Written by Carina Rudolph-Math, a VSFS Intern with the U.S. Department of State
It is through valuable partnerships that the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is able to support women entrepreneurs around the globe and give them the knowledge, resources, and network necessary to overcome the many challenges of establishing and scaling successful businesses. In Brazil, the U.S. Department of State recently collaborated with Amazon to expand its reach. This partnership enabled AWE Brazil to more than triple their cohort size from around 25 to 90 women entrepreneurs. These women come from very diverse socio-cultural, regional, and business backgrounds, and represent 25 of the 26 Brazilian states!
AWE was launched in 2019 by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and supports multiple efforts by the U.S. government to empower women around the world. Thanks to AWE’s public-private partnerships, the three-month long program consists of a combination of online learning using the 100 Million Learners BootCamp on Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Developed by Arizona State University’s
Thunderbird School of Global Management, it includes weekly facilitated sessions to help localize the content, workshops and presentations by experts in the area, as well as a pitch practice and competitions. In Brazil, AWE’s collaboration with Amazon also provided more than 200 AWE alumni and program mentors with workshops and access to Amazon learning products which highlight the value of e-commerce, and more specifically Amazon Market Place, in a rapidly developing and technologically influenced economy. While the women and businesses that participate in the AWE program vary greatly, the intricacies of e-commerce, and how to successfully market a business online, prove to be universally valuable.
Ana Peres Nascimento, the first place winner of AWE’s end-of-program pitch competition, co-founded and co-owns Pretas na Ciência, a company dedicated to combating sexism and racism in the field of science. As a black female chemist working in cosmetic development, she lamented how little representation her demographic has in STEM careers despite women making up the majority of the university degree holding population in Brazil. Nascimento described how Pretas na Ciência started as a project, but AWE taught her how to transition it into a business. As the winner of the AWE pitch competition, she is currently developing, with Amazon’s help, a website that will create a larger network of women in STEM. The website will guide and empower these women through the challenging job market, providing them with useful workshops and matching them with potential employers. Since completing the AWE program, Pretas na Ciência has expanded its reach internationally and partnered with both the United Nations and Garnier on valuable women’s empowerment initiatives.
Another member of AWE Brazil’s newest alumni cohort is Anna Karolina de Sousa Bernardes, who is also a winner of the pitch competition. Her company, Uai Português, is a language school aimed at teaching foreign language speakers Portuguese. De Sousa Bernardes started working as a language teacher at her local university in 2018, but when the COVID-19 lockdown moved teaching online, she was inspired to start her own independent business focusing primarily on online instruction. She credits the AWE program with giving her the confidence and training necessary to see herself as an entrepreneur. Uai Português now has over 300 students from all over the world, including many refugees new to Brazil since its founding. Inspired by Amazon’s e-commerce and online marketing focused training, de Sousa Bernardes is currently expanding her business by working to create a new course in addition to her publicly available podcast, YouTube lessons, and social media presence.
Studio Kuhn also emerged from AWE Brazil’s most recent cohort. Founded by AWE alum Karoline Kuhn, this brand seeks to combat the growing issue of waste in the fashion industry through unique and sophisticated upcycling of old textiles and damaged treasures. Kuhn described the challenges of receiving recognition and respect as a female entrepreneur in Brazil and appreciated the technical training she received as a member of the AWE program. This training helped her to develop an innovation plan for her business which has now reached beyond environmentalism toward additionally creating a positive social impact. With help from AWE and Amazon, Kuhn has achieved this impactful goal through the involvement of vulnerable individuals from rural areas in her production cycle as well as the development of opportunities for educational exchanges and creative experiences.
Through the power of partnership, AWE is expanding its reach to women like Nascimento, De Sousa Bernardes, and Kuhn throughout Brazil, creating a much larger network of 270 supportive women who have been empowered through AWE’s strategic business education in Brazil. Many of the alumni describe how much they value the support of their fellow AWE graduates and the extent to which the program has provided them with an inspiring sisterhood of women supporting women. Public-private partnerships with Amazon enable AWE to continue to expand and invest in more women worldwide.