Who is a PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS(r) mentor and what do they do? As a new employee at the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women in March 2013, that very question was heavy on my mind. Founder & CEO Terry Neese gave me a list of student names and businesses, wondering if I might find pairing mentors with students in like fields interesting. Hand picking a particular person willing to volunteer their time to help a woman entrepreneur from across the globe as they build their business plan and learn new tools for success is really an extension of staffing. The goal is to bring people together that compliment each other with both their similarities and their differences.
PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS(r) entrepreneurs own companies in industries as diverse as the women themselves. They are fashion designers, farmers, engineers, technology specialists, and pharmacists. In 2014, IEEW was proud to have the first Rwandan student owning an auto garage specializing in refinishing work. Even in the USA, there are not many women founders in the garage business. Finding the right person to mentor Chantal Munanyire, the owner of Quick & C Ltd in Kigali, Rwanda, was going to take a little bit more thought and research. Like all things, some of the most perplexing questions have answers that are right within your grasp. In this case, Terry Neese’s daughter, Kim Neese, has a best friend whose husband, Rodney Womack, runs J&R Equipment of Oklahoma City, specializing in heavy equipment and includes a custom fabrication center.
Vicki Womack readily took on the responsibility of hosting Chantal in their home that summer of 2014 while Rodney took Chantal to work each day for Leadership Development in-person mentorship. That week proved to be the beginning of a long relationship that has continued to this day, five years later. Chantal applied to be the IEEW facilitator in Rwanda and has been traveling to the USA with new students each year. And that also means that each week during mentorship, when Chantal comes to Oklahoma City for additional training, she is picked up by Vicki and treated like family in their home. During the 2019 holiday season, Chantal, three of her daughters, her husband Wycliffe, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews all met in Fort Worth, Texas to celebrate Christmas. Wycliffe is a United Nations Peacekeeper and rarely gets time to be at home in Kigali, let alone to travel and see other relatives.
The next thing we know, Vicki and Rodney Womack, and their daughters, are on their way to Dallas to meet up with Chantal and meet the rest of the family. A few days later, Chantal’s family is in Oklahoma City to see where Chantal ‘works’ (the IEEW USA headquarters) and to have dinner at Vicki and Rodney’s home once again. Vicki is already looking forward to Leadership Development 2021 where she will get to see her ‘Rwandan Sister’ once again. Relationships like the one forged between Chantal and Vicki are common at IEEW. It is always a pleasure to get a note from a past student or to find out a family member is passing through and wants to drop by with a gift or a kind word. PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS(r) is indeed a global family. We’re doing more than empowering women entrepreneurs, we’re forging a united nations of our own. To date, IEEW has educated over 800 women entrepreneurs creating jobs, building strong communities, and forming a chain of peace and goodwill that reaches from one side of the world to the other.
Written by: IEEW Director of Operations & Mentorship Coordinator, Karel Ford