Throughout the world, women encounter obstacles to entrepreneurship as a result of gender-based violence, pay disparity and early pregnancy. However, in recent years, female entrepreneurs are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, regardless of ethnicity.
5 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch Out For
Victoria Awine has worked at a cocoa plantation in Sefwi Asawinso, Ghana since she was little before owning and operating her own three-hectare land in 1980. After enrolling in the Cargill Cocoa Promise, a program which promotes female cocoa farmers to become business owners, in 2014 Awine became a leading entrepreneur in her community. She has broken barriers to female business leadership, rejecting cultural norms by showing how she can succeed as a business leader, a mother of four, and an involved community decision-maker. Since joining the Cargill program, Awine has seen her cocoa farm’s revenue increase threefold.
Njeri Rionge, a serial entrepreneur from Kenya, has started several multi-million dollar companies in quick succession. She started her first business at 19, selling yogurt in Nairobi, Kenya. Afterwards, she went on to sell clothes while maintaining other small businesses. Rionge also founded Wananchi Online, making her one of Africa’s leading female investors in the IT sector. Rionge later went on to be the founder of digital marketing company Insite, consulting agency Ignite, healthcare consulting agency Ignite Lifestyle and start-up incubator Business Lounge. “I believe Africa is the next economic frontier,” said Rionge in an interview with Forbes.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, an Ethiopian entrepreneur, started a sustainable footwear company, SoleRebels, when she realized the great artisan potential of the members of her community. SoleRebels has not only had great success in Africa, but has flagship stores worldwide. The shoe itself is modelled after a style commonly worn in Ethiopia. Materials are also locally sourced in a combination of recycled and organic material, like the Ethipian Koba plant, to make an eco-friendly shoe. Additionally, the production process of the shoes makes SoleRebels the first footwear company certified by Fair Trade.
Nilda Callanupa, a female entrepreneur from Chinchero, Peru, is the founder of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco. Additionally, she is an author, speaker and expert in textiles. As a child, Callanuapa was responsible for tending her family’s sheep and weaving. Spending time in the field and learning about weaving designs, Callanuapa became interested in the history of Peruvian textile. So when she met an ethnographer as a teenager, and with the support of her community, Callanuapa attended college and determined to preserve and honor the tradition of textile in Peru. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of Peruvian textile weaving and has greatly contributed to the effort to preserve these textiles and its history.
Oum Ali, a Syrian refugee and mother of six, started a small restaurant in Lebanon, employing other refugees like herself to feed many other community members. Ali started running her own business after inflation in Lebanon caused prices to rise higher than they had been in Syria. Looking to feed her children and having confidence in her home country’s cuisine, Ali rounded up a group of fellow Syrian women and set out to work. “My dream is to see a lot of Syrian women working and making their own money,” she said in an interview with BBC.
These five female entrepreneurs demonstrate courage, perseverance and innovation in their approaches to business. Moreover, each of these five female entrepreneurs share a focus in community building and cultural conservation efforts. Surmounting gender-based obstacles among others, these entrepreneurs rise to the occasion for themselves and their communities, serving as excellent examples of leadership and strength.
– Elise Ghitman