Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs is a registered Civil Society Organization (CSO) founded by Ms. Damchae Dem, Chairperson of Pelden Enterprise Limited with an aim to empower and reach out to marginalized members of society, single mothers, unorganized sector and unemployed youth ;empowering them through entrepreneurship.

BAOWEs members include grass root startups, home based workers most of whom have been introduced to their potential as entrepreneurs for the first time and  established business women, who mentor and hand hold the less experienced members in the group. Building upon the existing strengths and experiences of women entrepreneurs in general, it has become apparent that agri business is the most inclusive since majority of the women live in rural Bhutan. The potential for growing this business has met with problems such as low volumes, scatted farms and high cost of labour etc.

FOUNTAIN EFFECT

The term Fountain Effect is a method created by Damchae Dem, Founder/CEO of Bhutan Association Of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) attempting to address some of the challenges faced in the supply chain. “To understand the Fountain Effect, you have to understand the reason why there is a need for it. Our farmlands are scattered with mostly small land-holdings, often resulting in poor value chain development and the inability to effectively promote entrepreneurship in the villages’’ she said.

The development of the economy should take in to account agri business as an inclusive mechanism bringing on board and developing primary producers, progressing their businesses and meaningfully contributing to the economy. While the government has developed infrastructure including building farm roads, farm shops and providing connectivity in general gaps such as low volumes of primary produce and high labour cost do not promote commercialization of products. This could be one of the reasons we are unable to exploit the potentials available vis-à-vis the growing global demand for healthy foods. Understanding our incapability to supply volumes we need to focus on creating and supplying niche markets capitalizing on our pristine environment, fertile soils and fresh water. Value addition will not only fetch better prices but also provide employment / self employment opportunities and reduce rural to urban migration.

The Fountain Effect creates synergies between the primary suppliers and entrepreneurs (manufacturers) aggregating small volumes of primary produce through collection linkages, building substantial, sustainable and economical  raw material supply chains.

To elaborate ,one can imagine a village growing mushrooms .A single farmer would perhaps harvest five kgs of mushrooms a day, which she would sell sitting on the roadside. This would entail a whole day with no guarantee of success including the risk of her highly perishable mushrooms spoiling .Adopting the Fountain effect Method would include her in the supply chain involving a few hundred villagers meeting the raw material requirement of a rural entrepreneur. Since the manufacturing unit is located near or inside the village, logistics would be cost effective including planning, ‘Just in time’ supply chains. Involving the primary producers at inception will create bonding and give a sense of ownership leading to a reduced cost of raw material. The entrepreneur would have consistent, cost effective raw material supply which would bring down manufacturing costs. She in turn would reward the primary producers with a share in net profits thereby creating the FOUNTAIN EFFECT.

Through its experience working with Self Help Groups across the Country, building livelihoods and empowering through entrepreneurship, BAOWE feels, adopting the Fountain Effect methodology would benefit rural communities and individuals, socio-economically

WHY A SEPARATE PLATFORM FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS?

Bhutan the land of Gross National Happiness enjoys gender parity and as a mostly matriarchal society, property rights generally go to the girl child.  With this utopian background it is a wonder then, why more that 70% of unemployed are women. It becomes apparent that most of the so-called unemployed are working in their fields, performing back breaking chores with little or no financial gains. It therefore becomes imperative that Agro-business be developed to ensure the participation of rural women in the economic development plans of the government.

Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) considers that a lack of Access to Finance and effective marketing linkages is a key issue for women entrepreneurs that are negatively impacting agro businesses and ultimately ‘Brand Bhutan’. However of late, the government initiatives through the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Limited is making headway, positively impacting the lives of many villagers .BAOWE feels more emphasis on exposure visits, creating marketing linkages and supply chains that are gender friendly and  adopting the Fountain Effect method could add to the existing made in Bhutan commodities.

It is clear that innovation could be at the core of each support programme component and approaches should be designed both ‘top-down’ and bottom-up’ to enable the testing of grass roots business development models and sustainable solutions to address problems of Access to Finance; youth unemployment and women empowerment through entrepreneurship.

A key aspiration of BAOWE is to develop inclusive business practices through innovative ideas for pump-priming micro and small businesses with investment for infrastructure, supplemented by skills development. Their business model is to partner micro and small businesses growing them organically, mentoring and hand holding preparing them, using the fountain effect method to participate and benefit from women orientated markets gaining momentum Globally.

“Most women are unable to express their concerns in mixed company. Organizations that hold business meets are usually filled with successful, established business houses which would overwhelm and drown the voices of the micro women entrepreneurs.” says Damchae Dem, the founder of BAOWE.

While BAOWE works towards empowering women through entrepreneurship building networks in the SAARC region and beyond the need for a formal, bigger platform addressing women entrepreneurship, building linkages, exploring and tapping women orientated markets is crucial to bring home available economic opportunities. Through this endeavor, Baowe hopes to make a humble contributions towards His Majesty the Kings Noble Vision for an inclusive society where no one gets left behind.

 ABOUT THE LOGO

The Four Harmonious Friends

The “Four Harmonious Friends” is one of the beloved tales from Bhutan. The image of a bird, rabbit, and monkey standing on each other’s shoulders on the back of a patient elephant portrays social and environmental harmony.

As the story goes, the bird finds a seed and plants it. Then, the rabbit waters it, and the monkey fertilizes it. Once the seed sprouts and begins to grow, the elephant protects it.

The small plant grows into a big, beautiful tree full of healthy fruits. Working together synergizing their individual talents, the four friends enjoy the fruits and inspire the rest to join their journey (network) to make a collective difference, harmoniously.

 

The Colors representing the 4 elements

The green signifies mother earth, blue signifies water, red signifies fire and the white signifies air which is relatable to space.

The four elements fused into the image of the Four Harmonious Friends, gives us a deeper sense; a sense of harmony among the elements and a sustainable approach to communal living and growth.

The Fountain Effect Logo

The GREEN elephant represents the primary producers
The BLUE monkey signifies the process i.e entrepreneurship
The RED rabbit signifies the entrepreneurs
The WHITE bird portrays the fountain effect

With each of the four friends representing an element and a role, together they achieve a bigger impact, the FOUNTAIN EFFECT.

The effort of the elephant, the monkey, the rabbit and the bird create the fountain of success. The fountain effect is portrayed by the white bird soaring high with success.

And like how a fountain flows, the fruit of success trickles down to bless the entrepreneurs, the process of entrepreneurship and the primary producers.

The white/air/space represents the media/donors, a crucial channel to create a positive ripple effect and share stories to inspire individuals to work in harmony and contribute to the success of the Fountain Effect.