“Chow, Chow, Chicki, Chow, Chow”: The Chant that Launched a Camp Company

The Mo’ Girls tagline is “helping more girls become moguls” and the Port of Spain  Midi Mogul (11-13 year olds) group took this motto to heart, and launched into action.  As they worked through the Mo’ Girl modules, these nine young ladies came up with the idea to develop a business selling chow during camp. Their facilitator, Pearl Yatali-Gonzales—with the assistance of the rest of team, allowed them to use this collective business idea as the basis for their learning during the camp.

These enterprising young women assigned roles to their team from marketing manager and graphic designer to production manager and production line workers. They sourced their ingredients, did a marketing campaign by visiting each of the other groups to advertise their product, set prices and even worked through a quality assurance process.

When supplies were too low to meet demand, the team decided to test the product, tweak the recipe, and plan appropriately to launch a more polished product.  Originally planning on making mango chow and unable to source it, the girls adjusted their concept to suit the fruit [pineapple] that was readily available. These challenges tested their problem-solving and teamwork skills and they came out on top.

Calls of “Chow, Chow, Chicki, Chow, Chow!” could be heard echoing through the halls on the last days of camp as the Midi Moguls advertised and launched their business. Selling to visitors, campers, and facilitators alike, the girls plunged themselves headfirst into entrepreneurship. At just $5 per cup of chow, after expenses, the girls grossed $92 TTD and shared their profits equally amongst themselves. One of the Midi Moguls has indicated that she will use Midi Moguls Chow as the model for her own “sucker bag” business, which she will start building on weekends and during her spare time.

It is clear that these young ladies learned many of the crucial parts of business development and stewardship through this hands-on experience, and developed an appetite for entrepreneurship in the process.

 

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Pitch Perfect : Mini Masters & Beyond

Public speaking can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned of professionals. Being prepared but adaptable, reading your audience and knowing your content inside and out—it can make your heart pound through your chest and your palms extra sweaty. Nevertheless, it a necessary skill for any entrepreneur operating in this shrinking world of technology. Sometimes, your only chance of connecting to, meeting and/ or engaging with a new client, potential investor or partner is via a video conference. Therefore, you have to know how to pitch your business and services.  

At the  Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship camps, girls were built up to that point through a series of smaller presentations, ad campaigns and multimedia exercises like commercials, podcasts, and much more throughout the week. The thought process being that by the end of camp, each girl would be as equipped as possible to present her business or business idea to a team of potential investors. And ready they were!

In Arima, the Mini Moguls shined with exuberant presentations of businesses that spanned business forms such as co-ops, sole traders and partnerships including an upcycled bracelet business (applying skills learned in the jewelry skill-share by Alana Ramlal), a fruit market and an earring boutique. One after the other they impressed investors with creative entrances, concise and informative presentations of their business details from finances to product lines.  

The Major Moguls in both Arima and Port of Spain formed meaningful partnerships and even sole trader businesses that allowed them to build upon their existing interests and business ideas ranging from spas to galleries and even a crochet cellphone case business. The ideas and business forms were varied but what was consistent was a measured growth in the girls’ confidence and public speaking ability throughout the week.

 

Show Love: It’s the Mo’ Girls Way

Photo Credit: Marie Clark, Clark Communications

You’re not smart enough. You’re not savvy enough. You’re too fat. You’re too skinny. You’re just a pretty face. You’re not pretty enough. You’re too loud. You’re too timid. You’re too tall. You’re too short. You have a bad attitude. You’re promiscuous. You’re a problem child.

These are just a few of the toxic messages our girls receive daily about themselves. They are constantly picked apart and derided as they learn how to navigate their young and promising lives in a society that is quick to judge and slow to forgive. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to completely shelter girls from these attacks as they come fast, furiously and from every direction (family, friends, school, TV, pop culture, music, etc.). So, counter messaging is such an important part of raising their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Thus, a key part of the Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Programme is fortifying our girls against this kind of toxicity and building them up from the inside out. How? Through radical displays of self-love and positive affirmations.

