Johannesburg’s women entrepreneurs were treated to a Lioness Lean In event with a difference on Friday 7 September. Gathering together in the rooftop venue of the Volkswagen SA offices in Sandton, the event impact partners for the morning, attendees were treated to not only a great view of the city as they enjoyed breakfast networking, but also a fabulous wine and chocolate pairing session.
This month’s Lioness Lean In Breakfast event in Johannesburg was definitely different, and the focus was on showcasing inspirational women entrepreneurs who are creating world class products - and giving the audience the chance to sample those products for themselves. It was all about the consumer experience throughout the morning.
The programme got underway with a welcome from Lionesses of Africa Founder and CEO, Melanie Hawken, who introduced Lionesses of Africa’s newest impact partner on the Lioness Lean In events in South Africa, Volkswagen SA, and cohost for this particular Lioness Lean In Event in Johannesburg. She welcomed Carla Wentzel, Head of Volkswagen Brand to the podium to introduce the company and its products to the audience. She was greeted by an enthusiastic response when talking about the range of fabulous cars in the Volkswagen brand family. Meredith Kelly, Marketing and Communications Manager at VolkswagenSA then chatted to the women entrepreneurs in the audience about the range of cars and services on offer to women in their personal lives and in their businesses. She also gave them the opportunity to experience two of the cars on display for the morning, an invitation that was taken up by many of the women attending.
Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa Founder and CEO, then returned to the podium to share some insights from the recent SA UK Business Forum in Cape Town, where pioneering African women entrepreneurs from the Lionesses network showcased their businesses to UK influencers, including the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. Melanie took the opportunity to talk about the various initiatives that Lionesses of Africa will now be launching to give women entrepreneurs from across the African continent greater access to exciting global markets, such as the UK.
The programme continued with the first of the women entrepreneurs and their businesses to be showcased during the morning. First to the podium to share her startup story was Thabiso Mahlape, the founder of Blackbird Books. Thabiso shared her very personal story of breaking into the book publishing industry in South Africa. Her frank insights into what it takes to be a successful niche, black author focused publishing house, were both refreshing and inspirational. She won new fans and customers alike following her presentation.
Next to share her startup story was Mel Finch-Keshwar, co-founder of The Chocolatiers, a delicious, artisan handmade chocolate company based in Linden, Johannesburg. Mel shared her personal story of how she and her mother Ann started their company following their move from successful corporate careers, and their recent move into the world of retail with the opening of their new shop in Linden.
The final startup story came from passionate wine entrepreneur, Mbali Masike, founder of Ngiyi Mbali Wines. She shared her story of being inspired from a young age to become a winemaker, and about her journey to being mentored by a leading Cape Town vintner through to producing and launching her own wines. Mbali’s passion-driven presentation connected with the audience, winning her applause and accolades for her achievements so far as a young wine brand in South Africa.
The morning’s programme then became experiential with the Lioness CoLAB feature, which each month highlights great collaborations between women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa network. This month’s Lioness CoLAB fittingly came from The Chocolatiers and Ngiyi Mbali Wines, with a wonderful Chocolate and Wine Tasting Session, pairing two wines and two bespoke chocolate flavours. The audience members got the opportunity to learn more about the science of pairing flavours, and of course, to tasting the wines and chocolates for themselves, giving first hand feedback to the producers. This was definitely a highlight of the morning!
The next Lioness CoLAB to be featured was the recent design collaboration between Gone Rural in Swaziland and Dokter and Misses in South Africa, and their fabulous initiative to design and produce an innovative new interior Soldier Screens system. The room and space divider screens feature inserts handwoven by the Gone Rural craftswomen in Swaziland, introducing a new take on an age-old method of defining and dividing large spaces at home or at the office. Read more about this Lioness CoLAB here.
In the regular Lioness Launch segment of the morning’s programme, news was announced of the new Spring/Summer clothing collection launch later that evening by leading South African fashion designer and business owner, Nicola Luther, of the brand Lunar. Read more about the new collection here.
Lunar, one of South Africa's top design labels for the past two decades, is set to unveil its exciting new Spring/Summer 2018 collection on Friday 7 September in Johannesburg.
Innovative South African design company, Dokter and Misses have teamed up with artisan weavers Gone Rural Swaziland, a high impact social enterprise in rural eSwatini, to develop the modular Soldier Screens system. The screens are made of a slender steel frame with inserts woven from a comb
The Lioness Launch Open Mic session then followed, giving the opportunity to audience members to announce news of their newly launched products, businesses and services, always a hit with those participating and in the audience.
Lionesses Founder and CEO, Melanie Hawken, brought the event to a close by providing news and information on forthcoming events to be held across the African continent. She also celebrated the guest bloggers who are part of the Lionesses of Africa community and invited other women entrepreneurs to join in and write regular guest blogs that can inspire others. She brought the formal programme to an end with a call to all the women entrepreneurs attending to join the Lionesses of Africa community, to share their startup stories, to sign up for their daily and weekly newsletters and radio shows, and to apply for places on the forthcoming Lionesses of Africa Digital Accelerator. The event ended with a special prize draw featuring gifts given by women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa network, including books from Thabiso Mahlape, of Blackbird Books; chocolates from The Chocolatiers presented by Ann Finch; and bottles of wine from the collection presented by Mbali Masike, founder of ngiyiMbali Wines. Every attendee also received a fabulous gift of a car boot organiser kit from the team at Volkswagen SA.
This was another great Lioness Lean In Breakfast event, celebrating the real spirit of community in Johannesburg, and showcasing some of the most innovative and exciting businesses and brands in the city.