This is part of an article published in linkedin by Lucas de Souza Martins | Intern, Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, City of Atlanta / Grad Assistant, AYS Career Services | May 22 2020. For full article please click here
ATLANTA – Female entrepreneurship plays an essential role in Atlanta’s economy. The city is ranked second in growth of the number of women-owned firms among the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas with a 49.3% increase over the past five years, according to the U.S Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. In an effort to celebrate women entrepreneurs and their contributions, the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of International Affairs (MOIA) hosted “Women + Trade,” on April 30th, a virtual panel highlighting women exporters based in Atlanta, their impact on the global economy, and how they are managing and dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. The Women + Trade virtual conversation was part of MOIA’s trade promotion initiative and was moderated by Cesar Vence, MOIA’s Deputy Director, who leads the initiative. In addition to the panel of exporters, Kimberly Reed, President & Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the first female leader of the bank in its history, provided remarks about credit insurance programs and initiatives implemented by the agency that support current and prospective exporters in their businesses. Representatives from the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Invest Atlanta, and Metro Atlanta Chamber, were also in attendance to highlight their resources to support small businesses and exporters during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In her opening remarks, Vanessa Ibarra, MOIA’s Director, focused on the importance of female entrepreneurship, especially during these uncertain times. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report – a study commissioned by American Express – women-owned businesses account for 39% of all U.S. firms, employ almost 9 million people, and generate over $1.7 trillion in revenues. While women’s entrepreneurship has been on the rise, as highlighted by Ibarra, less than 15% of firms that export are women-owned companies. In the first panel, Doll Avant (Founder & CEO, Aquagenuity), Amy Barbieri (President & Co-Founder, Vital4), Andal Balu (Founder, Cocoatown), and Annie Eaton (CEO, Futurus) shared their journey, best practices, and how they are navigating the COVID-19 crisis. The four women exporters mentioned the importance of resources such as webinars promoted by the EXIM Bank and the Metro Atlanta Chamber that provide information and resources to navigate the current crisis. Barbieri and Eaton emphasized the importance of having a business continuity plan because a crisis like the ongoing one is unpredictable. Regarding the difficulties of being a female exporter and an entrepreneur, the panelists reinforced mentorship as a powerful tool of support. Avant mentioned that – beyond her experience as a mentee – she has been mentoring new female leaders. “Open your mouth. Show your credentials. Don’t be modest,” the businesswoman stated. Aquagenuity is the world’s first app using artificial intelligence to help consumers, corporations, and cities protect health by answering the question: “What’s in Your Water?”. Ms. Balu, whose company manufactures, distributes and sells specialty machines for small-batch craft chocolate industry, emphasized the importance of promoting yourself as a way to grow and stay relevant in business.