The much-awaited first Lioness Lean In event of 2018 took place on 9 March in Johannesburg, South Africa in a new, centrally located venue in the city - Open in Sandton, a great new co-working and event space for entrepreneurs. The sun came out and the rain stopped for the occasion, bringing over 100 women entrepreneurs from across the city to the event to network and be inspired.
As befitting the first Lioness Lean In event of the year, the programme had something for everyone - a really inspirational speaker line-up, an exciting new product launch and tasting session, a wonderful new film trailer screening, and a new feature inviting women entrepreneurs to share their exciting business news and updates. Lionesses of Africa founder and CEO, Melanie Hawken, welcomed everyone to the event and shared news on the launch of the Kukua Women’s Entrepreneur Development Programme, an exciting new initiative from Lionesses of Africa. Kukua has been developed to help women entrepreneurs to really take their businesses to the next level through development programmes, access to market initiatives, mentoring and ongoing business support.
The first of the women entrepreneurs invited to share their start up stories on the morning was Sihle Hlophe, founder of Passion Seed Communications, an award-winning film and television production company. Sihle spoke about the importance of creating high quality content in local languages, sharing her experiences of directing and producing programmes in SiSwati, her mother tongue, and talking about the challenges of raising funding for film-making in South Africa. Next to share her unique story was Naledi Toona, founder of Chef Naledi. As a private chef, she spoke about her inspiration for starting her passion based business and explained how she is now expanding her business to teach domestic workers how to cook in both Botswana and South Africa.
The morning’s programme was taken to a whole new level with third guest speaker, Bianca Hansen, cofounder of Toast Ale SA, an exciting new craft beer brand, brewed using bread as one of its core ingredients. Bianca spoke passionately about the social enterprise philosophy behind the Toast Ale brand, whilst inviting everyone in the audience to sample a bottle of this wonderful new beer. The audience excitedly tasted this unique brew, providing great feedback to Bianca and toasting to its future brand-building success.
Introducing the next two guest speakers, Melanie Hawken spoke about Lionesses of Africa’s commitment to creating opportunities and initiatives that give Africa’s women entrepreneurs access to global markets. She introduced the first two events that will be staged globally in 2018 as part of the Startup Night Africa event series - one in Berlin in March, building on last year’s hugely successful event there, in partnership with the BMWi in Germany; and one in London in April, a first for that city and held in partnership with Standard Bank Wealth International. Sharing their experiences of being involved with these Startup Night Africa events was Vere Shaba, co-founder of Shaba & Ramplin who was one of the entrepreneurs pitching at last year’s Startup Night Africa event in Berlin; and Jacqueline Rogers, founder of My Pregnancy Journey, who will be pitching at the event in March in the same city.
An exciting new feature of the Lioness Lean In events are the opportunities for established women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses network to share their news and update audiences on new developments in their businesses. Vicki Bain - founder of luxury handmade chocolate brand, Chocoloza, shared news about her new chocolate salon opening shortly; author and entrepreneur, Fatima Abdullah, founder of Akiki Dolls, shared news of a high impact campaign that promotes great children’s book reading habits; Paula Quinsee and Kathryn Main, co-founders of a new business concept, Wellness Assets, shared their vision to help businesses and organizations with their employee wellness programmes; and Karen Carr, co-founder of Benji & Moon together with Hanneke Schutte, showed a short trailer promoting the wonderful award-winning film Meerkat Maantuig, directed and produced by Hanneke and due to be screened in South African cinemas next week. The session ended with prize giveaways from Chocoloza, Akiki Dolls and Chef Naledi.
This was a packed morning of inspiration, news, networking and celebration, and a really fitting way of kickstarting the 2018 Lioness Lean In Series in South Africa. The event also caught the attention of those following on social media, with #LionessLeanIn trending at number 4 throughout the morning on all social media platforms in the country.
To keep up to date on forthcoming Lioness Lean In events in 2018, go to http://www.lionessesofafrica.com/lioness-lean-in-series/