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Documentary reveals story behind Uganda businesswomen

This Global Entrepreneurship Week (14-20 November) BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and founder of Scrumptious Productions Carol Cooke will launch a ground-breaking documentary campaign Barefoot in Business that follows the fortunes of Uganda’s growing band of businesswomen.

Barefoot in Business

Carol and her team are calling on like-minded individuals and organisations to pledge their commitment to the campaign by purchasing the documentary to watch and screen locally or as a part of a live simultaneous screening. Funds raised through this innovative approach will then be directed into an ongoing training and support programme for female entrepreneurs in Uganda, The Barefoot in Business Fund.

We spoke to Carol to find out more about the film, the fund and how people can get involved...

What inspired you to tell the story of the women featured in Barefoot in Business?

I myself am a sort of ‘accidental’ entrepreneur as I fell into running a business from being a freelance filmmaker, and through doing so had developed a bit of a fascination with how people do business elsewhere. I happened to have a friend who was doing some work with a women’s group in Uganda, so I went out with the intention of capturing some film. While there I attended an awards ceremony to recognise the female entrepreneur of the year, and I saw every trade, every sector represented. It really stuck me that women were the unsung heroes of Uganda’s economy and that there was a huge story to tell about their experiences and the challenges they may face. For example, women make up 40% of entrepreneurs in Uganda, but only 10% of allocated credit.

What was key to the story I wanted to tell was that these women were not asking for anything, it was very far removed from a typical Western stereotype view of Africa focussed on poverty or need. Uganda has a thriving economy, and these women are trading day-in-day-out, but what they do need are simple things; access to networks, access to training and finance opportunities. A handout isn't sustainable nor is it suitable as there’s no shortage of talent and ambition. And like businesses anywhere the issues are case by case.

For example, Benedicata Nanyonga, who is one of the entrepreneurs featured in the trailer, just needs to find the right engineer to help tailor-make a machine for her very specific craft. Through Barefoot in Business and the Barefoot Fund we want to help to join the dots in these situations.

What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

I hope they enjoy watching a positive and empowering portrait of Uganda that might challenge any preconceptions they have. I also hope people take inspiration from the women in the film and that aspiring entrepreneurs learn from them. Our screening in Glasgow has been organised with Young Enterprise Scotland and it would be fantastic if young people come away feeling engaged and excited about all that is possible.

It’s particularly close to my heart that we reach out to women, as generally men are still twice as likely to set up a business. Shockingly research has shown women still don’t think they’re good enough, it would be fantastic to see women all over the world recognise their own potential and ambitions through watching these incredible female entrepreneurs thriving despite some of the practical challenges they face.

The ambition is there, the talent is there, the appetite is there, this is a way of bringing all the strands together.- Carol Cooke, filmmaker

How can people get involved with the film?

We want to see as many individuals and organisations as possible buying the film and taking the #wemeanbusiness pledge this Global Entrepreneurship Week (14-20 November) as we launch the campaign. Once they’ve purchased the documentary they can either watch the film individually or as part of one of the live simultaneous online screenings.

Money raised through sales will be directed into the Barefoot in Business Fund, but we’re also offering the chance for people to raise funds for their own organisation or a charity of their choice by becoming a Barefoot Ambassador and hosting the film on their website. Anyone who secures a minimum of 500 sales will receive a 20% share of every £5 film sold between Global Entrepreneurship Week and International Women’s Day in March 2017 when the Barefoot Fund will be launched.

Nelie with her products

Nelie with some of her products

What does the Barefoot in Business Fund aim to do?

The Fund is about connecting the dots and matching businesswomen in Uganda with their counterparts around the world, about accessing knowledge, training and networks they might not have been able to previously. We have been able to mobilise like-minded female entrepreneurs and angel investors keen to be involved in matchmaking female entrepreneurs in Uganda with the right opportunities and markets to turn their big ambitions into reality.

What’s vital though is that this is about trade not aid, we want to level the playing field. The fund is about creating a win-win situation where Uganda’s female entrepreneurs are able to do business with the organisations that want to do business with them. The ambition is there, the talent is there, the appetite is there, this is a way of bringing all the strands together.

Carol Cooke with the We Mean Business pledge

Carol means business

What’s next for Barefoot in Business?

I am already overwhelmed by the reception and backing of some of the leading individuals and organisations in global entrepreneurship and international development. I am extremely excited about this project's potential to not just empower the female entrepreneurs in Uganda but also globally as we move forward to the launch of the Fund on International Women's Day. The possibilities are quite literally endless as plans develop and more individuals and organisations come on board over the next few months.

We will continue using the model we have developed for the Barefoot In Business campaign here at Scrumptious Productions and we hope other filmmakers would find it useful – as a win-win for everyone involved. We’ve made a very clear call to action that comes hand-in-hand with the film so it's easy for audiences to engage and respond.  We have a few more projects up our sleeve so stay tuned and let's get trading!

For more information of the Barefoot in Business documentary, the Barefoot in Business Fund and how to get involved as a Barefoot Ambassador visit www.barefootinbusiness.com. For more information about Scrumptious Productions visit www.scrumptiousproductions.com.

This article was published on 14 Nov 2016