With the spectacular scenery of Table Mountain in the background, and a cloudless sunny day in prospect, almost 60 women entrepreneurs from across the Western Cape gathered together for the first Lioness Lean In Breakfast event of the year, held in the inspirational surroundings of Workshop 17 in Cape Town. The aim of the event was to share startup stories, to hear inspirational women entrepreneurs speaking about their personal business journeys to success, to connect with each other for future business and collaboration, and to do some serious networking. And, given the incredible energy and noise levels of women deep in conversation from the minute they arrived, the whole concept of ‘leaning in’ to share ideas, swop stories, and do business, was absolutely understood by everyone.
The event kicked off with a great buffet breakfast, immediate networking, and lots of entrepreneurial story and business card swopping. The main programme got underway with a welcome from Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and ceo, who spoke about why this is a great time to be a woman entrepreneur in Africa, and asked all those attending to take the opportunity to really celebrate what is now the second half of the Decade of the African Woman Entrepreneur. The first guest speaker to share her story was Lynette Hundermark, co-founder of Useful and Beautiful, a Cape Town based techpreneur specialising in innovative mobile solutions for businesses. She shared some great insights on how to harness the power of mobile and specialist apps to tap into a rapidly growing marketplace for entrepreneurs on the African continent.
As with other Lioness Lean In sessions held in the country, next up on the agenda was a discussion around the increasing global interest in women artisan entrepreneurs and their importance to the future economic development of Africa. To highlight the current trend, a presentation was shared on some of the inspirational women who are creating world-class, truly unique and proudly African handcrafted products right now, and which are garnering global attention and accolades, not to mention winning new fans. Businesses featured included everything from an artisanal gin maker in Cape Town (Lucy Beard, Hope on Hopkins); a luxury handcrafted handbag maker from Ghana (Akosua Afriyie Kumi, AAKS); an incredible artisanal chocolate maker in Tanzania (Jaki Kweka, Chocolate Mamas); and a lifechanging social enterprise that is giving real economic opportunity to Kenya’s deaf artisans (Megan MacDonald, SASA Designs for the Deaf); to name but a few.
A highlight of the programme was the introduction to an incredible woman entrepreneur who is putting South Africa’s lovingly hand-produced luxury olive oil in the global spotlight. Brenda Wilkinson, together with her husband Nick, the founders of Rio Largo, have produced a world-class olive oil that celebrates the best natural produce of the country, to be enjoyed by olive oil connoisseurs throughout the world. Brenda shared her considerable experience of building a proudly South African, but global olive oil brand, highlighting some of the challenges she has experienced along the way, and sharing some of the solutions she has found on her own entrepreneurial journey. The audience was treated to some great story-telling as Brenda shared the ups and downs of launching a proudly South African olive oil brand to discerning palettes around the world.
Next up on the programme was a presentation on the power of collaboration between women entrepreneurs, with the amazing Zikhona Tefu sharing her entrepreneurial journey to becoming an artisanal soap producer, using the award winning olive oil produced by Brenda Wilkinson at Rio Largo as the primary ingredient. Zikhona’s story was both funny and heartwarming and connected with everyone in the audience who got to know more about how to go about learning the skills required to make world-class artisanal soaps, all of which are lovingly produced by hand, and all by Zikhona with the help of her family. Her business and brand, O’live, is entering an exciting new expansion phase as she looks to create and retail more of her products, not just in South Africa, but around the world. Her vision is to become the biggest and best hand-made artisanal natural soap producer on the continent, turning O’live into a global success story.
This wonderful, energetic Lioness Lean In event was brought to a formal close by Jayshree Naidoo, the inspirational Head of the Business Incubator at Standard Bank, and the Impact Partner for the Lioness Lean In Series of events in South Africa. She provided the audience with an insight into her personal passion for entrepreneurship in Africa, together with an overview of the wide range of expertise, insights and business offerings available from the Incubator to women entrepreneurs in the country.
The networking continued over more refreshments as ideas, contacts and possible areas of collaboration were discussed with great enthusiasm. All in all, a truly great event - we are looking forward hugely to our next Lioness Lean In Breakfast Event in Cape Town on Thursday 2 June (mark your diaries now) and the opportunity to meet up once again with some of the most inspirational and innovative women entrepreneurs on the continent. See you there!
Join us at upcoming Lioness Lean In events
The next Lioness Lean In Breakfast Event will take place in Johannesburg on 17 March - Book here