WIIN Programme: Empowering women, changing lives and building businesses

─ Beneficiaries share their success stories

As the job market evolves, more women are considering entrepreneurship as a viable career path. And, the government continues to deliver on its mandate to empower them through the implementation of programmes specifically designed to provide opportunities for growth and development.

Recently, 1,400 women across the 10 administrative regions, successfully completed certification courses facilitated by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s Women’s Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) programme.

Of these women, 650 have gained employment while another 350 have started their own businesses.

Three established business owners shared their journey with the Department of Public Information (DPI).

Mother of two and a former insurance agent, Omiana Kellman’s desire to start Omrayan Pillow Enterprise stemmed from her discovering a missing niche market. 

Omiana Kellman, Owner of Omrayan Pillow Enterprise

“I started this business because one day I was looking for a pillow, and there were no shops or supermarkets at that time, and in order for me to get one, I had to go all the way to Georgetown, and you know with the traffic and everything, it was very hectic. So, the idea came,” she recounted.

Omiana expressed that as a first-time business owner, she experienced difficulties with managing her time and finances.

Omrayan Pillow Enterprise Products

“At first…it was a challenge. Everything was a challenge, one of my biggest challenges was time management, because owning a business, you have to complete the task at a certain time so that your orders can be completed. So, I had to work a lot on that.”

With help from the WIIN programme, she applied prudent business principles and learnt to overcome these challenges.

“During the WIIN programme they taught me how to manage my time properly by creating a plan and then working on a step from that to accomplish making your product, to get it on time to customers.”, she recalled.

Omiana was awarded cash grants from the Small Business Bureau (SBB) and the WIIN programme to offset the cost of inventory.

 “When I started off my business first, I got funding from the small business bureau, through the ministry and they gave me my first start. I purchased a machine and raw materials. And with the WIIN program, I was given another opportunity to get financial assistance and I also purchased some raw materials.”

She reflected on how much she has accomplished and encouraged budding entrepreneurs to take the opportunities being offered by government to help start or improve their businesses.

 “I would like to encourage anyone that wants to improve their business and even want to start their business to join the WIIN programme, it is very good and it has helped me. And now I am able to provide, not just for myself, but for my family and also encourage my girls to be independent and to own their own business.”

The programme aims to empower women and promote gender equality in employment.

Stay-at-home mom, Lisa Francis’ motivation to start her business came from a desire to do more for her family. She took advantage of the unlimited resources available online and decided to fill a gap in the market.

Lisa Francis, Owner of LAA Flair Creations

 “I decided to look at videos and decided you know what? I want to start making bags, and I see it as going far. I see myself as going far in the bag business. I know that in Guyana we don’t have like a major bag company that does production, so I decided that you know what, I can start this and get some kind of brand, a Guyanese brand,” she related.

While Lisa is confident that her business will grow exponentially in the coming years, she admitted there were hurdles she first had to cross.

Bag by LAA Flair Creations

“I had a domestic machine and those machines are basically just to sew fabric materials, which would be clothes, and I had a very hard time using those on the faux leather to make the bags.”

Bag by LAA Flair Creations

The initiative provided her with the necessary tools to establish her business, including how to create a business plan, how to register her business, and how to secure cash grants and start-up loans.

The comprehensive programme also provides training to women in both the manufacturing and service industries.

Similarly, Marcia Trotz recognised a need in the local market for spas and is working towards closing the gap.

(Left) Makayla Bovell, (Right) Marcia Trotz – Manager of Modfin’s Salon and Spa

“I went to Trinidad and I explored and realised that spas are outnumbering salons in Trinidad. So, I was like, wow, spa would be very good in Guyana,” she recounted.  

After her return to Guyana in 2018, Trotz experienced a few challenges when transitioning from Modfin’s Salon to Modfin’s Salon and Spa.

Massage service at Modfin’s Salon and Spa

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she started losing clients. Nevertheless, sheer perseverance and determination helped her overcome this stumbling block.

“I said, you know what, I have to catch the clients that home, home-based, so I started doing home services like a home service.”, she recollected.

Manicure service at Modfin’s Salon and Spa

Marcia expressed gratitude for being part of the WIIN programme and added that the support she received played an integral part in the successful reestablishment of her business.

“I was very pleased to be a part of the WINN programme, helping young women especially, and that was good, the course was very good,” she said.

‘They teach women what to do in your business, how to prepare a business plan, how to actually start growing back. Like I said, after the pandemic, I actually needed that,” Marcia recollected.

These women are just a few examples of the many success stories emerging from the WIIN programme.

The impact of the programme extends beyond the success of their established businesses. They have become role models to their children, and women in their respective communities and continue to break barriers for women across the nation.

The Women Innovation and Investment Network was launched by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security under the theme “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs, Empowered Today.”

Since the programme’s 2021 introduction, it has seen a large increase in participation, recording over 10,000 applications in the past year.

For more information on how to access these courses, visit the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s Facebook page, or call 229-2751 or 229-2842.