This year, the Lionesses of Africa community celebrated International Women’s Day in real style, with not just one event, but four - each one with a different audience, geographic location, and objective. If you didn’t manage to attend one of them, here are some of the highlights.
International Women’s Day got off to a global start for Lionesses of Africa this year and in style, at No 10 Downing Street in London, with an event hosted by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Around 100 women entrepreneurs and change-makers in their respective fields, gathered together on Thursday 7 March to network, share experiences, and make important business connections. The event was attended by Lionesses of Africa founder, Melanie Hawken, together with a number of women entrepreneurs from the African Diaspora and continent. It was a great opportunity to introduce the work of Lionesses of Africa to potential future collaborators, supporters, and funders. The event was a wonderful way to start what was to be a busy International Women’s Day for the Lionesses network.
On the day itself on 8 March, the highlight of International Women’s Day was the hosting of not one but two Lioness Lean In events. The first took place in Johannesburg, South Africa and was held once again at the Volkswagen Group offices in Sandton, the home of one of Lionesses of Africa’s leading impact partners. The atmosphere is always lively at these events, with over 120 women entrepreneurs arriving from across the city to share their entrepreneurial stories, inspire one another with their business building experiences, and to connect with fellow women entrepreneurs to do business.
The event kicked off in earnest with an official welcome from the newly appointed Lioness Lean In Ambassador for Southern Africa, Hlubi Mboya Arnold, who shared with the audience the ethos behind hosting two Lioness Lean In events in two cities on the day. Our hosts for the morning, Volkswagen Group, also gave a warm welcome to all the attendees to their fabulous venue space, with one of the best views of the city. Next Hlubi introduced the impressive line-up of speakers for the morning, all women entrepreneurs at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys. These included S’onqoba Vuba, founder of Perpetu8, Keshni Morar, founder of Styld, and Zamaswazi Mfusi, founder of Indilang. All three entrepreneurs are having their startup stories featured on Lionesses of Africa this week - check them out here.
The popular Lioness Launch feature this month showcased the Africology luxury spa and wellness brand, founded by the inspirational Renchia Dragonis. She was represented on the day by Tracy Plant who shared with attendees the ethos behind the brand, and also the latest products and spa offerings to customers. The event ended with a Lioness Pitch Session, providing 5 up and coming women entrepreneurs to introduce their new products and services, and also a special Prize Draw. Prizes included a giftbag for every attendee from Africology; Indilang donated a gift of a book and CD featuring the best of the content it produces for children. Serenity Luxury Bodycare presented some luxury bodycare product gift bags; Volkswagen kindly donating a great gift for a lucky winner; Styld presented a gift voucher for a personal styling session; and Perpetu8 gave an invaluable1.5 hour business coaching session to the lucky winner. The event ended with some great business networking.
At the same time as the Johannesburg event was happening, another Lioness Lean In event was taking place in the UK, cohosted with Hogan Lovells, Lionesses of Africa’s legal impact partner. The sun came out just in time for the event on a cold winter’s morning, and attendees headed to the venue for the event, the stunning Hogan Lovells offices in Holborn, in the heart of London. Attendees were treated to a great networking breakfast with a wonderful view of the city skyline from the top floor of the building. The morning got underway with welcomes from Lionesses of Africa founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken, and from co-host Susan Bright, Regional Managing Partner UK and Africa, Hogan Lovells.
The highlight of the Lioness Lean In London event were the startup stories, shared by talented creative women entrepreneurs from the African Diaspora who are now based in London. These included Chrissa Amuah, founder of AMWA Designs, a unique interior design and decor company, inspired by Ghana’s Adrinka symbols. Next was Anita Quansah, founder of the multi awardwinning jewellery and accessory brand that carries her name, and which can be seen on global catwalks and red carpets around the world. Finally, Tayo Bello, founder of Bello Creations, a bespoke jewellery designer, creating the finest handcrafted jewellery for special occasions.
The Lioness Launch feature of the London event programme showcased three innovative and talented women entrepreneurs, all launching new products, services and collections. These included Tapiwa Matsinde, founder of Atelier Fifty Five, who launched her new platform to support and promote Africa’s women creatives; Daphne Kasambara, founder of Sapelle, a lifestyle brand that is now launching an exciting new platform to help connect women entrepreneurs to markets and resources; and Mimi Shodeinde, founder of luxury home decor brand, Miminat, who launched her new collections and projects to the audience. The event wrapped up with a short video shown by Hogan Lovells on an exciting new impact project they are currently rolling out for women and girls. It was a wonderful morning of inspiration, networking and business contact making.
International Women’s Day celebrations will finally come to a close on Monday 11 March as Lionesses of Africa and Facebook collaborate on a very special Changemakers Breakfast event in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. The event will bring together around 100 leading women entrepreneurs to network and to hear from Carolyn Everson, Facebook VP of Global Marketing Solutions, who will be flying in as a very special guest speaker for the morning and will have a fireside chat with Facebook Africa CEO, Nunu Ntshingila. Other highlights include a Panel Discussion featuring women changemakers, moderated by Phuti Mahanyele, Executive Chairman, Sigma Capital, former CEO of the Shanduka Group, and featuring Vika Shipalana Founder & CEO of VBS Luxury Group; Gugu Nkabinde, Founder & CEO of Gugu Intimates - Africa's first skin coloured underwear range; and Linda Mabhena-Olagunju, Founder & CEO of DLO Energy Resources (Pty) Ltd a wholly black female owned energy investment and advisory company. It promises to be a powerful and fascinating end to a great International Women’s Day celebration at Lionesses of Africa this year.