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Aug 14, 2019

HERA 2019 Summer Update - Volunteering for HERA

Summer in Regents Park Race
Summer in Regents Park Race

This Summer Update recognizes all our donors and volunteers.  As you may know, HERA has only one paid staff person. Our work depends almost entirely on our volunteers, who organize and run our day-to-day operations and on private individual donors and foundations, who support the costs of running our entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and grants to women-owned ventures, to prevent and address trafficking.   Our volunteers include women and men in financial services, academics, law, social services, marketing, and business. As a group, we are lawyers, engineers, bankers, investors, economists, coaches, counselors, artists, consultants, and business professors, etc.  Several of us are entrepreneurs.  As volunteers, we give of our time, experience, and expertise.  HERA also depends on a unique group of donors who share our vision that supporting women’s entrepreneurship helps to prevent trafficking while allowing young women survivors and those at risk to make valuable contributions to their societies, local economies, and economic development.

Not surprisingly summer remains HERA’s busiest season of the year as it is a period when many of us can take some time to help in teaching, assessing, coaching, and advising young women survivors, women entrepreneurs, and young women at risk of dangerous migration and trafficking.  This summer the HERA volunteers have helped with fundraising, organizing and delivering the 12th London Entrepreneurship and Mentoring program, and with launching our 10th International Grants Competition.

In early June, the “Summer in Regents Park Race” brought together eight volunteer runners, who competed to raise funds for HERA. A majority of the runners came from the National Physical Laboratory. Meanwhile, HERA’s UK Program Director, a HERA trustee, and one of our former students cheered them on and organized a picnic after the race for all contestants. 

This summer ten volunteers, currently residing in Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, read and ranked 176 applications from women venture owners for our International Grants’ Competition. The Competition was again held for women entrepreneurs from four countries – Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.  Two former grantees in Armenia – a farmer and a beekeeper - voluntarily organized and delivered seminars for new venture owners to prepare and translate their applications. Former grantees from all four countries, including a group of women refugees in Ukraine, distributed our competition announcement.  Several NGO partners, including Armenia General Benevolent Union, Caritas, Orran, and Homeland Development Initiative Foundation in Armenia; the Center for Training and Consultancy, Rural Development Association, and Elkana Biological Farming Association in Georgia; and our long term partner, Fermierul de Sud in Moldova, vetted applicants to submit serious proposals in English. The volunteers’ and NGOs’ support in all four countries resulted not only in the most proposals HERA has received to date but also, some of the best. Thus, the four assessment teams of eight volunteers plan to visit 45% of the ventures in each country and to meet with all our local partners.

This summer many volunteers supported Sarah Videau, HERA’s Program Director, and Professor Ebrahim Mohamed, our Academic Director, to run the 12th HERA London Summer Entrepreneurship training for 22 young women survivors of trafficking and other forms of violence. The women participants averaged 30 years in age and ranged from 18 to 43 years. Students were referred by previous HERA graduates and several UK charities including, Hackney Migrant Center, Women at the Well, Hestia, Hibiscus, Medaille Trust, Refugee Council, RCDOW and Rahab. All took time and effort to identify a diverse and highly qualified group of young women to attend this year’s course.  The largest number came from Albania and Nigeria with the remaining from Philippines, Cameroon, Angola, Kenya and Eritrea.  According to Amanda Pelham Green, CEO and Founder of Odyssey Mentor Ltd., this year’s class was “Truly, the most interactive and engaged group I have worked with at HERA to date.”[1] 

The Entrepreneurship course covered a wide range of topics, including ideation and concept development, professional networking, accounting and finance, business planning, marketing, design thinking and pitching. The modules were taught by experienced professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics, who volunteered time and expertise. Universities and businesses provided the venues and in-kind support. Most sessions took place at Imperial College’s Invention Rooms at the White City Campus. Salesforce and the London School of Economics (LSE) also hosted sessions. The students experienced London business hubs starting with the Brigade, a social enterprise supported by Price Waterhouse Coopers followed by a market exercise at Borough market. Students visited a London startup, Zzish, where Founder, Charles Wiles, and COO, Daisy Hill, shared their experiences. The three-week training culminated in the students pitching to a panel of entrepreneurs and business experts:  Grace Olugbodi and Lucy Smith, two successful women entrepreneurs; Dr Nadia Millington, LSE Professor; and Ian Zilberkweit, Founder of Le Pain Quotidien. The students’ pitches covered beauty, catering, fashion, social care and well-being ventures, which they will develop further over the coming year with their mentors, who all volunteer their time.  

In early July, HERA UK Trustees, Anne Waldron and Joanne Chidwick, ran two training sessions for this year’s 18 mentors.  The first evening session was held at Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP’s Office and the second, online. The mentors learned mentoring and coaching techniques with a focus on listening and communication skills, maintaining boundaries, and managing expectations. The trustees will provide continued supervision and support to the mentors over the coming year to help address any queries and provide guidance.  

