What better way to start the year than with a great Lioness Lean In event for women entrepreneurs, and the first event in what will be an exciting programme for 2019 took place in Johannesburg on Friday 8 February. Over 100 women business builders came together to share, inspire and connect at the impact partner host venue for the event, the Volkswagen SA headquarters in Sandton.
Attendees started arriving early on the morning of 8 February at Volkswagen SA’s great rooftop meeting venue, to secure the best seats for the first Lioness Lean In event of the year. The networking started in earnest immediately, fueled by plenty of cappuccinos and a great buffet breakfast. The Lionesses of Africa community in Johannesburg was keen to renew friendships, make important new business connections, and generally catch up with news at the start of the business year.
To kickstart the morning, Lionesses of Africa founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken, greeted all the attendees and introduced the programme for the morning. An official welcome from the event’s impact partner, Volkswagen SA, was given by Meredith Kelly, Marketing and Communications Manager, who is a real key champion for women entrepreneurs.
The programme then got underway in earnest as Melanie shared news of the highlight of the year so far for Lionesses of Africa, with the launch in London of the Companies to Inspire Africa initiative, hosted by the London Stock Exchange Group. The high profile UK hosted event was opened by Minister Penny Mordant, Minister for International Trade & Development in the UK. Melanie shared news on how this high profile event featured a lively panel discussion headed by facilitator Manji Cheto of the London Stock Exchange Group, and featuring Melanie plus other inspirational Lionesses of Africa; Amy Jadesimi, CEO of Ladol; Toyin Odulate, CEO of Olori Cosmetics; ad Emma Wade Smith, HM Trade Commissioner for Africa. The panel discussed such topics as access to markets and funding for Africa’s women entrepreneurs, and some of the challenges facing women owned businesses on the continent looking for investment to support their growth. Melanie also shared with the audience news of the London Stock Exchange Group announcing the formal launch of the latest edition of the Companies to Inspire Africa book at the event. Eight women entrepreneurs from the Lionesses of Africa network made the publication, including: Adele Dejak - Adeke Dejak Jewellery (Kenya); Flora Mutahi - Melvin Marsh International (Kenya); Joanne Mwangi - PMS Group (Kenya); Dr Victoria Kisyombe - Selfina (Tanzania); Julian Omalla - Delight (Uganda); Divine Ndhlukula - Securico -(Zimbabwe); Sarah Collins - Wonderbag (South Africa); and Kofo Akinkugbe - Secure ID (Nigeria).
The highlight of the Lioness Lean In Johannesburg event morning was the introduction of the three inspirational guest speakers - Antoinette Stoltz, founder of Bobby Yarn; Ntsoaki Kortjass, founder of Tsoabelo Security Solutions; and Sharika Punwasi, founder of My Cotton Tree. Each of these successful and tenacious entrepreneurs shared their personal stories and experiences of building their businesses and brands over the past few years.
As the event was held in the month of February, a special Lioness Launch feature in the morning’s programme took place to celebrate all those women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa community launching special Valentine’s Day products. Featured was the wonderful South African vegan ice-cream maker, YoCoco, founded by Sinenhlanhla Ndlela and represented by one of her team members, Thandeka Nkosi, on the morning. The YoCoco team launched a special Valentine’s Day edition CakePop, and gave away samples to three lucky audience members. Also featured was the hugely popular and ever growing South African artisan chocolate brand, Chocoloza founded by Vicky Bain. The Chocoloza team created a special Valentine’s Day chocolate gift box, delightful to look at and even better to taste. Two lucky winners walked away from the event with two gift boxes of chocolates to try for themselves.
The ever popular Lioness Launch Open Mike session followed, with five women entrepreneurs from the audience taking the opportunity to pitch their businesses and brands, and getting great support from their fellow business builders in the room. A special mentoring update from the Cherie Blair Foundation Global Women's Mentoring Programme followed, with recent graduating mentees Sarinah Matema-Morgans, founder of Serenitii Luxury Bodycare, and Clare Appleyard, founder of Katannuta Diamonds, both sharing their personal experiences of being on the mentoring programme.
The morning drew to a close with a Prize Draw featuring gifts donated by the guest speakers, including great bags and accessories from Bobby Yarn’s new collection, some great kids’ T-Shirts from My Cotton Tree, boxes of hand-made Valentine’s Day chocolates from Chocoloza, gift bags containing skincare products from Serenitii Luxury Bodycare, and a great motoring gift bag courtesy of Volkswagen SA.
To find out more about forthcoming Lioness Lean In events across the African continent, click on http://www.lionessesofafrica.com/events-homepage