The prestigious 9th IWEC - International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge and Awards event is currently taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, and one of South Africa’s most respected and successful women entrepreneurs is one of the invited guest speakers at the event. Margaret Hirsch, the co-founder and Chief Operations Executive of Hirschs, has been invited to speak about her work, her philosophy on women’s economic participation and upliftment, and her own entrepreneurial journey. She was joined by fellow South African entrepreneurs Shona McDonald from Shonaquip and Wendy Kemp from Accountability in Cape Town.
Speaking about what it meant for Margaret to attend the event and to represent South Africa, she said:
“For me it was fantastic to meet all these people who I have only ever heard and read about and it was also my first international talk! Its just wonderful being here with all these women - all winners from 33 countries around the globe! You can literally feed off their energy - they are all enthusiastic, sharp, witty, beautiful, well groomed and are all running their own businesses and doing extremely well too. Lots have been in business for quite some time - the lady from Portugal who farms cork is the third generation to take ownership of the business, but most are start up entrepreneurs. However, I must tell you that we South Africans can hold our own amongst all of them. I am here with Shona McDonald from Shonaquip and Wendy Kemp from Accountability in Cape Town. We were invited to attend by the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and their President Janine Myburgh is here with us too, as well as two past winners, Renee Keeble from 2013 and Caryn Formby from 2014 who now form part of the panel of judges.”
IWEC’s goal is to develop a global business network for successful women business owners, helping them gain and expand access to international markets. IWEC also presents a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experience and connectivity among women business owners worldwide, setting the stage for new business opportunities and joint ventures, and promoting social dialogue among women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The overall theme of this year’s conference is Connecting Women Businesses Globally: Driving Growth Through Women’s Economic Participation”, an important message for Africa right now, and a critical discussion to be raising as the world get’s ready to celebrate the 2nd global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on the 19th of November. Speaking about the theme of the conference, Margaret said:
“Its really important but the sad thing for me is that out of the 57 countries in Africa, only South Africa and Zimbabwe were represented - we need to get the rest of Africa on board because there is a lot of networking going on here and most of Africa is missing out! Every one of these women is passionate about her business and all want to interact with other women and work together to ensure that their businesses grow. There is such a positive vibe when we are all together and it was wonderful today to hear all the Awardees speak as each one had such a different tale to tell and every story had a happy ending!”
To mark the forthcoming celebration of the 2nd global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on 19th November, Margaret sent this message to other women entrepreneurs across the continent:
“What I will say to all of them is that you don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great!! Don’t wait - my only regret in my life is that I didnt start my own business sooner - all of these women have worked really hard to get their businesses up and running and they continually work hard to ensure that they remain profitable - many have had to re-write the rule books in their countries to be able to be in business, but they have all persevered and are proof that it can be done - right across the globe. We all have the same trials and tribulations, but we are all living proof that you can work for a boss and make a living, or work for yourself and make a fortune. All you have to do is take that first step with the solid belief that you can do it - you can make all your dreams come true, with passion, hard work, focus and the drive to persist until you get to where you want to be - and then when you get there to do that little bit more that will make a huge difference.”