Finally, without our donors, none of these volunteer efforts would be possible. We thank our donors not only for your financial contributions but also for your good advice and belief in this work.  Many of you have also been volunteers, served as mentors and international assessors, or through our volunteers and the HERA women themselves, you learned about our work.  In the days ahead, we will continue to depend on our donors’ support and many different volunteers to mentor, organize, teach, assess, advise, and all the other ways that you engage with and help young women survivors and those at risk of trafficking and dangerous migration become autonomous.  Please know that your contributions matter and make a difference.

[1] Permission has been obtained from the individuals cited in this report.

Amanda Pelham Green's CV and Interview Session
Amanda Pelham Green's CV and Interview Session
Professor Ruth Bender (Cranfield) teaching Finance
Professor Ruth Bender (Cranfield) teaching Finance
HERA Students Preparing the Final Pitch
HERA Students Preparing the Final Pitch
May 16, 2019

HERA 2019 Spring Update

Montessori Children's Club Team in Tiraspol
Montessori Children's Club Team in Tiraspol

Spring is the season when HERA again organizes and recruits for our London Summer Entrepreneurship and Mentoring programs and launches our International Grants Competition to prevent trafficking and re-trafficking.  During this past quarter, we participated actively in Global Giving’s Women and Girls Campaign and held an International Women’s Day event at London School of Economics (LSE). Our France Association received valuable and encouraging feedback from our 2018 grantees (one of whom is profiled below).  The London team organized two business seminars for the 2018-19 cohort of students and mentors as part of our monthly “Wednesday Wisdoms.” Currently, we are moving ahead on organizing this year’s entrepreneurship training at Imperial College London’s Invention Rooms at the White City Campus, mentor training at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges, LLP, and our International Grants program to encourage young women’s entrepreneurship and employment in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The aim of HERA’s programs is to prevent trafficking and retrafficking and other forms of gender-based violence by developing and supporting women’s entrepreneurship.

International Grants Competition 2019

The International Grants Competition has been launched in the four countries both on line and through direct contact with our local partners.  This year, the HERA France Association, which manages the international grants program, is encouraging innovation.  The purpose of the international grants’ program is to prevent dangerous migration and trafficking by supporting women’s entrepreneurship in areas of high migration of young adults.  The program supports women entrepreneurs of any age provided that the venture owner makes a commitment to hire and train young women at risk.   

The International Grants program also supports women’s social enterprises that encourage and generate training and employment for young women.  Many of these social enterprises have supported some of the most at risk women – Syrian refugees in Armenia, Ukrainian displaced in Kiev and in border towns on the front line, and internally displaced South Ossetian women in Georgia.  Although we will continue to encourage young women farmers and their agribusinesses, given increasing urbanization, we will also seek ways to support young women’s ventures in urban areas. Many young, unemployed women migrate first from rural areas and without job prospects, they seek to migrate abroad.  This rural-to-urban displacement puts many young women at risk of being exploited within their own countries and/or by international smugglers and traffickers.

Last autumn the HERA France Association team funded five young women in Tiraspol, Transnistria, who have organized a Montessori Children’s Club, a social enterprise.[i]  The Club provides seminars on early childhood development, psychotherapy for women and children through clay modelling, classes for childbirth and breastfeeding, and advice on women’s income generation.  They also provide Montessori education for infants from birth-to-three years and children, three-to-six years, including those with special needs.  The Club encourages women participants to start their own courses as well. 

At their request, our team provided the Club with a projector, printer, and chairs.  Based on the the support provided, the Montessori Children’s Club reports that they have been able to employ a young psychologist and a young woman to market their work through social media.   They have used the equipment for a series of seminars by the psychologist on parenting skills and breastfeeding for children over 12 months. The Club’s monthly turnover has also increased by 17%.  They plan to increase the outreach of their work ahead by hosting more seminars for parents both at the Club and through social media.

HERA France Association Plans Ahead

On May 1st, the HERA France Association launched our 10th  Annual International Grants Competition.  Already we have received a few applications. In late June, an international team will read and rank all the applications. During the summer and early autumn, teams of two assessors will visit ventures ranked in the top two quartiles and with the successful grantees, we fund their chosen equipment or other costs on the spot.  

Several partners, including local and international NGOs, a Government agency, and former grantees, have reached out to promote and recruit applicants for this year’s competition. Some of our former grantees at their own cost are organizing information seminars to women venture owners in their local communities about HERA’s grants criteria. The former entrepreneurs and NGO partners are also willing to collaborate with us on training and networking events during the field assessments.  With all this strong support, we look forward to assessing and funding more grants and offering more training sessions in the four countries in the coming summer and autumn.

