It was a long anticipated event, but when the first Lioness Lean In event in Lagos, Nigeria took place on Thursday 17 October at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, cohosted by Lionesses of Africa and Sigma Pensions, the atmosphere was buzzing. Around 120 leading women entrepreneurs from across the city came to be inspired, motivated and to connect for greater business success. It was a recipe for a great event - and it didn’t disappoint!
On a hot summer’s morning in Ikoyi, Lagos, the road traffic may have been its usual frenetic self, but nothing deterred women entrepreneurs from arriving at the Wheatbaker Hotel bright and early, ready for the first Lioness Lean In event to be held in Nigeria. And, what a morning it was! As women entrepreneurs gathered to network over breakfast refreshments, old friendships were renewed and new ones formed, as everyone got ready for a morning of inspiration and information sharing. This first Lioness Lean In event in Lagos represented a unique opportunity for leading women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa Nigeria network to get together and meet with Lionesses founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken, together with co-host for the morning, Natalie Kolbe, Global Head: Private Equity at Actis, the key champion for the event. It was also a unique opportunity for Lionesses of Africa to introduce Sigma Pensions as its first key impact partner in Nigeria.
Speaking before the event got underway, Melanie Hawken said:
“It is so good to be finally bringing our Lioness Lean In events to Lagos and to have the opportunity of meeting so many women entrepreneurs in our Lionesses community here and hearing at first hand how their businesses are growing, and experiencing their new products and services. We look forward to welcoming many more women entrepreneurs from Lagos into the Lionesses of Africa community where they can connect and do business with their counterparts across the continent, and of course, raise the profile of their own businesses and brands at the same time. We are looking forward to a great first event here in Lagos, the first of many we have planned going forward, and a huge thank you goes to our first impact partner here in Nigeria, Sigma Pensions, for their support for women entrepreneurs.”
The morning’s official programme got underway with welcome remarks, courtesy of Nafisah Muhammad Buba, Sigma Pensions’ Head of Business Development Division, North. She was then joined by Melanie Hawken who introduced the work of Lionesses of Africa across the continent and the global Diaspora. She updated attendees on new initiatives, programmes and news from Lionesses of Africa, and encouraged all women entrepreneurs in Lagos to join the community, and to have their businesses showcased across all its platforms. Next on the programme and giving the official welcome on behalf of Actis and Sigma Pensions was Natalie Kolbe, Global Head: Private Equity, Actis. She was followed by Mabel George, VP, Business Development West, Sigma Pensions, who shared with the audience the range of specialist expertise, products and services available to women entrepreneurs from Sigma Pensions.
Row 1: Nafisah Muhammad Buba, Kofo Akinkugbe
Row 2: David Uduanu, Natalie Kolbe
Row 3: Dr Ola Orekunrin, Omomene Odike
Row 4: Mabel George, Oluwafemi Oyedipe
Row 5: Femi Olayebi, Melanie Hawken
The programme then featured three leading, highly successful women entrepreneurs who shared their personal, inspirational entrepreneurial startup stories with the audience - these included Kofo Akinkugbe, founder and ceo of Secure ID; Dr Ola Orekunrin, founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria; and Omomene Odike, MD/CEO U-Connect Human Resources. Each of these renowned women entrepreneurs spoke about their very personal business building experiences, talking about the challenges faced from funding for business expansion to local regulatory environments. It was a powerful experience for so many of the audience members to hear from their entrepreneurial role-models in the country.
In addition, in the Lioness Launch feature of the programme, two women entrepreneurs took the opportunity to share their stories and launch their new products and services to the audience. Showcasing her business was Femi Olayebi, founder of My World of Bags, introducing her latest luxury Femi Handbag range. She spoke about the recent launch of her physical retail store in Lagos, and also her advocacy work championing the Lagos Leather Fair, which provides a platform for leather designers and other stakeholders to enhance the leather value chain in Nigeria. Next in the Lioness Launch segment of the programme was Oluwafemi Oyedipe, founder of Loshes Chocolate, and a passionate advocate of ‘bean to bar’ chocolate production in Nigeria, extending the locally grown cacao value chain. She shared her personal journey of building a proudly Nigerian bean to bar chocolate business, before tempting tastebuds with her exciting range of delicious chocolate products.
Melanie Hawken and Nafisah Muhammad Buba from Sigma Pensions then returned to the speaker podium to update attendees about the latest business launches from across the Lionesses of Africa network, and to invite a number of passionate and ambitious local women entrepreneurs from the audience to pitch their businesses and new products. These included: Jaga Beauty, Speaking Fingers Network, Empathy Driven Women International, Divine Chris Ken Creativity, FABE International Foundation, Viva La Glam, Bella Africana, Francis Jide Artworks, Renilegal, and Emerging Africa Capital Ltd. Each of these women owned businesses will be featured on all the Lionesses of Africa platforms over the coming weeks as part of a series of special editorial features, women entrepreneur case studies, and interviews with leading women business builders from Nigeria.
Guests were then treated to a special Prize Draw, with wonderful gifts donated by House of Tara, Loshes Chocolates, and Femi Handbags, presented to three lucky winners.
Closing remarks were made by Melanie Hawken of Lionesses of Africa and David Uduanu, Managing Director of Sigma Pensions who thanked speakers and audience members for their participation and encouraged everyone to support one another in business and to maximize the networking opportunity of the event.