Women account for less than 1 in 5 business owners in South Africa. While more than half of our population are women, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) found that women make up only 19.4% of business owners in South Africa, ranking us 45th in the world when it comes to woman-run companies. That’s a long way behind other African nations like Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%), and Ghana (36.5%).
The challenges for women-founded businesses in South Africa may seem insurmountable at times. Against a backdrop of endemic challenges in the country, a group of determined organisations is collaborating to make a difference.
South African entrepreneur platform, Heavy Chef, together with Xero and Workshop17, is joining forces to support 249 women entrepreneurs from the Faithful to Nature platform, an online natural and sustainable retailer. At the end of Women’s Month, Heavy Chef will be gifting all 249 women entrepreneurs whose businesses are vendors on Faithful to Nature a year membership to Heavy Chef’s learning platform which includes access to all content and events.
Zinhle Novazi, who chairs Heavy Chef’s board, says, “We believe that entrepreneurs can change the world for the better. Heavy Chef exists to inspire all entrepreneurs on their journey, and empower them to succeed. Women entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the South African context. Through collaborations like this, we hope to inspire others to do the same.”
As part of the support for the 249 women entrepreneurs, Xero will contribute content to help them run their businesses more effectively and provide easier access to the Xero platform. Colin Timmis, Country Manager of Xero South Africa, emphasises that Xero is committed to supporting women in business. “We believe that when women are successful, everyone benefits – from female business owners, their staff, families, and communities.” Through this initiative, Xero looks forward to collaborating with other partners to provide valuable support for female entrepreneurs in South Africa.
Workshop17 named earlier this year ‘Africa’s Best Coworking Space’, and in 2021 as the ‘World’s Best Coworking Space’, will be offering one day of hotdesking to each of the women. Additionally, the recipients can enjoy further membership at Workshop17 at a discounted rate via the Heavy Chef annual membership. Penelope Meniere, Marketing Manager at Workshop17says, “At Workshop17, we have safe, beautiful workspaces where women can network, meet, collaborate and grow. We believe this sector is one of the most underserved sectors in our region, yet offers the most significant opportunity.”
Women’s Month celebrates the strength and resilience of women and their contributions to the country and society, but it is also an opportunity to draw attention to many of the important issues that women in South Africa still face – domestic violence, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace, the gender pay gap, and more.
Faithful to Nature founder Robyn Smith says, “We believe that representation matters, and want to shine a spotlight on some of the wonderful women entrepreneurs that we work with, that have built incredible businesses that give back. We hope this inspires more women to start their own businesses and that it encourages people to support women-owned businesses this August.”
Fred Roed, CEO and founder of Heavy Chef says, “The Heavy Chef education team is incredibly excited to support the entrepreneurs on the Faithful-to-Nature platform. By collaborating, we aim to tackle the obvious inequality in the South African business landscape. This is important work and we are privileged to be part of it.”
Why is this all so important?
“According to McKinsey,” says Smith, “if we could grow businesses at an equal rate, the global GDP would likely increase by $28 trillion by 2025.”
We’ve seen examples of this impact before. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize for its bottom-up approach to investing in women.
These women, mostly farmers, and micro-entrepreneurs in rural Bangladesh, were largely responsible for the resurgence of that nation’s economy. Bangladesh and Grameen have since been hit by corruption and in-fighting, but it remains a great case study.
In her recipe on Investing In Women* on Heavy Chef, investor Hope Ditlhakanyane, of Founders Factory Africa, pointed viewers to a 2019 study. Conducted by the International Finance Corporate, the paper estimated that “we’re leaving $42 billion on the table by not investing in women”.
Having a more equal sector will have significant benefits for our economy, our society, and our well-being.