It is no secret South Africa desperately needs more successful entrepreneurs to boost the country’s struggling economy, create jobs and particularly, help the youth become gainfully employed. It’s also no secret that our Gini coefficient – the gap between rich and poor – is one of the highest in the world.
It was with this in mind that FAIRLADY magazine, with Santam, announced this week that they were launching the Women of the Future Awards as part of the magazine’s 50th birthday celebrations. The awards are aimed at South Africa’s “female entrepreneurs who have created successful businesses for themselves that also create opportunities for others”.
“I think South Africans are extraordinarily creative, so entrepreneurs here have no shortage of ideas. But the idea for a business is the easy bit – the challenge is in turning those ideas into viable businesses. And that starts with having the courage to stop whatever it is you’re doing and start doing something else,” says editor Suzy Brokensha.
“So many women in South Africa are breadwinners, and it requires even more courage to put your faith in a new venture that effectively puts both you and your children, if you have them, at risk. On top of that, women are often still not taken as seriously as men in the business environment, which means it can be even more difficult for them to get the initial capital needed to start out,” she says.
But, she adds, “Many of the best entrepreneurial ideas have come from mothers – often very practical solutions to gaps they have seen while spending time with their children (Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, Mumsnet, the BabyDipper bowl and so on and on and on). But most of all, these awards are about women because FAIRLADY believes in women, we believe in business, and we believe more women in business would help to turn South Africa’s economy around.”
Brokensha is reluctant to reveal her favourite role models for South Africa’s women entrepreneurs. “There are so many! Because FAIRLADY always features at least four entrepreneurs every month, we have interviewed some amazing women. I’m reluctant to single anyone out at this stage, obviously, because I am one of the judges.”
Another judge is one of the country’s most admired women, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. “We couldn’t be more proud to have her as one of our judges. I don’t want to speak for her, of course, but it seemed to us that Advocate Madonsela is as committed to making South Africa the success it should be as FAIRLADY is, and it’s clear that so much of that depends on the economy. I think she came on board as a judge because she is as passionate as we are about women succeeding as entrepreneurs, and empowering women in this country. In our interview with her she said that she believed South Africa was a great place for entrepreneurs because there are more opportunities here than in countries that have always operated in a globalised environment,” Brokensha says.
Other judges are Santam executive head of Brand, Yegs Ramiah, author and former private secretary to Nelson Mandela, Zelda la Grange, and television presenter, MC and businesswoman, Gerry Rantseli Elsdon.
The Women of the Future awards will not be a once-off event. Brokensha says she is committed to the awards as a long-term project. “There will be two winners – one woman whose business has survived for longer than 1001 days, which our partner, Santam, views as the critical period for ongoing success, and one who is just starting out (our Rising Star), whose business is younger than that. We will follow up with both of them, as well as the finalists. We believe that their success will contribute to the economy of South Africa in terms of job creation, idea generation, opportunity and inspiration for other South African women,” she says.
Santam’s Donald Kau, head of corporate affairs, says the insurers “understand the challenges new business owners face and the first 1000 days for any enterprise are known to be the most challenging, making for a mixture of bad and good days. This partnership with the FAIRLADY Women of the Future 2015 award will showcase entrepreneurs who have reached this milestone and allow them to share their experiences and advice with new entrepreneurs.
“The FAIRLADY Rising Star 2015 award will, in turn, go to an entrepreneur aged between 16 and 25, whose business is older than six months but still, obviously, within the first 1 001 days of business”.
Brokensha says FAIRLADY is targeting various forms of media to let women know about the awards. They have a campaign running via TV, trade media, print, online, social, radio and local comment papers “in the hope that we will reach as many South African women as possible. And it seems to be working – we’ve had some extraordinary entrants so far!”
Entries are now open for the competition. Prizes include R50 000 cash, a R7 500 online shopping voucher from spree.co.za, an invaluable mentorship session with one of the judges, a GALAXY Note 4 and GALAXY Tab S from Samsung, a Buren ladies watch and fragrance hamper from S Bacher & Company and a R5 000 part-time Damelin bursary.
Entry forms and terms & conditions are available at www.womenofthefuture.co.za. Entries close on 15 June 2015 and finalists will be notified during July 2015. A prestigious awards ceremony will be held in Johannesburg in August 2015.
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