“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing -- that’s why we recommend it daily.”
“Running a business successfully needs focused, deliberate leadership and women entrepreneurs and CEOs can lead the way in that regard through purposeful and transformational leadership.”
- Ruka Sanusi is the founder of Alldens Lane, a Ghanaian business advisory firm with a unique focus on providing coaching services to female entrepreneurs in Africa’s small and growing business sector. Ruka has two decades of international consulting experience and has worked in 16 countries across Africa in senior management positions. Ruka is passionate about supporting Africa’s female entrepreneurs and CEOs in the small and growing business sector to think strategically about their business, supporting them with strategies and techniques to create business success and achieve business growth.
"Be prepared to work hard, and then some."
- Tinky Ogle is the founder of SMME News in South Africa, a free bilingual educational newspaper providing information and advice to Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMME) sector. A passionate social change-maker, Tinky graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in Social Science and today is making a difference by empowering other small businesses in local communities, giving them much needed access to information and a powerful platform to showcase their services.
"I always tell people: 'If you've got a product or a service that is required by the market, you can sell it'. It's not about the sciences. It's about the passion for the idea."
- Divine Ndhlukula founded SECURICO Security Services from humble beginnings in Zimbabwe in 1998. Divine identified a need in the market for a quality oriented security company and she has driven SECURICO to become the market leader in Zimbabwe. She has tackled a previously male-dominated industry head on and her business success story is nothing short of remarkable - marking her as one of Africa's most tenacious and inspiring women entrepreneurs.
“I think many people really want to do good, but they don’t necessarily know how, ... becoming involved with a product that does facilitates this need.”
- Nelia Annandale is founder of Keedo Kids a company she launched in 1993 to manufacture designer children’s clothing in a socially responsible and ethical manner. It took a life-threatening accident for Nelia Annandale to finally overcome her fear of starting a business. Battling to find comfortable, fun, colourful clothing that was soft on her twins’ skin, Nelia decided to create a range of clothing that suited her needs and was kind to the environment. This led to the birth of Keedo back in 1993. In 2016 Cape Union Mart Group acquired Keedo and today the chain of 25 stores and a factory continues to operate independently under Nelia's stewardship.
"There’s a lot of innovation happening in Africa. But it’s not necessarily sexy in sort of the globally expected way. Much of the innovation is around solving problems and meeting real human needs."
- Khanyi Dhlomo is the Managing Director of Ndalo Media, which she founded in 2007. She is also the founder of DestinyConnect and the founding editor of Destiny Magazine. Before starting her own media company, Khanyi was editor of True Love magazine for eight years. In 2013, Khanyi ventured in retail and launched Luminance, a high-end fashion and lifestyle department store. Khanyi was named most influential woman in South African Media by The Media Magazine in 2003 and made the 2011 Forbes list of 20 Young Power Women in Africa.
“With the new wind of air blowing throughout the continent and organisations connecting female entrepreneurs across the continent with networks, sources of capital, operational know-how, female entrepreneurs have no excuse than to take advantage of the new windows of opportunities...."
– Winnifred Selby was just 17 when she co-founded Afrocentric Bamboo, a company that manufactures and markets bicycles made from bamboo. Today, she is heading what has become a growing brand that is struggling to keep up with demand. Designed in-house, Afrocentric Bamboo bikes are sturdy, affordable – US$100 for the local market – and made for the high terrain and rough roads of rural Ghana. The frames are built in one piece, making them stronger and more economically viable.
"Passion is the driving engine for anything you want to achieve in life."
- Adèle Dejak is founder of the Adèle Dejak brand which creates handmade fashion accessories for the modern, sophisticated and multidimensional woman. Adèle cut her teeth in the world of typographic design in England and Italy before moving to Nairobi, Kenya in 2005 and turning her attention to accessories design. She found herself intrigued by the natural beauty of horn and begun to experiment with techniques of creating unique shapes and fashioned pieces. Her flair was noticed and spurred on by an admirer of one of her creations who encouraged Adèle to set up shop creating unique shapes to wear. Dejak’s Nigerian roots begun to merge perfectly with European influences and she set out on her never-ending quest for that essential artefact that allows you to express your own style.