Early in the morning, just after breakfast and just before the start of the day at both pilot camp venues, it could be heard echoing from the groups’ respective spaces. At the end of the day, it could be heard booming—loud, proud and unapologetically—from the main rooms. One after the other, each girl stepping into the circle of her peers and her encouragers (facilitators and guests) and making the bold proclamations that they’d been taught upon entering the space on day one, and the group responding with love, affirmation and respect as they repeated her loud and bold assertions…

Participant: “I love myself!”

Group: “She loves herself!”

Participant: “I mean every single thing…”

Group: “She means every single thing…”

Participant: “from the top of my head to the soles of my feet!”

Group:  “from the top of her head to the soles of her feet!”

Participant: “ I do my dance like…” (then she dances)

Group: “ She does her dance like…” (then the group copies her dance)

It was fun. It was memorable. It was and remains the single most impactful part of the programme from an empowerment perspective. The manner in which the girls were affected by these affirmations was noted by administrators, facilitators and guests alike.

“In Arima, [the] girls demonstrated higher levels of self confidence by [the] third day. [They] showed joy at saying the words to self,” said Pearl Yatali-Gonzales, Team Auditor for Mo’ Girls-Arima and Midi Moguls Facilitator for Mo’ Girls-Port of Spain. “Overall [the] POS participants demonstrated an awareness of self and personal value—delighting in showing us how they enjoyed the affirmations.”

A constant reminder that they are worthy of love, respect and positivity, but that it has to start with them and emanate outward, this exercise/activity is a foundational aspect of the programme that all of the girls connected to and took away with them. It is what we refer to as the “Self Love Cipher.” Not the only tool to instill confidence and empower the young women and girls in the programme, but by far the simplest and most catching. Colleen Davis—a Mo’ Girls programme facilitator and a Mo’ Girls-Port of Spain camp mom—was particularly sold on the transformative power of this exercise.

“As a parent [of a girl in the programme], a facilitator [of the camp] and a woman of faith…one of my favorite experiences of watching the Self Love Cipher was the transformation in a girl who was very clear from day one ‘I don’t want to be here, do not ask me to take part in the self love sessions.’ And, in the end, her being one of the first people to jump in and proclaim with all that she had ‘I LOVE myself, I mean EVERY SINGLE THING…’ and it was just amazing to watch these young women realize their own potential and worth as the week went on,Davis said.

Marie Clark, a woman entrepreneur in her own right and Superwoman (participant in the camp’s skillshare initiative whereby she came and shared gems of wisdom from her own experience with the girls) was even moved by the activity on the last day of camp from the outside looking in. She just happened to be observing/auditing the last day of Mo’ Girls-Port of Spain and was touched by the Self Love Cipher.

“I was particularly inspired by the formalized demonstration of self-love AND support that occurred daily through the cipher circle. Too often women are stereotyped as being catty and/or unsupportive of each other and the presence of the cipher circle and the enthusiasm with which these girls and teenagers participated and lifted up each other in the circle was heartwarming,” Clark said.

 

Putting the People in Place: A Look at the Mo’ Girls Train-the-Trainers Workshop

Preparing for the Mo’ Girls pilot programme  was not just about convincing parents to sign their girls up for camp or finding suitable venues. It was, first and foremost, about developing a curriculum that could adequately get the desired results of empowering girls through entrepreneurship and developing a team that would effectively use it to do so. In that vein, Melissa Matthews and Michele Matthews-Morancie, The MAMs,  spent months weeding through CVs and referrals from their network and even more time developing  a curriculum to train future facilitators on how to use the actual Mo’ Girls curriculum as they prepared to form a team.

Not everyone made the cut. Of 30 applicants to participate in the workshop, 14 were invited to take part in the Train-the-Trainer programme, 12 were invited to facilitate and/or audit for the pilot camps and ultimately, only nine will continue to work for the programme going forward. Hence, everyone involved realized that this project and this process required unbridled commitment to the work, openness to feedback, and flexibility to adapt to any changes in course.

