Paris – Takeaways

Katharina Paoli and Yvonne Ike

“It is so rewarding and valuable to have someone with a different perspective to bounce ideas off,” said Katharina, founder of Nudgd, a Swedish social enterprise using behavioral psychology to create measurable impact and engagement in sustainability programs. “Yvonne has a way of being brutally honest, which I love.” Overextended, Katharina realized she was doing the jobs of four people. She came to Paris looking for clarity and ways to strengthen her business, whose core activities tackle the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Hiring more staff is just one of her – yes – 43 goals coming out of the week. That will help boost sales, client relations and marketing. “Africa and the entire world are becoming increasingly interconnected,” said her mentor Yvonne, whose role in banking covers much of the continent. Working with Katharina opened her eyes to a new view of how climate change and Africa are inextricably linked. For Yvonne, “Katharina has opened my mind. She is incredibly ambitious – she wants to change the entire world.”

Erëza Vela and Andrea Sullivan

“This week I found my role model,” said Erëza, founder of digital marketing and public relations agency RedMill, in Kosovo. She left behind a thriving business, a side-gig television news program, and a 10-month-old baby at home – all to spend a week as a GAP mentee on business management and strategic planning with Andrea, a London-based executive from Bank of America. “It was intimidating at first with all these talented mentees and mentors,” admitted Andrea, who knew the program well but not yet from a Global Ambassador’s perspective. The intense mentorship model was an eye-opener – one-on-one coaching, group trainings and workshops to build business and leadership skills. “The week was a reminder that this generation (Erëza’s) has so much to offer. They see things differently,” said Andrea. They spent time on focus and prioritization, and harnessing Erëza’s incredible creativity and energy to set manageable goals for the coming year. “We’re going to develop a new marketing strategy by the end of April,” said Erëza. “And then we’ll sign three new clients from outside of Kosovo by the end of the 2020.” Watch this space!

Karine Jackson and Idil Türkmenoğlu

“I can’t wait to get back to get back to work!” was the surprising declaration from mentee Karine Jackson on the last day of GAP – we were in Paris, after all. It should have been expected, however – placing a high-energy, award-winning Australian-British hair and beauty salon owner with a Turkish workplace talent and culture expert resulted in a collaboration that got right down to business. Karine and Idil focused on three key areas for implementation back at the salon. First – a new pricing plan and incentivization scheme for her hardworking staff was devised. Second, Karine will continue reorienting the business as a sustainable salon – one that aspires to go completely plastic-free, organic and vegan, all while working toward social sustainability, prioritizing diversity, inclusion and women’s empowerment. A third breakthrough idea they worked on is the potential for setting up a consultancy and training arm, to raise new visibility and partnership opportunities, leveraging Karine’s industry-wide thought leadership and successful track record. “This has been a wonderful week, and I have learned a lot, too,” said Idil. “I am looking forward to reunions and seeing how all of us will change positively.”

Silvia de Vaan and Jeannie Diefenderfer

“I’ve been trying to build the business on part-time basis,” said Silvia, founder and CEO of SweepSmart, a waste management solutions social enterprise based in the Netherlands to serve developing and emerging economies. “It’s been a challenge to close deals, with an elongated timeline causing uncertainty. This week has been great to really believe in the business again and to feel confident that I can take it to the next level.” Working with her mentor Jeannie, the two engineers used the week to focus on growth. The immediate action plan is to research customer segments, complete a strategic planning process with key members of the team, roll in branding and communications, and then assess where things are when Silvia returns from maternity leave. “We have already scheduled four meetings with specific milestones because we have a deadline called ‘arrival of new baby’ to meet,” said Jeannie. “We’re excited to keep working together.”

Jacqueline NGO MPII and Nina Easton

Born in Cameroon and raised in Paris, Jacqueline is a cultural entrepreneur extraordinaire. She created a business called Little Africa, a cultural agency that helps individuals, nonprofits, and companies connect with the best of African culture in Paris through publishing, merchandise, arts and travel. “It’s been five years since I launched this concept of Little Africa,” explained Jacqueline, for whom GAP’s financial management and communications trainings came at just the right time. “I wanted to learn more about the financial world to prepare myself for future fundraising goals and to reach my full potential.” Time is of the essence, as President Macron announced 2020 as the Season of African Cultures in France, an opportunity to showcase Little Africa on a larger scale. “We will be raising her personal profile as a leader via consulting,” said Nina, the journalist powerhouse matched to Jacqueline to provide guidance and mentorship for the week. “We’ll also work on building a pipeline to new partners and expanding content and publishing for new tours, and finding new ways to monetize Little Africa.”

Christina Limbird and Agnieszka Slomka-Golebiowska

Officially, Christina is co-founder of Linden Global Learning Support in Germany, the only international agency connecting English speaking families abroad to special educational services. Her other titles are psychologist, education innovator, girl power creator, and mom. It’s a full plate, and Christina came prepared to work with mentor Agnieszka, a board member and corporate governance activist from Poland. “My goal was to create structure for the future of my company, with a focus on financial planning,” said Christina. “Not to come away overwhelmed, but solid and ready to implement an action plan.” At first, Agnieszka wasn’t sure how to help. “I was a little nervous at the Global Ambassadors introduction meeting,” said Agnieszka, on wondering how she could contribute to Christina’s enterprise. “Then I realized I have a skill – reading stories from the numbers.” So they rolled up their sleeves and analyzed everything. Together they set clear goals for business development, mapping client-related processes, IT solutions and digitalization opportunities. And Christina’s girl power passion project, an NGO called Girls Gearing Up? Thanks to all of the expertise in the room, she’s got a whole new fundraising strategy ready to go.

Norah Casey and Aida Axelsson-Bakri

“We all have a right to live in a safe and sustainable world,” said Aida, on the driving force behind ADS Insight, a consultancy she started in 2001 to bridge gaps between business, civil society and the European Union. “My job is to mediate, influence and advocate for stakeholders within the EU regulatory environment.” Lucky for Aida, she was paired with GAP alumna Norah Casey, Irish publishing icon and women’s empowerment force of nature. “I don’t think I’ve mentored anyone who will do more good for the world than Aida,” said Norah. But first, financial management is key. “I need to own my numbers and spend more time on the accounts,” said Aida. “I also need to separate the ‘social’ from the ‘entrepreneurship’ – and focus on the business. Norah made me understand that I can’t be everywhere all the time, doing everything at once. I’m going to have to split things into smaller pieces.” Norah has full confidence in Aida’s abilities to manage it all and contribute to a more level playing field for a stakeholder group close to her heart – women ‘agri-preneurs’ in Africa. “Aida will sort the business first and then be unleashed into the world.”

Andrea Bury and Val Quinn

One look at the ABURY Collection website, a portfolio of beautifully designed fair trade artisan-made bags, shoes and accessories, and you’ll not want to stop browsing. The products are gorgeous, and a percentage of sales goes right back into local communities’ educational programs. So why was Andrea Bury, ABURY’s founder and CEO, one of our GAP Paris mentees? “I have many different businesses and it was hard for me to describe to people what I actually do,” said Andrea, who took full advantage of the public speaking and storytelling trainings. “It was a really big step for me in this week.” She was paired with Coca-Cola executive Val Quinn, and together they are set up a framework for developing a business plan to expand ABURY’s market and create one master brand to house all of the different ABURY lines. “Andrea is extremely creative and full of energy,” said Val. “One of the challenges she faced was harnessing that energy and learning to focus.” Having started the business with few tools or formal structures in place, working with Val was invaluable. “We’re super complementary,” said Andrea. “I’m so happy we’ve been together this week.”

Deniz Alexandra Duygu and Elizabeth Buchanan

A bittersweet fact of entrepreneurial life is figuring out how to step away with confidence, knowing that the right people and systems are in place to carry the work forward. Deniz came to Paris to work with Elizabeth on succession planning for Arya, a platform she co-founded for funding women entrepreneurs in Turkey. “We got clarity on what the opportunity for change is for the organization,” said Deniz. “It was a really effective collaboration – our mindsets were so similar.” It helps when your mentor brings a wealth of experience to the table, from the early days of Yahoo to a string of global start-ups in the digital marketing space. “My role working with Deniz this week has been more of a mirror, to be a support and a guide,” said Elizabeth. They wrapped up with a timetable for key hires and a handover plan to bring peace of mind as Deniz moves to a new venture on the horizon. “As a social entrepreneur, I have found my mission is to create systems that use business for good and to show that profits and impact are not mutually exclusive,” said Deniz. “Real sustainability comes from creating replicable mechanisms that create profits so that you can re-invest it into things that align with your values and with the change you want to see in the world.”

Jean Hwang Carrant and Saba Nazar

“I knew how to make really good cookies but nothing about finances.” That summed up how Jean was feeling on day one of GAP in Paris. So when the cookie entrepreneur was matched with one of Bank of America’s most senior global investment banking executives, we knew Saba’s “tough love” approach would help steer the business in the right direction and on a path to sustainability. “On day two we really started to think about a to-do list,” said Saba. “It was about getting the finances right and finding her voice and brand.” To start, there may be a name change for the cookie shop more in sync with her book title, Cookie Love. “I’m on a timeline,” said Jean. “I have a direction, I know what I need to do, and I’m going to go do it.” Mission accomplished, it seems, and for Saba as well. “My goal for the week was to help Jean, give back to all of the women here at GAP, and make connections. It has been a really humbling experience for me.”

Mairead Mackle and Julie Kinch

“This week gave me time to take time out and focus on my business,” said Mairead, owner of a suite of enterprises across Ireland, ranging from in-home care services to renewables and construction. Paired with ex-Heineken executive Julie Kinch for the week, Mairead was able to focus on one particular business, FABRACO. It’s a portable space solution concept with potential to upend the homelessness epidemic in Ireland, UK and beyond. The possibilities are endless. “It’s about creating communities and a new way of life,” said Mairead. Together with Julie theirs was a real exercise in strategic planning, culture change and prioritization. “Mairead has tremendous energy and passion and sees opportunities everywhere to grow her business,” noted Julie. “It was exciting and rewarding for me to be able to work with Mairead to pull back and look at things strategically.” Everything clicked, which led to a commitment from Julie to travel to Ireland and continue working with Mairead. Plus, they’ll get to connect on another shared passion – mentoring younger women and girls, which Mairead has been doing through her NGO, Evolve.

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Photography: David Hume Kennerly