On 23 July 2019 WEConnect International in South Africa, UN Women, and Johnson & Johnson brought the collaboration and matchmaking workshop to East London in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, for the first time. The event was hosted by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) at their East London Plant.
The well-attended workshop focused on identifying opportunities for local women entrepreneurs from East London. Attendees represented various business sectors, including technology, engineering, construction, training & development, marketing & branding. The attendees articulated their challenges as women business owners (WBO) in the Eastern Cape, and their expectations from the workshop. Also, in attendance were some successful WEConnect International Certified women business owners (WBE) who are Gauteng province-based but originally from Eastern Cape. They shared their success stories and WEConnect International journeys encouraging attendees to get involved and join them on the global business trips with WEConnect International. The majority of the attendees were learning about WEConnect International for the very first time.
Participants at the workshop were warmly welcomed by Jacob Pretorius, GS Sourcing Team Lead at Johnson & Johnson, who kicked off the workshop by introducing himself and the J&J Credo. Jabulani Maluleke, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Johnson & Johnson, guided all the visitors through the safety presentation, and later joined the group for the WBO business pitches.
Delegates at the workshop included Siya Minah Leshabane, Programme Associate, UNWomen; Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, Chief Executive Officer at Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP); Lynette Berrington, GIZ’s Provincial Coordinator. Corporate representatives who traveled from Johannesburg were Sinqobile Khumalo, Procurement Manager Talent Acquisition Lead from EY, and Jacob Pretorius, J&J. They both introduced their companies and the work they do with WBOs in South Africa. They also presented programs and initiatives that help accelerate progress for women business owners, to scale their businesses.
Attendees were given the opportunity to do their 1-minute business pitches and received feedback from the corporates. Bruce Nherera, EFM Micro Region Lead from Johnson & Johnson, East London Plant, joined the group during the pitching session and was impressed by the variety of women-owned businesses there are in the Eastern Cape. He informed the group that they had already identified businesses they can work with during the pitches.
During the question and answers sessions, the WBOs took advantage of the audience they had with the corporates, by both seeking advice related to the corporate procurement procedures and expressing some challenges they have with regards to doing business with corporates.
The workshop’s objective was to introduce Eastern Cape women business owners to WEConnect International Corporate members; learn about work being done by UN Women in South Africa, and to allow time for WBO to Corporate matchmaking as well as WBO/WBO collaboration discussions. These collaboration discussions were necessary to review opportunities and market gaps, on which women business owners can collaborate. The collaboration session also allowed time to discuss and consider the pros and cons of working together to seek larger opportunities. The attendees were split into groups to discuss collaboration in Agriculture; Construction; Training & Development & Marketing/branding.
During the collaboration discussions attendees were also split into groups of 3 to have a matchmaking session with J&J; EY; UN Women & GiZ. The small groups took it in turns to go to the separate tables and have discussions on opportunities with the Corporates.
We received very positive feedback from attendees who had the opportunity to meet and learn from other women business owners, Corporates, UN Women & GiZ.