“ You have to be so particular when you are dealing with people’s children. Not only were we seeking capable facilitators who could adapt and deliver the curriculum the way we envisioned it, but we needed people who we could trust with these young minds and hearts. I think assessing and cutting people who aren’t a fit at every stage of the programme is crucial for quality assurance and will continue to be necessary as we grow the programme,” said Matthews-Morancie.

The process was rigorous and unforgiving; potential facilitators committed to a five to six day intensive training programme (over the course of a month or a full week depending on their availability) in which they were asked to step outside of their comfort zones in every way possible. They were asked to let go of their notions about what facilitation was and open themselves  to the possibilities of what it could be for themselves and the Mo’ Girls’ participants.They were put on the spot, charged with performing extempo calypsos, writing and recording fairytales, engaging in deep dive conversations about their own self esteem and confidence. They were charged with being as vulnerable and engaged as they would expect the girls to be at camp. They did not have the luxury of being voyeurs in the process because they were asked to participate in, play at,  challenge each other and/ or perform—all the tasks that they would inevitably ask the camp participants to do— during the Train-the-Trainers programme.

“[I had] no idea it would be like this. I thought [facilitation work for Mo’ Girls] would be much more cut and dry like teaching or tutoring What excited me most about the process was the teamwork,” said Alana Ramlal, Train-the-Trainer participant and one of just nine remaining camp facilitators.

The Train-the-Trainers workshop was exhausting, exhilarating and ultimately invaluable as it resulted in a strong, adaptable and capable team of facilitators for the programme going forward. Many of the facilitators even counted the train the trainers programme amongst their favorite parts of the overall Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Pilot Programme experience.

“Following a plan, making a goal work and having those connecting-the-dots or light bulb moments that we ourselves experienced in the training were the things that made me want to stick with the project,” Ramlal said.

It Takes a Village: A Nod to Our Partners

The MAM Squared/ Agitate Academy team had the vision for the Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Programme, but vision and will would not be enough to make such a lofty goal a reality. Partnerships were key to this initiative.

Massy Foundation, the first contributing partner to pledge their support of this initiative, did so by supplying a cash donation to aid the development of the Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Train the Trainers initiative as well as the wider programme. The United States of America Embassy’s Public Affairs Office and the YMCA also supported this aspect of the programme by providing free use of their spaces for an entire week. These partnerships allowed for potential facilitators to be trained in a safe and comfortable space so that they could put their best feet forward.

The train-the-trainers was just the beginning though, contributing partners supplied space for both the Arima and Port of Spain camps. At East Yard in Arima, V2 Marketing and Art on Purpose allowed Mo’ Girls to not only use but to transform their spaces into interactive, colourful and playful environments in which young ladies engaged wholeheartedly in the camp process. In Port of Spain, 26 girls made #2 Scott Street their home as they and the team decorated, reimagined and filled the space with life and laughter thanks to the generosity and support of SoZi Island and the McDowell family.

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The support did not end with space donations either. In Trinidadian culture, food is often an expression of love and from that vantage point, the Mo’ Girls Camp was truly loved. Signing on as our first contributing partner to supply food and offering constant support and awesome customer service at every step of the way, Prestige Holdings Limited supplied lunch. The company sponsored lunches from KFC and Subway for both camps in gracious abundance and the Mo’ Girls participants were happy customers! Nestle supplied us with a very useful supply of cereal (Trix and Nesquik) for the girls’ breakfast needs (and sometimes  served as mid morning snacks) for both camps. To wash it all down, Carib enthusiastically supplied cases upon cases of Smalta that served quite useful for both campers and facilitators alike. In Port of Spain, participants were also treated to cereal bars from Charles Chocolate and an extra special touch of love from Peche Patisserie, who supplied palmiers for a surprise end-of-camp snack.

