Latin America and the Caribbean region. It’s an opportunity where her mentor Sandra sees enormous potential, if her 24/7 tutoring and social games plan takes off. The challenge, noted other mentees, is in convincing markets of the need, and designing a sustainable subscription model.
Xiomara Diaz Hopkins and Karen Fang
Nicaraguan restauranteur Xiomara owns The Garden Café with her husband in the Spanish colonial city of Granada. She and her mentor Karen Fang from Bank of America Merrill Lynch presented a detailed plan to brings costs down, increase profit margins and delegate some tasks to free her up to concentrate in other areas. On the human resources front — that means investing in staff development and merit based compensation. On the marketing and branding front — that means communicating the social benefit side of the business and diversifying revenue streams — from tiered menu packages to trying out organic espresso tasting, to entertainment and walking tours, and more.
Celia Duron and Joyce Ventura
“You can never grow if you don’t have a partner.” This was strong advice from Colombian filmmaker Joyce Ventura to her mentee, Celia Duron, owner of a recycled paper and crafts company in Honduras. She is spread too thin across sales and production — “I don’t have time,” Celia says when asked how she will develop her business. Everyone in the room had suggestions for dealing with time management, delegation and expansion, from hiring interns to selling on Etsy to focusing on lucrative corporate and bridal markets.
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