On the morning of Thursday 13 September, 120 women entrepreneurs from across Abidjan gathered together to be inspired and to connect with their fellow women business and brand builders at the first Lioness Lean In breakfast event in the country. And it was a great occasion!
Lionesses of Africa partnered with Ambassade du Royaume des Pays-Bas to host 120 leading women entrepreneurs representing a wide range of business sectors at the Hotel Tiama in the heart of Abidjan’s business district. The morning’s agenda commenced with breakfast and networking, with women entrepreneurs getting the opportunity to meet one another, make important connections, and open up new business opportunities. The event programme formally got under way with opening remarks from Ambassador, Robert van den Dool, Ambassade du Royaume des Pays-Bas.
L-R: Robert van den Dool, Ambassador; Raissa Marteaux, Chef de Mission Adjoint et Chargée de Section Economie; Melanie Hawken
Presenting an overview of the work of Lionesses of Africa to empower and support 1 million women entrepreneurs across the African continent was founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken. She shared some of the major initiatives currently being rolled out by Lionesses of Africa and also plans for the remainder of the year ahead. She also showed attendees a video from the most recent Start-Up Night! Africa London and Berlin events which showcased some of Africa’s leading women global brand builders to an audience of high profile investors and influencers.
Speaking at the event, Melanie Hawken commented:
“It’s wonderful to be in Abidjan for the first time and to have the opportunity of connecting with and building our community of women entrepreneurs in Cote d’Ivoire. It is good to have the opportunity to share at first hand the news of the various initiatives that Lionesses of Africa is rolling out for these women business builders, and also to showcase their stories and their businesses all this month on all the Lionesses of Africa platforms.”
L-R: Amie Kouame; Carol Hien; Bénédicte Mendy
Next on the programme came three leading women entrepreneurs from Abidjan who shared their highly personal and powerful entrepreneurial success stories and business building journeys with the audience. First to the speaker podium was Amie Kouame, founder of Ayana. She talked about her path to becoming an entrepreneur following a successful corporate career in marketing and communication, and her founding of the AyanaWebzine in 2011, with her high school friend, Edith Brou. Today, she now balances being a leading digital entrepreneur with being a Mom, and is resolutely sensitive to the feminine cause, convinced that a woman in her skin is able to achieve all the goals she has set for herself.
The second speaker was the inspirational Carol Hien, founder of Carol’s Produits Naturels, a rising independent agri-food brand in the country. She shared her highly emotional story of her life and her road to financial independence through entrepreneurship following a number of personal tragedies. Since launching her business which produces all natural jams and preserves in 2015, Carol has since been recognized for her remarkable business building work and products, and was the First Prize winner of the Patronat for Innovation 2015 Award in the category Advanced plant material and agri-food product; and the First Prize winner of the 2016 Startup Challenge of the Alassane Ouattara Total Prize Foundation of the Emerging Young Entrepreneur.
The third guest speaker was Bénédicte Mendy, founder of Okana/Bar Nomade in Cote d’Ivoire. Bénédicte is a French-Senegalese disruptive entrepreneur, passionate about travel and gastronomy. She shared her personal story of how for more than 10 years, she has participated in the commercial development and marketing of international brands of wines and spirits, and has proved herself in the field of distillation, bartending, sommellerie, and has perfected oenology at the Ecole du Vin. Today, she has embarked on a highly successful entrepreneurial adventure by creating Okana, a unique Afro-inspired mobile bar, which is winning fans across the country who come out in large numbers to participate in her unique bar experiences. She is also a graduate of the prestigious ESSEC Business School and was voted the best bartender in Ivory Coast by winning the 2016 Marie Brizard Masters Cocktail Competition in Abidjan.
L-R: Georgette Zamble, Regine Le Roux, Tinotenda Pasi-Chirinda, Margaret Hirsch
The morning continued with an address by Georgette Zamble, President of Empow’Her Cote d’Ivoire who gave a short presentation on the work of her organisation. Also sharing some exciting news for high growth potential women entrepreneurs in Cote d’Ivoire was Tinotenda Pasi-Chirinda who is the gender advisor for the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). She introduced the work of the new fund to provide access to finance and opportunities for growth for women entrepreneurs. Two leading South African women entrepreneurs who joined the Lionesses of Africa delegation to Cote d’Ivoire also introduced their businesses to the audience - Margaret Hirsch, co-founder of Hirsch’s Homestores and Regine Le Roux, founder of Reputation Matters.
The event came to a formal close with an open mike session for women entrepreneurs to introduce their businesses, and closing remarks from cohosts Melanie Hawken and Raissa Marteaux, Chef de Mission Adjoint et Chargée de Section Economie, Ambassade du Royaume des Pays-Bas.
Speaking on behalf of the Embassy, Raissa Marteaux said:
“The Embassy is a proud partner with a shared goal: to promote the position of women in the economy and international trade. Having seen and heard the amazing women entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire we believe that the Lean In Events fill an existing need. As a partner, the Netherlands strives to make work accessible, safe and profitable for women and girls.”
For more information on Lionesses of Africa, go to www.lionessesofafrica.com