“... the woman is the core. She holds us up. In Africa, you just have to deal with the issues that affect the productivity of women. They bring food to the table. They bring education to the household. They bring medical care in the household... It is essential to support women, if we want to make a difference, if we want to transform the way the world works, for them and their families.”
- Dr. Jennifer Riria is the Group CEO of Kenya Women Holding and one of Africa's leading women entrepreneurs who has always been on a mission to transform the lives of women and their families in her native Kenya. She is distinguished as a microfinance banker and practitioner, researcher and gender specialist. She has served in many leadership roles for which she has been recognized locally and internationally. In 2013 she was awarded the Ernst & Young (EY) Entrepreneur of the year, East Africa, and subsequently, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014, at which point she was admitted to EY’s Global Hall of Fame.
"As entrepreneurs we have chosen the toughest journey. However, because we are so resilient and relentless in our pursuit of perfection, we are tougher than we think. Make it through this and you’ll make it through anything!"
- Karen Wessels is the co-founder and COO of VA Connect, a South African virtual assistant platform that provides outsourced administrative support; and is also the co-founder of SnappSales, a company that generates quality sales leads for its clients. Prior to establishing both her companies, Karen spent over 10 years in different sales, marketing & admin support roles. This experience has equipped her with the invaluable skills required to run her two successful business ventures.
"Live life in a way that your contribution to humanity will be felt, during and beyond your years on earth!"
- Wangechi Mwangi is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Kenyan fintech startup Valuraha, a company that helps young people learn how to save and invest money. Valuraha runs investment clubs in high schools allowing students to learn about personal finance and investing while interacting with a virtual trading platform that simulates the investment ecosystem in Kenya. Wangechi, who is a 21-year-old student at Strathmore University in Nairobi, was in 2015 named as winner of the Global Social Impact Award by the the US-based Entrepreneurs' Organization's (EO) Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA). She won the prize after competing against a field of 2,000 entrepreneurs from 38 countries in a series of national and regional competitions.
"Once you have a good plan and a good concept and you work through it, the funds will always come."
- Kofo Akinkugbe is recognised globally for her entrepreneurial success story and strong business track record. She is founder & CEO of SecureID Nigeria Ltd a market leader in smart card technology and digital security in Africa. SecureID is a world-class manufacturing facility with the only smart card production plant in West Africa and one of only six on the continent. In January 2015 the company commissioned a new state-of-the-art EMV-certified smartcard manufacturing plant – the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company serves 16 countries across Africa and is fully certified by VISA, Verve and MasterCard. In 2012, Kofo won the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship Mature Business Award.
“I believe that the solutions to development in Africa lie in the minds of Africans. Particularly African entrepreneurs. An important part of Africa’s future lies in our ability to take Western ideas and adapt them to Africa.”
- Dr. Ola Orekunrin is a physician, helicopter pilot and entrepreneur founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service. She was motivated to start the company after her younger sister tragically died whilst traveling in Nigeria as a consequence of their being no medical air service available to transport her to hospital. Flying Doctors Nigeria today provides just such urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance and evacuation services in Nigeria and other countries across West Africa. Ola graduated from the University Of York in Britain and is a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine and holds their board certification.
"Starting a business, for me, is the best expression of backing yourself, taking a chance on you, believing that you have the ability to create value for yourself and for others."
- Thokoza Mjo is the founder of Beyond the Lemonade Stand, a social enterprise that finds and accelerates teenage led enterprises in South Africa. Thokoza is a finance graduate and worked in the investment field for 3 years before choosing to pursue her entrepreneurial aspirations. She is passionate about helping to build an ecosystem that enables teen entrepreneurs to contribute towards building the economy of their country and eventually the continent.
“You’re not in a dynamic business if you’re not experiencing challenges.”
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world's fastest-growing African footwear brand and the only Fair Trade-certified footwear company in the world. Growing up in a poor suburb of Addis Ababa, Bethlehem decided that there was only one way to defeat poverty – use local craftsmanship to make products that can compete in the global marketplace. She decided on footwear and today 70,000 pairs of shoes leave her factory every year. soleRebels has been expanding rapidly and today exports to no fewer than 45 countries and is targeting 50 stand alone soleRebels retail stores across the United States by 2018 and 500 worldwide by 2022.
