What better way to kickstart Women’s Month in South Africa than with the launch of a new series of Lioness Lean In Enterprise events in partnership with Absa? On 1 August, 100 high growth potential women entrepreneurs from the Lionesses of Africa community gathered together with specialist banking advisors from Absa for a morning of inspiration, networking and business consulting, at the prestigious new Houghton Hotel in Johannesburg. The aim, to help them to take their businesses to the next level.
Getting access to finance and business advisory services is key to the growth of women owned businesses in Africa. So to help facilitate that access in South Africa, Lionesses of Africa has partnered with Absa to create a pathway for the country’s high growth potential women entrepreneurs to get the support they need to grow and thrive, ultimately creating the jobs the country desperately needs.
The morning started in typical style with breakfast and networking, with women entrepreneurs from the Lionesses of Africa community reconnecting with old friends and new potential business contacts alike. The business of the day started with an official welcome from Nomalanga Sitole, the Lioness Lean In Enterprise Ambassador, who got the audience into celebratory mood to mark the start of Women’s Month.
She introduced Melanie Hawken, Founder & CEO of Lionesses of Africa who introduced the concept of the new Lioness Lean In Enterprise events, and gave the audience an insight into some of the recent global events and initiatives that Lionesses of Africa has been rolling out over the past few months.
Next to welcome guests to the event and to talk about their support for high growth women entrepreneurs in South Africa was Andisiwe Vabaza, Regional Head, Absa Relationship Banking, Gauteng. She gave an overview of Absa's strategy: Closer to SME’s.
The morning programme got underway in earnest with the first of two growth focused startup stories from two women entrepreneurs who are making waves in South Africa right now. First to the speaker podium to talk on the subject of “Building Growth Businesses by Owning Your Market Niche” was the inspirational Nthabi Taukobong, founder and ceo, Ditau Interiors and author of The Real Interior. Nthabi shared her story of building an uber successful luxury interior design business, working with both corporates and high net worth clients, and becoming an industry leader. Nthabi also showcased her new book The Real Interior at the event, signing copies for members of the audience.
Next to share her startup story was the multi-award winning agripreneur, Anna Phosa, founder of Dreamland Piggery. She spoke about her journey to building a real growth business in the agribusiness sector and creating much needed jobs in the local community. To date, she has created 50 jobs for local, predominantly young people in the agri sector in South Africa.
The programme then moved into the always popular Lioness Launch feature, where two highly successful women entrepreneurs took the opportunity to launch their new businesses and brands to a highly appreciative audience. First to talk about how she harnessed her extensive business acumen and experience gained from her existing business to launch her new brand, was multi award-winning fashion designer, Lilly Alfonso, founder of the luxury Malawian fashion brand that carries her name. Lilly launched her new LA Sport luxury sportswear and leisure brand at the event, giving one excited audience member a gift of a leisurewear outfit from the new range.
Next to launch her new business was leading South African entrepreneur, Dorothy Mafomme, founder and ceo of Valotech228 (a highly successful company building innovative, specialist technology solutions for Africa’s railway sector) and co-founder of new company, Nalydia Foods. Dorothy launched her new range of bottled natural food solutions at the event, specifically formulated for young children, the elderly and sick patients. The audience members were all given sample bottles of the new specialist food brand to test out for themselves, with great reviews received.
A panel discussion followed, chaired by Lionesses of Africa founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken, who invited three highly experienced women entrepreneurs to join her on stage to discuss how they have successfully harnessed the power of networks to build their growth businesses; how they have addressed the challenges of scaling and accessing growth funding; and how they are creating jobs through their businesses. Joining Melanie to discuss these issues were Pumza Ndlotyeni, founder of Gebane Engineering Services; Sharika Punwasi, founder of My Cotton Tree; Kerryne Krause, founder of EyeSlices; and Ntsoaki Kortjass, founder of Tsoabelo Security Solutions. The lively discussion provided the audience with some real insights into how these successful women entrepreneurs were dealing with key challenges to growth and finding solutions.
The formal proceedings concluded with a presentation from Absa’s Lefentse Ledwaba-Chapman, Senior Specialist: Wholesale, Retail and Franchise, Enterprise and Supply Chain Development. She gave an overview of Absa Startup Funding including the SME Public Sector Contract Funding; the Thembani International Guarantee Fund; and the Khula Credit Guarantee. Each attendee also received a copy of the Absa SME Toolkit.
The morning came to a close with Melanie Hawken announcing new business support initiatives that women entrepreneurs can access from the Lionesses of Africa community. Nomalanga Sitole, the Lioness Lean In Enterprise Ambassador, brought the proceedings to a formal end by inviting all guests to continue networking and making new business contacts with the Absa specialist banking team.