‘We Realized We All Have Common Problems,’ Says Female Entrepreneur From Tajikistan Visiting Milwaukee

By Sarah Hauer
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Four women from Tajikistan visited Milwaukee this week through the International Visitor Leadership Program which is part of the U.S. State Department. The women first toured Washington D.C. and are now in Wisconsin to find out what it means to be a female business owner in the U.S.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Tahmina Karimova owns Ozara, a handicrafts company in Tajikistan.

Kimberly Kane runs Kane Communications Group in Milwaukee.

Thursday, as the pair met and discussed their female-owned businesses, Karimova said she realized all entrepreneurs face common problems.

Karimova is one of four women from Tajikistan visiting Milwaukee through the International Visitor Leadership Program, part of the U.S. State Department. The group arrived in Wisconsin on Wednesday after four days in Washington, D.C. They leave Saturday.

The idea behind the program is to strengthen foreign relations by facilitating conversations among local people and their visiting counterparts. Each year nearly 5,000 people come to the United States through the program, launched in 1940.

“One of the benefits for me is that every country, even one of the most advanced countries in the world, has its own problems,” said Karimova who spoke through an interpreter. “We were coming here with the idea that America is a paradise. However, we are finding out very quickly that there are many problems including female problems. It’s not all as perfect as we thought before.”

Kane showed the group around the company’s Third Ward office and shared how she grew from a one-woman shop in 2013 to a seven-employee firm earning more than $1 million in revenue. The foreign entrepreneurs were eager for Kane’s advice on marketing and promoting their businesses.

“When you’re an entrepreneur and growing your business, learning best practices can help you skip steps,” Kane said. One of her tips was learning to delegate and avoiding “founders syndrome.”

The women are getting a whirlwind tour of Wisconsin and what it means to be a female business owner in the U.S. One highlight: grabbing grilled cheese sandwiches from The Gouda Girls food truck and meeting owners Tina and Katherine Tonn. The meal earned a thumbs up from all the women.

Mehrinisso Babalova, whose company does micro-loans for mostly women-owned businesses, said she was envious of the programs that support female entrepreneurs in the U.S. The group visited with both the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. and the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Small Business Development.

Kane also spoke about how qualifying for certifications like the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise helped her company gain business.

The women from Tajikistan are also meeting with BelaBela, Gothic Milwaukee, In Tandem Theater, Kepis & Dream Catchers and Nikavonni’s.

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