International Women’s Month Events

For International Women’s Day on the 6th March, Sarah Videau, HERA UK’s Program Director and Joanne Chidwick, Trustee, participated in Salesforce’s Panel Discussion, which followed a screening of a UNICEF film against trafficking. This event attended by 40 people was held at Salesforce’s London headquarters for secondary school students and company employees. Following the event, the students reported organizing their own information campaign against trafficking at their school.

That same day, in partnership with London School of Economics (LSE), the HERA UK team organized a panel of women entrepreneurs and leaders hosted by LSE.  The Deputy Director of LSE’s MSc Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Nadia Millington, moderated our Woman’s Day Panel, which included: Elise Do, HERA’s Chair of Trustees and Associate Director at Augusta and Co.; Grace Olugbodi, Founder of BeGenio and Easymaths Skills; and Ana Maria Torres, Founder of Hilo Sagrado, a social enterprise that promotes artisan communities in Latin America. Some 100 people attended the event. The LSE amphitheatre was filled to capacity such that the organizers had to turn students and visitors away. 

Monthly Seminar Series – “Wednesday Wisdoms”

In April Chris Merrington, author and founder of Spring 80:20, led a seminar on pricing and marketing for this year’s cohort of HERA students and mentors.  Chris advised the audience that the clients/customers should be your priority, because without them “you do not have a business.” He explained how to define who is your customer and how to attract and negotiate without devaluing your product or service. Chris also discussed how to counter people’s preconceptions based on your gender, age, or origin. The HERA women asked several questions, including "when you start your business and don’t have much experience, is it better to price low and increase later, or does that set a bad precedent?"

In May, our final Wednesday Wisdom session for this year’s cohort, held at Salesforce, was on personal and professional development. The Salesforce team recommended starting with “why?”, setting goals, establishing realistic plans to achieve them, and obtaining feedback. The team shared their own plans and motivation techniques. The session ended with everyone writing a motivational postcard to their future selves that they will receive in six months. 

HERA UK Plans Ahead

HERA’s 12th London Entrepreneurship Program will be held from 1-19 July for 25 women survivors of trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence. Preparations are well underway. The team has reached out to 15 first responder charities and already six candidates from three charities have been offered a place on this year’s course.   Since inception in 2008, the course has been hosted by Imperial College.  For the first time, the Mentor Training will take place over one day on 29 June at from 10:00 – 16:00 at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges, LLP.   

This year’s course will be led by Dr. Mohammed Ebrahim, who has taught finance for previous HERA programs, and Sarah Videau, HERA UK’s Program Director. Since 1992,  Ebrahim has been a principal Imperial teaching fellow and faculty member in Finance and Accounting at Imperial’s Business School and Entrepreneurship Hub. A graduate of the LSE, Ebrahim teaches, researches and consults in accounting, finance, innovation and entrepreneurship.  He has held visiting lectureships for the LSE, City University, Queen Mary University of London, and is an accredited examiner of the University of London external program and fellow of the Institute of Learning and Teaching.  Together Ebrahim and Sarah, who has organized HERA entrepreneurship training for over three years, bring extensive experience in teaching HERA’s UK entrepreneurship program.  This year, in addition to the annual Borough market analysis, they have also planned several experiential-based learning opportunities and teaching events at Salesforce, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and LSE.  

Upcoming Event and Appreciation

A HERA team is participating in the Regent’s Park Run Summer 10k Series to raise funds for our summer programs.  The race will be held on Sunday, 2 June at 9:30 am and we will host a picnic for all participants immediately after the run.  Please contact us if you are interested by joining our Team and/or in any mentoring, grants, and training opportunities.  

A sincere thanks to all our generous donors for your contributions during this year’s Girls and Women’s Campaignand for your kind support throughout the year.  We depend entirely on private in-kind and financial donations.  We could never do all this without your support!

[i] We received permission for the photographs and names cited in this report.  All citations adhere to GDPR safeguards and HERA’s policies for protection of vulnerable adults.

International Women's Day at LSE
International Women's Day at LSE
Pricing and Marketing Seminar
Pricing and Marketing Seminar


Feb 22, 2019

HERA Winter 2019 Update

Assessing a Dairy Venture
Assessing a Dairy Venture

At the start of 2019, the HERA team updated our outcomes to date. Here are our most recent figures:

  • Since 2005, HERA teams have trained 952 women in mentoring and/or entrepreneurship in eight countries to prevent trafficking and re-trafficking;
  • HERA teams have awarded 254 grants at an average cost of $US 712 per grant for women for their ventures in five Eastern European countries to prevent dangerous migration and trafficking;
  • Our operating costs are under $95,000 per annum; our assessment costs for the international grants average 30%; and our overhead remains less than 5% of total costs. 

