SAUSEmbassyCropOn 28 November 2018, WEConnect International in South Africa and the US Embassy partnered to host a Women in Business Workshop in the capital city, Pretoria. Many of the attendees were US Embassy women entrepreneur alumni who were introduced to WEConnect International for the first time, as well as WEConnect International certified WBEs and self-registered businesses.

The morning started with a presentation by Maureen Mimnaugh, the US Embassy Cultural Attaché, who thanked WEConnect International for partnering for a second consecutive year and hosting the workshop. She commended the critical work that WEConnect International in South Africa does to connect women business owners with economic opportunities throughout the country. “The US government is committed to acknowledging, supporting and strengthening women like yourselves so that you have the confidence and the connections you need to achieve your goals,” Mimnaugh said.

Following the opening address, an alum of the State Department Fortune 500 Global Mentoring and Founder/CEO of Petrolink, Lerato Motsami, inspired women entrepreneurs with her fantastic story of overcoming failure. Petrolink is a South African based industrial and automotive lubricants, oil and grease blending company established in 2012 founded by Motsami following a 15-year corporate career in the downstream petrochemical sector.

Next on the agenda was Petra van der Westhuizen, a Financial Adviser for Absa Bank, who gave a plenary session on “Retirement Planning: Ensuring your Business Provides for your Pension,” sharing invaluable tips on retirement planning for entrepreneurs.

A collaboration workshop followed the afternoon session. In 2017, WEConnect International in South Africa undertook an initiative of creating collaboration groups within the network with the ultimate goal of building greater capacity for women business owners to take on the “bigger” projects from corporates.

To date, several collaborative groups have been set up focusing on different sectors. One of the more successful collaboration groups has been AWiA (African Women in Agriculture) who has partnered with WEConnect International corporates like Ingersoll Rand, starting a roof-top farming initiative throughout the city of Johannesburg. Another one, AWiT (African Women in Corporate Technology), has made significant strides in creating a database of over 30 women-owned IT companies.

The women business owners were then divided into different collaboration groups, namely Agriculture, Education & Training, Women in ICT, and Facilities and Construction Management. Within these groups, women business owners were encouraged to (i) identify potential market gaps in the various sectors, (ii) identify potential corporate clients and opportunities to exploit, (iii) brainstorm multiple ways to enter into a joint venture with women business owners, and (iv) next steps.

At the end of the day, each group provided feedback from their collaboration group discussion.