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Five incredible startups backed by female entrepreneurs


You strike a woman, you strike a rock – is the saying derived from the song that was sung 59 years ago on August 9th, by the 20,000 women who marched on the Union Building in Pretoria. They were protesting against the pass law that dictated that those defined as “black” had to carry an internal passport. The strength, courage and defiance of these women – black, white and coloured alike – is remembered every year on Women’s Day and throughout Women’s month in August.

Female entrepreneurs are on the rise in South Africa.

Today, the women of South Africa continue that spirit of strength and perseverance in the form of entrepreneurship. Ernst and Young’s 2015 Mega Trends report confirms the fact that female-run SMEs are on the rise in the developing world. Pair this with the fact Sub Saharan Africa has the highest TEA (Total Early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity) rate – that is the percentage of people aged 18-64 starting new businesses – in the world, and we have an incredibly optimistic and innovative future for both female entrepreneurs and our country’s economy.

Here are five stellar startups – all backed by women.

1) Areli Veg

Sarisa Ferreira is the woman behind Areli Veg. The veg-packing business was born out of the necessity of overcoming drought and then floods to provide food for the Eastern Cape’s Kouga District. It’s now creating employment opportunities for unemployed and disabled women in the area. Farmers bring their produce to Areli Veg, where it is checked for quality, packed – using eco-packaging – and then distributed to local supermarkets. Adding to her prowess is the fact that Sarisa happens to be both an entrepreneur and a 2008 Paralympian.

2) Ekurhuleni Artisan and Skills Training Centre

Marthie Jansen van Rensburg started out with a single welding machine and a passion to equip the unemployed with the skills they would need to better their lives. Based in Gauteng, the centre was started in 2004 and now trains just under 4,000 unskilled labourers every year in everything from boiler-making, rigging, plumbing, brick-laying, carpentry and sheet metal work. Marthie walked away with Sanlam Business Partners’ Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2014.

3) The Little Ashford Preschool

Jena Mukina is the lady behind the Little Ashford Preschool in the Johannesburg area. There are already five schools up and running since Mukina founded the business in 2009. In 2011 she was joined by co-founder Marli Hoffman. 250 children are enjoying the benefits of a multi-sensory approach to learning based on Montessori principles, with a strong emphasis on social and environment awareness. It’s not only the kids who are benefitting – the schools have provided job opportunities for many teachers too.

4) Telemedicine Africa

Started by medical doctor Lynette Molefi in 2008, Telemedicine Africa is a pioneer of e-medicine: an initiative that seeks to overcome the less-than-sufficient medical services in the country, as well as the issues imposed by geographical distances.  A Virtual Telehealth Centre that contains specialist medical equipment and video conferencing facilities can diagnose patients remotely. Doctors and technicians run these Telehealth Centres and provide healthcare to those who have no means of travelling to a doctor themselves.

5) Repurpose Schoolbags

Repurpose Schoolbags is the brainchild of Reabetswe Ngwane and Thato Kgatlhanye. A huge number of kids walk to school everyday in this country – so why not harness the energy of the sun shining down onto their school bags? Not only does this overcome the inconvenience of load shedding at night, it allows lower income families to save money on buying electricity and lets kids get on with their homework. The bags are made from recycled plastic, are installed with a solar panel-cum-lantern and come in attractive designs to boot. The perfect new stationery suppliers offering?

Stationery suppliers are instrumental in supporting the plight for improving education in South Africa by equipping learners with the right tools. Education is crucial for empowering the women of our country today and beyond. OfficeBox is at the forefront of innovation within the stationery suppliers landscape. Call us today to find out how we can help you equip your business or school with everything it needs to get the job done.

Image credit:a-listinterviews.com


David Adams
30 June 2017