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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Helping Women Entrepreneurs Reach their Goals

Recent studies have shown that more and more women are starting their own businesses, but that they face a number of challenges in doing so.

Chana Boucher



Mentors offering a female entrepreneur support

Women entrepreneurs should turn to the many organisations that exist purely to support them in their business endeavours.

According to the White Paper on Female Entrepreneurship released this year by FNB, women entrepreneurs don’t make effective use of support services. Figures gathered by the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN) indicated that 42% of women were not aware of organisations that support business in South Africa. Of the women who had used the organisations a significant number reported that their needs were met, showing that female business owners will benefit from using these organisations.

Here are some of the local organisations and associations set up to assist women entrepreneurs:


The SAWEN is a networking forum for individuals and organisations that are committed to the promotion and advancement of women entrepreneurs. It facilitates and monitors the socio-economic advancement of women entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the country’s economy. SAWEN facilitates access to business resources, information and opportunities for South African women entrepreneurs.

For more information, visit:

BWA (Businesswomen’s Association)

The Businesswomen’s Association is the largest and most prominent association of business and professional women in South Africa, and the voice of women in business. Through strategic partnerships with sponsors, non-profit organisations, leading companies, business schools and international associations, it provides ongoing opportunities to advance the interests of women in business. Members include entrepreneurs, professionals and senior decision makers. The BWA is a non-profit, voluntary organisation committed to offering real value in the form of leading and training, connecting and supporting members and South African business.

For more information visit:

WIF (Women In Finance)

WIF is an exciting and inventive organisation that is at the forefront of SME assistance & development and the empowerment of women. WIF exists to create an innovative environment that empowers individuals to develop successful businesses throughout Africa through collaboration, support, diversity and challenge. The aim of WIF is to enable individuals and companies to maximise their growth and through its diverse offerings that include networking, mentorship, training, collaboration, entrepreneurship development and support.

For more information visit:

Women in IT

Women in IT is an initiative that was launched by Fizz Marketing with the support of big IT players like Microsoft to provide a support structure for those women working in what is today a male dominated IT environment. Membership is free and the benefits include a bursary and mentorship programmes, a quarterly electronic newsletter containing articles relating to women in IT, knowledge sharing through the website and invitations to events where you can connect with and support other women.

For more information, visit:

Women in Business

The Women In Business organisation is a forum established as a networking platform to empower economically marginalised women to empower themselves. This platform is for the purpose of information sharing amongst groups of entrepreneurial, diverse women. Through this platform women are encouraged to take control of their businesses, to set their own agenda’s and timetables, to gain skills and knowledge, for the purpose of increasing business confidence, facilitating equal access to economic and productive resources, and to facilitate poverty eradication, utilising gender empowerment principles.

For more information, visit:

WOESA (Women in Oil & Energy South Africa)

WOESA aims to facilitate and promote business opportunities for and enhance the participation of South African women in the oil and energy sector. It is imperative for women to focus cohesively on addressing their unique position in order to address these facts. WOESA’s first priority is to facilitate women’s participation in business opportunities in the oil, gas and other energy sector in South Africa. WOESA offers services to its member companies, organisations and individuals focusing on developing a knowledge base and building capacity amongst women through education and training.

For more information, visit:

SAWIC (South African Women in Construction)

The South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) initiative was founded in 1997 to empower women to gain access to contracts, training, finance and networks in the construction industry. South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) is a National Association of women entrepreneurs, including women employed in all areas of construction, from the skilled trades to business ownership, with International Affiliation to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in America and Australia. Members are invited to quarterly national workshops at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Provincial quarterly workshops are held in the capital cities as well.

For more information, visit:

TWIB (Technology for Women In Business)

Officially launched as a programme of the Department of Trade and Industry, the TWIB is located in the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Its main objective is to ensure that women involved in arts and craft, manufacturing, mining and energy, construction, tourism, and information and communication technology are empowered to adopt technology and science as an integral business solution for strengthening their enterprises.

For more information, visit:

Women’s Development Businesses

The vision of the WDB Group is to offer real hope to the women of South Africa to enable them to build a self sustaining future. The primary vehicle that it uses to achieve this vision is offering microcredit to rural women in order to help them out of poverty in a sustainable manner. Throughout the world there is a growing realisation of the crucial role microcredit can play in reducing poverty, particularly when women are the main recipients. Increasingly women’s contribution, as workers, entrepreneurs and managers of family and community welfare is recognised as central to the ability of households, communities and the nation to tackle the crisis of meeting people’s survival and subsistence needs.

For more information, visit:

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding For Women Entrepreneurs – A Collective Effort

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Jenny Retief




It is well recognised that women are powerful drivers of economic growth in South Africa, and are vital to the country reaching its full economic potential. Yet women account for only 18% percent of business owners in South Africa, according to the second Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), released earlier this year.

The reasons are many, including lack of financial literacy, but one of the biggest constraints facing women entrepreneurs is access to finance. As most women entrepreneurs are concentrated in the informal sector, the majority of them access financing through micro-lending institutions, which offer only limited support. When they are ready to grow into SMMEs, they again face difficulties in obtaining loans from commercial banks.

According to the ‘Inaugural South African SMME Access to Finance Report’, published last year by the online access to finance portal Finfind, the SMME sector provides a “compelling, largely untapped market opportunity for innovative funders”, estimating the SMME credit gap at between R86bn and R346bn.

Finfind’s research showed that many SMMEs that are eligible for funding are still unable to secure it due to their lack of finance readiness, i.e., they are unable to produce the financial documentation required by funders to assess bankability and affordability, in order to approve their funding applications. These documents include up-to-date management accounts, latest financial statements, budgets, forecasts and tax clearance certificates, among others.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

This was reiterated at the recent African Youth Networks Summit in Tswhane, where the head of Old Mutual Foundation Millicent Maroga stressed, “the key issue is a distinct lack of support in getting the business ready for funding”.

Enter initiatives like the Riversands Incubation Hub, a campus north of Sandton that houses over 150 established and start-up small businesses in subsidised premises, with access to business support services. One of its key values to its SMMEs is bridging the gap between them and the many players in the funding space, in particular through its annual FundEX event, a platform giving guidance and helping to match entrepreneurs with funders.

“Contrary to popular belief, there is funding available. FundEX provides practical guidance on what funding is available and what it takes to access this capital. It also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to interact with a variety of funders, including banks, government funders and alternative funding platforms,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

The theme this year is ‘Secrets of Scale’, unpacking what it takes to build a ‘fundable’ business. This is highly pertinent, as much of the complexity in the SMME funding environment is seated in the size of the business, and what stage of growth it is at.

Finfind’s research found that although SMMEs and start-ups may qualify for venture capital funding, funding opportunities for less scalable SMMEs are less promising. “This opens the door for new, innovative funding models to serve this section of the SMME market. Start-ups and micro-businesses represent a significant potential market for innovative funders who are able to develop new lending models tailored to address this growing market,” said the report.

As women proliferate in this space, they need to equip themselves with as much as information as possible about the funding opportunities out there, says Retief.

“The DTI, for example, offers funding programmes, and aggregators such as FinFind and others can help entrepreneurs navigate the more than 400 different funding solutions available in SA. Entrepreneurs can also boost their business by regular engagement with a mentor. Many incubation programmes offer this type of support,” she says.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

There are also many initiatives to bring resources closer to entrepreneurs. For example, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) offers Technology Stations in diversified sectors, ranging from agro-processing, chemicals, clothing and textiles to tooling. These provide entrepreneurs access to university-level technical levels and specialised equipment at affordable pricing levels.

This speaks to upskilling, a key offering of incubation hubs and critical for women entrepreneurs needing to become finance literate. “At Riversands, we have a team of coaches and mentors who guide entrepreneurs in specific areas such as finance or strategy. Relevant educational material is regularly presented in formal as well as informal ways and reinforced with practical coaching to help entrepreneurs put theory into practice in their own businesses.  This is flanked with professional bookkeeping services provided on a subsidised basis. This allows business owners to build the financial records and systems their businesses need to qualify for understanding,” says Retief.

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Riversands FundEX takes place on August 16. For more information visit:

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

These 13 black businesswomen are rapidly rising stars. You can learn from their journey and their entrepreneurial advice.




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Women all over the world are the powerhouses behind some of the newest, innovative start-ups and concept businesses. South African businesswomen are gaining momentum in this global arena too, with success stories like the 13 ladies below.

Female-led business growth is happening in South Africa, despite the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) statistics showing that only 6.2% of South African females take the leap into entrepreneurship.

These 13 black female businesswomen are going against statistical trends and represent some of the rising stars in South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape. 

  1. Boitumelo Ntsoane
  2. Phuti Mahanyele 
  3. DJ Zinhle 
  4. Polo Leteka Radebe
  5. Michelle Okafor
  6. Sonia Booth
  7. Basetsana Kumalo
  8. Sibongile Sambo
  9. Molemo Kgomo
  10. Nkhensani Nkosi
  11. Bonang Matheba
  12. Matsi Modise
  13. Khanyi Dhlomo
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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

[Infographic] The World’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs

Numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.

Colette Cassidy




Managing your own business is not easy. Unless you’re willing to stop at nothing to make the business succeed and unless you can balance supreme self-confidence with the cool, analytical head to know the risk that’s a risk too far, your entrepreneurial sojourn will almost certainly be brief and disastrous.

If you can set up your own company and keep it operational for at least several years, you will have proven that you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t turn over a massive profit from the company, being able to stand on your own two feet with self-made earnings is an achievement.

Then there are those whose businesses more than just survive. They grow into multimillion-dollar international enterprises which could make the owners world famous. One such example is JK Rowling. Granted, she might not fit the stereotype of a business owner, but she turned her passion into her life’s work and earned a fortune because of it. Like many entrepreneurs, she had an idea which took her from being in financial distress to owning a globally-recognised brand, namely the Harry Potter series.

Her story is an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere, as the corporate world is still thought of as a male-dominated environment. That perception is rather misleading, though, as numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.


Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family


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