The women entrepreneurs of Port Elizabeth in South Africa may have had to wait a while for a Lioness Lean In event to be hosted in their city, but when the first event arrived on 27 September, they turned out in force. It was a celebration of entrepreneurial spirit, tenacity and the power of women entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate for business success.
On a hot, sunny morning in Port Elizabeth, against the spectacular backdrop of the ocean, around 130 women entrepreneurs gathered together for the first Lioness Lean In Enterprise event for high growth potential women business owners in the city. The event was once again co-hosted by Lionesses of Africa and Absa’s Enterprise Development Team. The atmosphere was buzzing, the conversation was loud and enthusiastic, and the networking was intense. This was a great Lioness Lean In Enterprise event in the making.
The morning’s programme got underway with networking and breakfast, with women entrepreneurs getting the chance to meet one another, exchange business cards, and learn more about each other’s businesses. The official welcome came from Melanie Hawken, Founder & CEO of Lionesses of Africa, who gave an introduction to the work of the organisation to support, empower and connect 1 million women entrepreneurs across the African continent for greater business success.
Next to the speaker podium was Brenda Peacock, Regional Manager, ABSA Physical Channels, who gave a warm welcome to attendees and a brief introduction to Absa Relationship Banking.
The highlight of the programme came with the sharing of startup stories by successful local women entrepreneurs from Port Elizabeth, who talked about their business building experiences, and the challenges they faced and overcame when growing their businesses. First up to the speaker podium was Ncebakazi Mhlaba, founder of Sikuphiwe Trading. She share her story of building a successful business and reputation in the tough building industry sector.
Next to share her truly inspirational story was Adele Cutten, founder of Adele’s Mohair. Adele shared her story of building a high impact manufacturing business that has been the socio economic backbone of her local community for the past three decades, creating much needed jobs and training for women.
The third and final startup story came from Thandi Hillie, co-founder and ceo of Sbhekuza Rail. Thandi shared her inspirational story of the five year long journey to building a growing inter-modal logistics and transport services business, harnessing the power of rail in the Eastern Cape.
A panel discussion followed, chaired by Melanie Hawken, and featuring 4 women entrepreneurs at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys and from different business sectors. The panel included Ncebakazi Mhlaba, founder, Sikuphiwe Trading; Thandi Hillie, co-founder and ceo, Sbhekuza Rail; Adele Cutten, founder, Adele’s Mohair; and Angelique Adcock, Managing Director, Electrocoat. The panelists discussed a range of subjects including how they use networks to grow their businesses to the next level and tap into new opportunities; and importantly, how they find solutions to the challenges of scaling, particularly with funding. The panel also talked about their approaches to job creation through growth. Questions from the audience followed, with each panelist getting the opportunity to share their insights and expertise.
The panel session was followed by two Lioness Launch sessions, giving women entrepreneurs the opportunity to introduce new businesses, products and services. First to the podium was Angelique Adcock, Managing Director, Electrocoat, who spoke about her business in the automotive sector, whilst also sharing her journey as a serial entrepreneur and woman empowerment advocate.
The next Lioness Launch presentation came from Ashleigh Parkin, Brand Manager at Jenni Gault Jewellery. She introduced the Bella Babe campaign to the audience, her role and experience in the company, and gave some background to the main business which is producing world-class jewellery pieces for discerning women.
Women entrepreneurs in the audience then got the chance to hear about opportunities to grow their businesses through access to markets and finance. Gcinashe Vambe, Absa’s Enterprise Development specialist in the Eastern Cape, gave an ABSA Business Banking, the ABSA SME Toolkit, and ABSA Startup Funding. She spoke about the importance of being funding ready and the need for women entrepreneurs to prepare themselves to be funded. She also spoke about two specific initiatives including The ABSA SME Contract Financing and Khula Credit Guarantee for Agri businesses.
Closing remarks and announcement of new business support initiatives that women entrepreneurs can access through Lionesses of Africa were made by Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo, Lionesses of Africa. The morning then came to a conclusion with a call for women entrepreneurs to network with one another for business success.
For more information on forthcoming Lioness Lean In Enterprise events, go to http://www.lionessesofafrica.com/lioness-lean-in-series