The first Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) hosted a graduation ceremony on Thursday, 9 June at the VIP Hall located at Rizqun International Hotel, for candidate who have successfully completed the AWE program and to announce the top three women owned businesses that will each receive USD3,000 in seed funding. This event also marks the end of the six-month training program funded by the Embassy of the United States of America in Brunei Darussalam and facilitated by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe).
In attendance were the Minister at The Prime Minister’s Office, Minister of Finance and Economy II and Chairman of DARe, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah; The U.S Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Her Excellency Caryn McClelland; Acting CEO of Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), Mr Daniel Leong.
In her welcoming remarks, Ambassador McClelland said, “The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, also known as AWE, was established by the U.S. State Department and currently operates in eighty countries worldwide. It is designed to empower women to fulfill their economic potential and, in doing so, create conditions for increased stability, security and prosperity for all. The program gives enterprising women the knowledge, network and access they need to launch and grow successful businesses.”
Acting CEO of DARe, Daniel Leong also shared a few words and expressed, “the AWE has served to be a great opportunity for our women entrepreneurs in taking the first steps of their entrepreneurial journey.” He added on to say that, “Upon completion of the AWE program, our women entrepreneurs can continue to tap into DARe’s range of MSME development support that offers access to business information, training, financing, space, markets and promotion to take their business to the next level. We at DARe will continuously work with stakeholders such as the US embassy to customize the delivery of our MSME development program to aspiring entrepreneurs including those from the respective target groups such as women, youths and others in our efforts to diversify Brunei Darussalam’s economy.”
To determine the top three businesses, a total of twelve businesses pitched to a panel of judges who comprised of DARe Board Member, Nik Hafimi Abdul Hadii; U.S. Embassy Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Mr Jeff Barrus; Founder of Kunyit 7 Lodge, Dk Kemariah Pengiran Haji Duraman; Manager at DARe’s Business Development and Support, Ilie Dato Haji Abd Rahman; and Financing Specialist at DARe’s Enterprise Program, Jason Tse Tow. The pitching session was held at the Main Auditorium of the Design & Technology Building on Friday, 20 May 2022.
The top three businesses that were awarded USD3,000 in funding were:
• Lane Microbakery & Coffee – A unique food & beverage (F&B) company specializing in French pastries & bread.
• My Darling Baby – A children-focused company specializing in selling educational Montessori play tools.
• Thea Seera Enterprise – Develops sustainable ready-to-wear fashion
The AWE is a worldwide initiative of the U.S. Department of State. “This program is a perfect fit for our Embassy because it combines two of our key goals: empowering women and assisting Brunei in its economic diversification efforts through entrepreneurism,” said Ambassador McClelland.
AWE was launched in Brunei in October 2021 on the weekend before Brunei Darussalam chaired the ASEAN Summit in support of several of ASEAN’s socio-economic goals. The fully sponsored programme kicked off with 30 participants selected from a pool of 186 applicants. Participants must complete 13 business modules through an online training platform called DreamBuilder.
DreamBuilder was designed by Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and mining company Freeport-McMoRan to guide aspiring entrepreneurs step-by-step in starting and growing their businesses through interactive and practical content that includes tools and templates.
AWE is open to Brunei-based women entrepreneurs between 18 to 40-years-old who are in the early stages of starting and running a business and have limited business background or training.