The United States Embassy in Nassau, in partnership with the Access Accelerator, Small Business Development Centre of The Bahamas (SBDC) officially graduated 132 Bahamian female entrepreneurs on the evening of September 8, during a pre-recorded video message broadcast on social media. The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a U.S. State Department program started in 2019, to support female entrepreneurs around the world. This is the second cohort of the AWE program in The Bahamas.
The AWE program provided $5,000 in seed funding to seven separate female entrepreneurs who excelled in the end-of-program pitch competition. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy is welcomed two additional partners to the AWE program this year. The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce sponsored one of the $5,000 seed funding grants along with a year’s complimentary membership at the Chamber for all seven finalists. In addition, The Bahamas Development Bank has set aside $250,000 in micro-loans for all qualified AWE graduates from both the 2020 and 2021 cohorts.
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts congratulated the graduates in her remarks: “I was really happy to see the AWE program grow so much in both the actual number of entrepreneurs, and in geographic reach this year. Not only are we graduating 42% more women than last year, we were able to reach beyond New Providence and Grand Bahama in 2021, including many of you from Family Islands: Eleuthera, Abaco, Andros, Exuma, and Acklins Island. The range of economic activity we saw represented in the AWE program is extraordinary.”
The Bahamas was one of 25 countries to pilot the AWE program, which equips women with the tools they need to create and grow their own businesses, raise capital, and effectively network with other successful business owners. The U.S. Embassy’s partnership with the SBDC positions all AWE graduates to receive continued support long after graduation. Many of the alumni of the 2020 cohort attended the graduation and cheered on this year’s cohort.
The U.S. Embassy wishes the alumni of the AWE program great success, as their achievements build a more prosperous Bahamas.