Helping aspiring entrepreneurs to start up businesses seems a bold step, particularly when it is done for free.
But self-styled social entrepreneur, Neo Gwafila-Bulayani saw the need for this and moved to pursue it.
With an interest in women entrepreneurship and business start-ups to improve livelihoods, she said she derives pleasure from what she does.
“I actually can’t explain why. I have been asked why I do it and why it is for free,” she told Business Monitor in an interview. So far the 43-year-old woman, who was born in Francistown, created a Facebook group early this year to create a platform where all women who want to apply for the Women Empowerment Scheme offered by the Department of Gender Affairs could come together and assist each other in conceptualising their business ideas.
The group also gives people the chance to help each other to fill in the application forms for the grant and generally encourage each other to harness and benefit from this fund. “I attended the grant orientation at the department office in Gaborone and just realised the amount of confusion from the questions that the participants asked. The very fact that not all people will be able to come into the department offices to get information about the grant prompted me to do this,” said Gwafila-Bulayani. She stressed that her sole purpose for forming the group was to take the grant to the people, in instances where they do not have easy access to the department of gender offices, which are only about 10 countrywide.
Today the group has over 35,000 members. Gwafila-Bulayani spends most of time taking questions and provides answers according to what she gathered from the orientation and her many visits to gender
“If in doubt, I do consult the offices to verify issues. In this group, I have populated all the templates that one needs to apply for the grant, for example, the grant guidelines, application form, affidavit form, sample letters needed in the application process,” she said.
She also provided a sample of the constitution where a group of women come together to form a business, and other business concepts to read from as shared by the champions.
She further stated that there are experts in the group who are knowledgeable and trained in different types of businesses.
“Over time, I have got to know them by following their responses on different threads. When someone asks a question, I already know who to tag on the question and ask them to come in and assist. And they do that all the time, so it works for everyone. I don’t know all the answers, but I work with people who do,” said Gwafila-Bulayani.
She said the other role that the group plays is to lobby at Gender Department on bringing change to the grant by giving the department feedback from the group that may help them reach their target group.
She has also conducted discussion with the fund managers pertaining to the approach and possible solutions to channel them to the right platform for them to bridge the gap between this grant and the existing youth programmes.
“We have a large representation of youth in this group, even though I founded the group with the target demography of women over 35-year-old, so they have also become our clients as well,” she said.