One of the ways to dismantle poverty and the economic barriers that women entrepreneurs face is through economic development. Dr. Ezenwayi Amaechi found this out during her Doctorate research that focused on economic barriers to women entrepreneurs in Enugu State, Nigeria, which then resulted in the birth of the Most Excellent Women group.
In 2014, Dr. Ezenwayi had the opportunity to go back to Nigeria to work for a year. One rainy day, on her way to work, she passed by a marketplace, where she saw a woman who was sitting in front of a marketplace she described as wet and muddy. The woman would wash people’s feet in return for a small fee, so Dr. Ezenwayi thought, “what would happen if this woman is empowered in a way that would help her to be even more economically developed?” This moment left a powerful impact on her. So, when the time to present her dissertation topic to her Ph.D. mentor came around, she shared the idea with her mentor, and together they came up with a research topic to address the issue. During her research, Dr. Ezenwayi shared with her participants about her intentions to return once she graduates to implement the research findings; after her graduation in 2016, she did.
The Most Excellent Women was formed in the summer of 2017, to train small-scale women entrepreneurs on how to manage their businesses and sustain them for long-term success. She knew that the journey ahead would not be easy, but she was determined to keep her promise to her research participants. Exactly one year from the time she completed her research, she traveled to Nigeria to fulfill her social change mandate. About 22 women attended the first training that Dr. Ezenwayi held in 2017. She went back again in 2018 and 2019. Today, the Most Excellent Women group is thriving. They are now led by MESE’s Regional Director, Mrs. Humble Mbaeri, who uses the curriculum set by Dr. Ezenwayi to train and mentor these women on how to improve their businesses monthly. During the training, the women are encouraged to take notes of everything they learn; they are also required to keep track of their weekly finances. As one woman, in particular, shared that “the training and the implementation of what she learned, has helped her stay organized as well as improved the ways she runs her business.”
In the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like many other business owners, the women entrepreneurs were negatively impacted as well. In fact, one of the women moved back to her village with her children while the others eagerly waited until they can resume their businesses. To help sustain their businesses, Dr. Ezenwayi awarded grants to them. With this grant, the woman that moved to the village came back to continue her business. To Dr. Ezenwayi, this is more than just training the Most Excellent Women; it is a promise to bring about social change as well as holistic support, that will forever change the lives of these small-scale women entrepreneurs.