“Women need to be bold, strong and driven to pursue their dreams. Create your own future and not one society has mapped out for you.”
- Sayu Abend is the founder and CEO of Spacepointe, a retail technology company that aims to bridge the gap between SMEs and their target market through technology-based business management. She founded SpacePointe in 2014 with the sole intent to innovate around the needs of small-to-medium enterprise.
“Ladies, employ ladies; women have the opportunity to make this happen so that the imbalances can be balanced."
- Mo Abudu is founder and Chief Executive Officer of EbonyLife TV, Africa's first and fastest growing black entertainment and lifestyle network. This Nigerian media entrepreneur and talk show host is the first African woman to launch a Pan-African TV channel. The channel currently on DSTV Channel 165, as well as in the UK on the TalkTalk platform, provides premium, original and home-grown programming to its ever increasing viewership. She has received many awards in recognition of her outstanding work in media and her services to humanity, and was most recently honoured with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Babcock University.
"Don’t wait for tomorrow. It’s going. So please, can the young people of Africa make sure they seize the opportunity and keep it in Africa."
- Joanne Mwangi founded PMS Group in Kenya in 1996. Today her company has five subsidiaries and a presence across East Africa. Joanne has steered the PMS Group from a small agency to a leading full service marketing and communications group and in 2010 her company was voted number one in the Top 100 SME competition in Kenya. Joanne is also the chairperson of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations (FEWA), an organisation that seeks to create an enabling business environment for women.
"Women should strive to pull up their fellow women when they are on the top."
- Angela Ajala is the National President of Business and Professional Women (BPW) in Nigeria and Vice President of the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme (AWEP). Angela is passionate about children's issues, is a seasoned educationist and the Executive Director, Ladela Schools in Nigeria.
"You have to be street-smart and have suss, which no one can teach you."
- Basetsana 'Bassie' Kumalo is a South African television personality, beauty pageant titleholder, businesswoman, and philanthropist. Her career began in 1990 when she was crowned Miss Soweto and Miss Black South Africa at the age of 16. Since then, Bassie has become a formidable force in the business world and is widely respected as both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. In 2011 she was honoured as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
"Women disproportionately face financial access barriers that prevent them from participating in the economy and from improving their lives."
- Dr. Jennifer Riria is the Group CEO of Kenya Women Holding and one of Africa's leading women entrepreneurs who has always been on a mission to transform the lives of women and their families in her native Kenya. She is distinguished as a microfinance banker and practitioner, researcher and gender specialist. She has served in many leadership roles for which she has been recognized locally and internationally. In 2013 she was awarded the Ernst & Young (EY) Entrepreneur of the year, East Africa 2013, and subsequently, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014, at which point she was admitted to EY’s Global Hall of Fame.
"Don’t let anybody else define what you can or cannot do!"
- Bhavya Kalsi is the co-founder of KONA, a unique 'AFROINDIAN' accessories and homeware company in Uganda inspired by the founders Indian roots. Bhavya had a career in advertising for 12 years as a creative before leaving her job to pursue her dream of creating her own brand. A creative, an entrepreneur, and a mother of two, she drives the brand out of Africa.
"…we want to be a widely recognized and sought after brand that equates “Made in Africa” with brilliance in craftsmanship, artistry, and deep cultural roots."
- Abai Schulze is founder of the creative, new Afro-luxe brand ZAAF who create handcrafted luxury leather handbags and accessories produced by artisans in Ethiopia. Abai, born in a remote village in Ethiopia, has had a truly remarkable life journey. Her journey has taken her from an orphanage in Addis Ababa to the United States where she was raised, and back to Ethiopia. Today, she passionately uses her background in economics and fine arts to create unique and practical expressions of beauty, and to open avenues of opportunity for talented artisans in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa. Her designs draw upon precious cultural relics and allow them renewed expression through fresh, uplifting and modern designs.
"For every dollar that you put in women's hands 80 cents goes to the family."
