The challenge of addressing poverty and empowering women in emerging markets through entrepreneurship empowerment, is one that the Sote Tunaweza Initiative has risen to. Co-founders Daniela Barajas and Priscilla Makundi, together with their inspirational team, are on a mission to foster a global network of strong female leaders who will have the skills, confidence, and creativity to address some of the most pressing issues in their communities.
LoA spoke to the passionate Priscilla Makundi about the work of the Sote Tunaweza Initiative and her vision of creating entrepreneurship and leadership institutes that can help women in emerging markets to become the successful entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.
What does your company do?
The Sote Tunaweza Initiative seeks to prevent poverty and promote women’s innovation in emerging markets by empowering them through entrepreneurship and leadership institutes. At our institutes, we facilitate workshops on leadership, social entrepreneurship, financial accounting, strategic business planning, marketing and more. By helping women in emerging markets to gain skills to become successful leaders and entrepreneurs, the Sote Tunaweza Initiative team hopes to help women achieve financial independence and create a shift in women’s agency in the household and in society at large, increasing women’s involvement and impact in social, economic, and political issues in their countries. Ultimately, the vision is to foster a global network of strong female leaders who will have the skills, confidence, and creativity to address some of the most pressing issues in their communities.
"Our vision is to create a global network of strong female leaders who inspire and support each other to improve the quality of life of people in their communities."
What inspired you to start your company?
The Sote Tunaweza Intitiative, formerly known as the Pamoja Tunaweza Initiative, was founded by Daniela Barajas and myself in 2014, with the support of Middlebury College and the Clinton Global Initiative University. We both wanted to address some very pressing issues affecting women around the world. Women in many parts of the world are more likely to be poor and less likely to be business leaders than their counterparts. The lack of education and training opportunities due to gender discrimination often makes it difficult for women to have access to employment opportunities that will allow them to successfully break this cycle of poverty and lack of female leadership. Further, the lack of resources for promising young female entrepreneurs prevents visionary women from addressing pressing social issues through innovation. Seeing this, we asked ourselves: “What can we do to prevent poverty and to create opportunities for women that will allow them to reach their full potential to be agents of positive change in their communities?” The idea for the Sote Tunaweza Initiative grew from that question. We recognized that alone we could not eradicate poverty and change the status of women around the world. Thus, we opted to help foster an army of change-makers who will together change the world by creating positive impact within their communities.
What makes the Sote Tunaweza initiative so unique and why should aspirant young women entrepreneurs get involved?
Young aspiring female entrepreneurs should join our institutes because it is an opportunity to gain practical skills and advice from experienced professionals to become a successful leader and entrepreneur, all free of charge. Further, they will be joining a network of other inspiring and ambitious women from whom they can learn a lot. This is an opportunity to be challenged, supported, and inspired.
"The Sote Tunaweza Initiative team hopes to help women achieve financial independence and create a shift in women’s agency in the household and in society at large, increasing women’s involvement and impact in social, economic, and political issues in their countries."
Tell us a little about your team.
The Sote Tunaweza Initiative team is made up of two co-founders, that is Daniela Barajas and Priscilla Makundi. We have our development director Hellen Fissihaie, Management Consultant John Mahasi, Student Services Consultant Nancy Riwa and our Advisory Board members, Charles MacCormack and Sara Haq. You can read full biographies for our advisory board and our administrative team.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My own entrepreneurial journey began as a result of my father. He had a great job but he decided to quit his job to become his own boss. His act of courage, of going against the traditional norms of employment and following his passion in Quantum Physics as an Electrical Engineer, marked the beginning of my own entrepreneurship journey in my life. Since then, I have always follow my heart and only do what I am passionate about. My quest to find my calling was already predestined. I believe I have always been on that journey, even before I knew it myself. I just kept working hard at what I am passionate about and here I am today with the Sote Tunaweza Initiative.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We currently are focused in East Africa; however, we are planning to continue to expand by opening institutes in emerging markets across the globe. These institutes will be run by local communities so as to promote women communal empowerment in these places. Our vision is to create a global network of strong female leaders who inspire and support each other to improve the quality of life of people in their communities.
"We asked ourselves: “What can we do to prevent poverty and to create opportunities for women that will allow them to reach their full potential to be agents of positive change in their communities?” The idea for the Sote Tunaweza Initiative grew from that question."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The idea came from following in my father’s footsteps. The way he lived his life, and how much better he made every person he came into contact with, unconsciously instilled this spiritual responsibility of doing good for others. I noticed how his life became better, as a result of making the lives of others become better. Being an entrepreneur allowed me to do this and more, because I believe our lives become better when we make others’ lives better. This to me has been the most satisfaction that I aspire to everyday as an entrepreneur.
"We are currently crowfunding on Indiegogo so should you wish to support our work in women's leadership and innovation in Tanzania please click on our campaign link."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
It is time to change. It is time to walk down another street. The first step that you have to take is to believe in yourself. Just decide who you are, who you want to be and go ahead and do it. Start with the resources that you have and do not make any excuses or wait any longer, no matter what challenges are against you. Whenever I used to make excuses not to do something, my father used to say, ”tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.” He meant that if there is anything that you can do today, just DO IT, because tomorrow will come and you will make another excuse not to do what you know you are meant to do. So go ahead and JUST DO IT because with every time that passes, it will never come back. Question is, what are you going to do with your time?
#EntrepreneurAdvice: "... believe in yourself. Just decide who you are, who you want to be and go ahead and do it."
- Priscilla Makundi, co-founder @sotetunaweza
Why LoA loves it….
One hears the phrase ‘change-makers’ often these days, but in the case of Priscilla Makundi and her inspirational team at the Sote Tunaweza Initiative, it can wholeheartedly be applied. As a result of their efforts, a whole new generation of women entrepreneurs is being empowered and unskilled to not only achieve their own financial independence, but also to improve the economic livelihoods of the communities in which they live. These inspirational new women entrepreneurs are becoming more involved in all aspects of society, making a real difference and impact in the social, economic, and political issues in their countries. The Sote Tunaweza Initiative is supporting the development of a new and confident global network of women eaders who will bring solutions to some of the most pressing issues in their communities. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa