By Jewelle Saunders
2018 YLAI Fellow and co-founder of L3G’s & Associates, Fatima Chi, is empowering businesses in her community in Belize to take control of their finances. L3G’s & Associates, founded with Fatima’s sister, Yadira, provides accounting and bookkeeping services, assisting clients by providing them with a wide array of professional business knowledge to help them better manage their finances and overall business operations.
To celebrate Fatima’s work promoting financial literacy and wellness, the YLAI Network asked her a few questions about her journey to entrepreneurship.
What have the trajectory of your career and your initial start in entrepreneurship looked like?
From very young, I was inspired to be an entrepreneur and to do great things. When I was little, I often liked books more than toys, and even when I fell severely ill when I was young and was often hospitalized, I would ask for my teachers to bring exams to the hospital and I came out in the top three of my class. My accounting teacher had encouraged me to act on my skills in accounting, as she saw that it was easy for me to learn and I had always a positive attitude learning it.
One day, when heading to my family’s favorite restaurant, we found that it had suddenly closed. I became conscious that our community was facing a dilemma of businesses opening and closing quickly due to their poor financial management. From there, I knew this was what I was passionate about helping in my community.
What is the role that L3G’s & Associates plays within your community?
L3G’s & Associates’ role is to keep local businesses running well, to provide guidance on the proper business formation and importance of proper finance management.
What is it like to be a female entrepreneur in Belize?
It feels empowering to be a female entrepreneur in my community. I have become confident in holding many different roles. I am an entrepreneur, mother, wife, sibling, friend and community leader. This confidence has helped me keep focus with continuous perseverance when I need to overcome bumps in the road.
Being a model of entrepreneurship in the community helps other young women to see that they can be successful and chase after their dreams. As a female entrepreneur, I have had to be myself, believe in myself and come into my own with integrity and pride. I owe it to my female community.
What are some challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Understanding that the process of creating change cannot happen tomorrow, but has to happen over time, has been difficult. Not being able to see the return quickly when you know you are working hard can be difficult as well.
Multitasking all of my different roles while starting a business was not without its challenges. I had my obligations as a mother and a wife as well, and I rarely got a full night’s sleep, but I knew what I wanted to become and I worked hard to persevere and create change.
There have also been plenty of financial struggles to overcome, particularly at the beginning of any business, when you invest all you have in it. No banks or loaning companies gave loans to this startup business and I was not able to hire a babysitter. This means I had to go to work, come home to do laundry and the housekeeping, make dinner, help my child with homework, tuck them in bed and once again go back to finish deadlines at the end of every evening.
But all of this hard work has made me an integral part of this community where people depend on me, and I am an example for young women to look up to.
Do you believe it is important to be financially literate?
I believe it is vital to be financially literate. Often, it is not just about what you have, but what you can do with what you have.
Many people believe they need millions to start and maintain a business, but even if you do not think you have enough, once you have a clear vision, a budget and the right investment, you cannot go wrong. It is easier to make excuses than to make a financial plan to get you and your business to the next level.
How has YLAI helped you achieve your mission?
The YLAI Fellowship and Network have helped me achieve my mission by:
- Broadening my horizons. With participants from different Latin American and Caribbean communities, I had the chance to better understand the global challenges entrepreneurs face.
- Strengthening my business skills. I was able to learn by being exposed to workshops, seminars and my internship placement with Economic Arkansas in the U.S.
- Clarifying my business goals. After participating in YLAI, I better understood how to pitch my organization and understand its mission and values more concretely.
- Discovering how to help my community. After YLAI, I better understood how to meet the social responsibility I felt to my community.
Is there any advice that you would give to other YLAI Network members aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
To make a difference in your community, you need to be genuine and be passionate. It will not come easy; however, you should know that you are not alone in this. Those that get ahead are the ones that are hungry. Success comes with determination and perseverance.
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The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government