- Marilyn Kamuru is the Founder & Managing Director of eManage Africa Ltd and a committee member of the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners. She is a Kenyan entrepreneur and an accomplished attorney with a degree in International and Comparative Law from Cornell Law School. Marilyn is also a global Vital Voices GROW Fellow, a program that identifies high potential, high growth women owned SME's in the global economy.
"Entrepreneurship is intensely personal - it is your passions and your energies made manifest for the world to see and growing a business has been an amazing process of self-discovery and of personal growth."
- Ashley Heather is the founder and creative force behind Cape Town-based Ashley Heather Jewellery. All her jewellery is handcrafted at her Woodstock work+shop using precious metals reclaimed from circuit boards by a small refinery in South Africa. Ashley takes great care about every aspect of the craft and is constantly striving for the most sustainable studio practices from the manufacturing processes right through to the packaging.
“The next growth opportunity in many sectors will come from Africa and that is a fantastic opportunity for us women, especially in non-traditional sectors such as entertainment, retail, agriculture and technology. These are huge opportunities of a lifetime and I foresee more women taking up the mantle and leading these new-generation enterprises.”
- Honey Ogundeyi is the founder of Fashpa.com, a Nigerian online fashion store retailing trendy clothes, footwear, and accessories. Oyindamola started Fashpa.com after she couldn’tfind any great fashion in the country and decided to leverage her e-commerce platform to serve others frustrated like her.
"Social media is making us more connected both globally and locally. It is easier to find organisations or individuals who are spearheading the women-empowerment ‘revolution' if they are active on social media. It is also more affordable to launch a project online."
- Zaza Motha, a journalist and social entrepreneur, is the founder of POUT, a self-empowerment movement for young South African women. POUT stands for Powerful, Outstanding, Unique & Talented. It is an inspirational and aspirational media platform for young women helping them to realise their full potential by sharing inspiring stories, information and opportunities to reach their dreams.
"I am driven by a deep sense that every human needs to make a contribution and leave this world a better place."
- Sarah Collins is the founder and CEO of Wonderbag, a simple non electric slow cooker which works in mud huts in Africa to Manhattan apartments, possibly one of the only cooking devices that is globally relevant! Sarah is a South African adventurer, entrepreneur, and lifelong social activist. She thrives on challenges and has worked tirelessly over the past two decades to inspire change in the realms of gender-equality and environmental sustainability.
“SoleRebels is like hip-hop, something that started really small and today can be found in every country on the planet.”
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world's fastest-growing African footwear brand and the only Fair Trade-certified footwear company in the world. Growing up in a poor suburb of Addis Ababa, Bethlehem decided that there was only one way to defeat poverty – use local craftsmanship to make products that can compete in the global marketplace. She decided on footwear and today 70,000 pairs of shoes leave her factory every year. soleRebels has been expanding rapidly and has 18 stores around the world, including in Silicon Valley (USA), Japan, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Spain and Switzerland, along with an aggressive e-commerce marketing strategy. It expects to open another 50 to 60 stores in next 18 to 36 months.
"There is still a woeful lack of women in technology globally and Africa is unfortunately not any better. Development roles, leadership pipelines and leadership development all need attention. We need more role models for women in technology...."
- Nkemdilim Begho is founder and Managing Director of Future Software Resources Limited, an IT solutions provider focused on online solutions, e-learning and IT security. As one of a few Nigerian women in the industry, her success is founded on a passion for driving innovative thinking, building a globally recognized technology brand and setting trends in the Nigerian Technology space.
“There is great opportunity in interconnecting the insides of Africa, continuing to connect Africans to Africans, South Africa to Kenya, South Africa to Egypt, South Africa to Addis”
- Juliana Rotich is is a technologist, strategic advisor, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. She co-founded Ushahidi Inc., a non-profit tech company, which specializes in developing free and open source software for changing how information flows in the world. Her personal mission is to make things, fix problems and help others. Juliana serves as an advisor to the councils of BASF, Risk Cooperative, Africa Technology Ventures (ATV) and the Lemelson Foundation. She is also a trustee of Bankinter Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Spain and former trustee of the iHub in Kenya and is on the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board.