Elegant Frenchwoman Christine Borgoltz-Halff is THE woman behind the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. Taking place each year at the Women’s Forum in Deauville, it is now in its 8th year, attracting over 1,800 applications from all over the world. With passion, conviction and modesty, Christine Borgoltz-Halff talks to Myriam Crété-O’Carroll about her company’s engagement to support female entrepreneurs and her ambition for the prize to grow.
Why did Cartier decide to launch a prize to support female entrepreneurs?
Eight years ago, when Cartier decided to partner with the Women’s Forum, we wanted to show our long-term engagement with women of value. We launched this initiative with former Cartier President, Mr Bernard Fornas, and Aude de Thuin, the founder of the Women’s Forum. As a responsible company we don’t do ‘one-shot’ at Cartier, so we saw it as an initiative that would have consistency and legacy.
What were your objectives in launching this initiative?
We realised that the trouble with women today is that they are very talented and creative, but they are sometimes unable to turn their talent and ideas into profitable businesses. They lack advice and have difficulty using balance to their own benefit. As a brand defending the values of passion, generosity and sharing – which is what women actually do naturally – it was obvious for Cartier to support them that way. Also 60% of the company’s employees are women.
What first steps did you take to launch the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards?
First of all we established regions, as we wanted the initiative to be global from the start. We now have 6 regions where women can apply to compete for the prize: Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, and Asia Pacific. And as we could obviously not manage this initiative without help, we created partnerships with two established international firms. We work with INSEAD business school for the tutoring and mentoring part and the McKinsey consulting firm for the coaching. We also established strict criteria for female entrepreneurs to be eligible for the prize.
What are these criteria?
To be eligible, the business must be in an initial start-up phase and show between 1 and 3 years of growth, have a strong social impact, be sustainable and be innovative. We welcome businesses from all sectors; there’s no rule about that.
What do the finalists win?
We bring, of course, visibility, which is one of Cartier’s strengths due to its brand name, so recognition is one prize. Each finalist wins $20,000 cash, which can be an important sum in some countries but less in regions like North America.
Of course it’s nice to win a prize and a trophy, but what makes the difference for us is the coaching they get as part of the process.
What coaching do you offer?
The coaching is what is most important for us. We offer bespoke coaching and we focus on specific needs. The objective is to help the enterprise to be viable and have a sustainable future. So, for instance, if an enterprise is weaker in marketing or in financing, our coaching will help them in that particular area. The coaching is really there to help the women grow and have a sustainable business. We ultimately want to help them to create more employment. That’s our goal.
How does the selection process work?
Each participant can apply online through our website. This year we received 1,800 applications from approximately 105 countries. From there INSEAD helps us in the pre-selection phase. They make sure the business plans submitted are complete and accurate. At this stage we are very strict. So, this year, from the initial 1,800 applications, we were left with 800. The final selection is then submitted to the members of the jury who short-list the laureates.
Who are your jury members?
Our jury members are men and women active in the business arena, usually entrepreneurs themselves. They are all volunteers and very dedicated. We have a president of the jury in each region, who works with 4 to 5 other jury members. They are renewed every 3 years, but some still stay involved as mentor for instance and it is great to see that when it happens.
I bet it is hard to choose the finalists?
Final deliberations are always very challenging moments. Each year we listen, debate and exchange with the members of the jury. We try to get better in taking on board the feedback we get from them and the challenges faced by the laureates in each region. We learn from each other; it’s an ongoing process.
When do you announce the winners?
Our Awards ceremony always takes place at the Women’s Forum in Deauville on the Thursday evening. Only the 3 finalists of each region come to Deauville, so 18 finalists. At this stage we tell them they’ve actually all won, just by being there.
So what are your next plans to enable the prize to grow?
Networking is our next phase. All the finalists already naturally network between themselves, but it is not organised or officialised. So this year we’re going to create a private social network platform for them to connect, share and talk to each other. It will also enable them to stay connected with the members of the jury and their coach.
Having given birth to this initiative, what personal advice would you give to female entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to share.
Women tend to lack self-confidence, but when you have the enthusiasm, the energy and the passion, you’ve got to have hope.
And the day you start communicating and sharing your passion, things start to happen.