Despite rising anti-immigrant sentiment, HERA UK trafficking survivors continue to find work; study for advanced degrees and training; and pilot a few ventures.  In a brief survey of 15  women, who attended the holiday party this year, all (100%) reported positively about their mentoring experiences this year. 

To prevent trafficking and increase women’s employment, HERA’s France Association provided grants this year to a record 45 women entrepreneurs in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.  To date HERA teams, who follow up the ventures a year or more later, have evaluated 78% of ventures funded through 2017.  Of 78% evaluated, 94% are sustaining or growing their ventures. The 254 ventures funded through 2018 have created some 463 new jobs in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine at an average cost of $390/job. Through hard work and determination, these women entrepreneurs are helping to prevent trafficking by employing and training young women at risk of dangerous migration and trafficking. They are also delivering essential goods and services to local economies. 

A few Reports from the 2018 Entrepreneurs

A Bakery Owner in Armenia, writes that with the freezer HERA helped to purchase, her team now produces 168 packets of frozen dough monthly from which she earns an additional $121/month.  For the new dough production, she employed two more young women (24 and 31 years of age), who according to the owner, “refused to go to Russia and stayed to work with us.” 

The Director of a Montessori Program in Tiraspol, Transnistria, writes that with the printer she bought with the HERA grant, “we increased the quality of classes for children under three years old. Now we can print colorful pictures for crafts.”  She also writes that their resident young, woman psychologist used the projector provided by through the HERA grant to deliver seminars on parenting and breastfeeding. With the HERA support, the program was able to offer another job to a young woman (bringing the total to seven women employed) and its monthly profit increased by 17%.

A Dairy Farmer from Moldova, reports that with HERA’s provision of a fodder mixer, she improved the quality of her cattle feed and saved 20% on feed costs. She also writes, “I hope that I will be able to increase the number of cows in order to produce more milk. In the future, we also want to raise cattle for meat, because we have the opportunity, with approximately 300 animals, to improve food supplies.”

The President of an Armenian Social Enterprise, writes that the “industrial sewing machine [bought with the grant] made our production process faster, now we produce 3 times more than before. We also provided employment opportunities to two more unemployed, socially disadvantaged women.”  She also reports that their average monthly turnover increased from $170 (EUR 150) to $507 (EUR 450) and their sales outlets from five local ones to seven local, five in Yerevan, and one in Aghtala in the south.  The enterprise team is also working on developing an export market. 

HERA UK Activities 

During this last quarter, HERA UK organized monthly entrepreneurship and business seminars for the 2018 women summer graduates (who survived trafficking and other forms of violence), as follows: 

In September, a communications expert spoke to the HERA women on “How to Tell Your Story.”  The speaker had a career in politics as special assistant and speech writer for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and for UNHCR in Geneva. She has also led her own business for over 12 years and written on presentation and personal branding. 

In October, a young woman entrepreneur addressed “My Entrepreneur’s Journey and What I Learned.” She explained that entrepreneurship had been part of her life from an early age. As many entrepreneurs, she wears several hats from impersonating Diana Ross to being a keynote speaker and coach. She described her several attempts to launch ventures before succeeding and why they had failed. She urged her audience to take care not to waste time with a venture where there is no demand and to trial the business with a small audience first. She advised the HERA women "to be patient, passionate and to remember that you can make it work even when all does not go as planned." Her observation that “failing is just learning” was well received by the HERA audience.

In November, a Woman's Corporate Network presented an online learning platform. The HERA women went to the corporate offices in the City of London to learn about the platform. Prior to the event, the HERA Coordinator, worked with the Women’s Network to design platform content specifically tailored to the HERA women graduates’ career interests and requirements.

In January, a young woman trauma survivor shared her positive experiences of resilience and learning.  She spoke about “Becoming an Overcomer in 2019.” Many HERA graduates are currently discouraged by lengthening asylum waits. The speaker advised the women not to let bad experiences drag them down but to look forward. For making 2019 resolutions, she recommended the HERA women ask themselves, “What do I want to pay attention to this year? What resources do I have for that? What will I do next?”  The speaker said that her personal motto when life becomes difficult to handle, and bad memories resurface, is: “Fearfully made, uniquely loved and eternally purposed.” 

Halloween Bake Off 

In early November HERA UK held its first Halloween Bake-off, where children from age 8-14 met at a Community Centre in London to raise money for HERA.  The owner of a Cake School and Cookbook author judged the children's baked products. The 8-10 year old winner wowed all with his amazing ‘Day of the Dead’ sponge cake. The 11-14 year old winner's product was inspired by ‘Skulltrooper’ from the latest XBOX trend Fortnite.  All in all, the youth raised £1,200 for HERA.  Many thanks to these young bakers and to the HERA Trustee, who volunteered many hours of her time, to organize this event.  


The HERA team wishes all our supporters a happy and fulfilling year ahead. Once again, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your contributions!

Fodder Machine
Fodder Machine
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