The love was not only felt in our bellies, but all around as the camp received donations of pens and pads from the Regulated Industries Commission, the gift of documentation from Doux Doux Darling Productions, access to wifi from Bmobile, the power of technological tools from Population Services International-Caribbean (PSI-C) and donations of time and positive energy from our many Skill-share Superwomen (women entrepreneurs who came in and shared their stories and skills they use for their businesses with the girls) .

It truly took a village of civil society organisations, corporate citizens and extraordinary individuals  to make the 2017 Mo’ Girls Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Pilot Programme a success!

A Note from the MAMs | Mo’ Girls to the World!

Just over two years ago (perhaps, closer to three) , an empowerment and entrepreneurship programme for girls—one that touched all of the places that informed our journey as women entrepreneurs and paid forward the guidance, mentorship, life lessons, love and support we received along the way—was just an idea in our company “parking lot.”* As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years since we first conceived it, we would work on different aspects of the programme when our schedules allowed, revisit them, tweak them, discuss the project again and refine our vision. This process of incubation took almost three years and then we decided that we were ready to test the programme and the world (particularly the places we wished to launch it) were ready to receive it. So, our vision for and expectations of what we recently launched as the Mo’ Girls Empowerment & Entrepreneurship Pilot Programme are both well thought out and meaningful to us and our team. Now that we’ve tested and proven the concept of Mo’ Girls in two hubs in Trinidad, the way forward and intended impact of Mo’ Girls  is becoming clearer and clearer.

Next Steps for Mo’ Girls…

  • More than Just a Vacation Camp! In the immediate future (likely starting in November), we are developing a follow-on, yearlong programme of workshops for the girls who participated in the two pilot implementations of the programme to continue our work with them.

 

  • Mo’ Girls-Sando, Mo’ Girls-Tobago & Mo’ Girls-DC! Our team is in the process of using the lessons learnt from Mo’ Girls-Arima and Mo’ Girls-Port of Spain to tweak and adapt the curriculum and administrative processes to three additional pilot implementations to be held over Easter Break in T&T and over Spring Break in the U.S. We are forming a team in the capital city of the U.S., Washington, DC (a place instrumental in our development as career women). Locally, we’re  working with our first cohort of auditors and facilitators to plan a Sando-based camp and establish a team in the sister isle of Tobago.

 

  • Even More Mo’ Girls, July/August 2018! Granted we have a successful soft launch in April 2018, we will launch Mo’ Girls in its full form in ten cities throughout North America and the Caribbean over the course of twelve weeks. The programme will ideally impact the lives of approximately 210 young women over the course of June-August School Holidays 2018. The intended cities/boroughs are Arima, Chaguanas, Point Fortin, Port of Spain,  San Fernando and Toco in Trinidad; Charlotteville and Scarborough in Tobago; as well as Brooklyn, NY and Washington, D.C. in the U.S.

 

  • Mo’ Girls-Jamaica and Beyond! Following full programme launches in the aforementioned places, we intend to roll the programme out regionally, starting with a pilot in Jamaica during the Easter school holidays of 2019. Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Grenada are also in our sights (the vision is to roll out in a new island in the English-speaking Caribbean every year after the Jamaica launch until we have functioning camps and yearlong programmes in each of these places).

So, Mo’ Girls is just beginning and there is so much to look forward to in the coming months and years. We hope you’ll stay with us and/or join us in our quest to help more girls become moguls!

Melissa & Michele (The MAMs)

*A parking lot, in this context, is a place/document/file where we house ideas that we hope to develop in the future.

Coming Soon: New, Fresh Posts!

Hi Agitators!

There’s lots of great, exciting things happening at Agitate Media HQ right now so we’re gearing up to reconnect ‘The Movement’ with lots of exciting stuff. This time around we’re doing interviews with the most dynamic people we know ( and some, we’re meeting for the first time). We’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to some of the latest and most innovative projects we’ve been working on.

Michele, ‘Agitator-in-Chief’ @ Agitate Media HQ (a.k.a Founder, Chief Strategist @agitatemedia)