Hosting and organizing successful events takes in-depth experience, practical specialist knowledge, and a strong knack for networking and collaborating with people to get things done. Zanele Thabede-Vilakati, co-founder of Women Working Together Initiative in Eswatini, is using her experience to showcase and connect talented women in the country through a series of innovative and highly effective networking events.
LoA found out more about this impact driven company that is bringing Swaziland’s women entrepreneurs together to meet and get connected.
What does your company do?
Women Working Together (WWT) initiative is an events management company that hosts women empowerment and networking events every quarter of the year. The initiative inspires women to create strong networks amongst each other by finding synergies and developing a working relationship. We also facilitate trainings for corporates and team building exercises as well. Women Working Together gives women an opportunity to showcase their businesses and business ideas at every event.
“The initiative inspires women to create strong networks amongst each other by finding synergies and developing a working relationship.”
What inspired you to start your company?
The myth that women cannot work together was one of the reasons why we (myself and legal affairs director Kayise Nyoni) decided to start Women Working Together. Another reason was because Eswatini at the time did not have any entertainment for women to exchange ideas and build each other. We also recognized that we do not get to explore different places in the country and it was work trying to host events at the beautiful venues Eswatini has to offer. Young women in the country point to women from out of the country as role models, so we thought it would be lovely to showcase the talents that women in the country have and all the expertise, especially by hosting what we dubbed the 'Meet and Greet' events.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The whole concept is young and fresh and we bring forth innovative ways of bringing women together, not just high teas but we host seminars, launches, competition led themes and cocktails. We hardly have a sit-down event unless it is a seminar or conference. This approach has found women opening up to each other and meeting new people. Our events never have a start time, when you arrive at the venue the event has started. Meeting new people and sharing brilliant ideas is what we would like to invoke women to do.
“Women Working Together gives women an opportunity to showcase their businesses and business ideas at every event.”
Tell us a little about your team
Women Working Together has a whole team of women who have helped the brand grow stronger and continue to grow throughout the years. The founders of WWT are myself Zanelle Thabede and Ntombikayise Nyoni. I take care of the marketing and digital aspects of the company and Ntombi works on the legal issues. We have had Jabu Shongwe as part of our team, she took care of the Financial side of the company. We have had various young women interns with us, and have loved seeing them grow and leave the brand having fulfilled their personal growth within SME world. We now have Kekenoue Makara with us who has the requisite marketing skills. The pool of women who have brought us to where we are today have included Khulile Mashaba Mtsetfwa who is our mentor, and she does the same in South Africa. We pull a lot of inspiration from her, and she was our guest speaker at the official launch.
We are working with Culinary Chef Nhlanhla Lukhele of 399 Blaq Nibbles. We also have women who have access to properties who have opened up their homes for us to host at because they believe in women and would like to see women united for a greater purpose. We have had partnerships with Shamillah Wilson, a Life Coach and Ennie Chipembere, a Career Coach, as well as Lynsey Martin a Wellness Coach. We have also had the wonderful Nelly De Sousa our ultimate inspiration who has always supported the brand and her door is always open. Part of the team is a board of advisors which include the following women; Patience Jongerius, Ngcebo Nxumalo, Sonia Paiva, as well as Nelly De Sousa. We have asked these women to push us to continue and observe relevance and order within the WWT house. I wouldn't be able to mention every single person but there is a pool of women we refer to and get inspiration from. Then we have my mother who has been to about 95% of our events. She is our number one supporter, Ms FD Maphako, I love her!
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I come from a family of laborers actually, even though my mother, who is almost retiring from formal work, has just started her own new business venture. She was a single mother for most of my school years and she always taught my siblings and I to go for anything that we would like to achieve in life. I used to sell muffins in high school for pocket money and to date I always have a side hustle, I guess that is where I get an entrepreneurial spirit from. In high school I discovered my talent in painting and face painting and ever since then I turned it into my weekend business, face painting at kiddies parties. I turned that into a full package for parties providing popcorn and candy floss as well as jumping castles, and through this I have formed partnerships doing these events.
“Young women in the country point to women from out of the country as role models, so we thought it would be lovely to showcase the talents that women in the country have and all the expertise.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
The plan is to have a showroom in which women can showcase their talents, and to host events at that venue. We would like to start up a mentorship programme in line with young women getting the best from older women so that they are able to succeed without making unnecessary mistakes that women have made in the past.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Seeing women work together. We have not reached the point of making huge profits from hosting events but the initial inspiration is being met, and women are working together and finding synergies in their work.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Find your niche and run with it. It is very tempting to do what someone else is doing but if you aren't good at it and it is not your passion nor talent, it can easily all go wrong. I know people have heard this before, but it is totally true. People have failed from trying to copy another's concept because they do not have the much-needed passion and drive to see it through. These are the wheels that keep Women Working Together going and reaching new heights every year.
Contact or follow Women Working Together (WWT)
Why LoA loves it….
We all know the phrase ‘your network is your net worth’, and in Eswatini a group of women are helping each other to build powerful, professional and personal networks that will help them to reach their goals. It is a great example of how we constantly motivate women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa network to share, inspire and connect, to help each other to succeed. Zanele Thabede-Vilakati is illustrating that the power of collaboration to make high impact things happen is alive and well in Eswatini. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa