This is a story about luck, chance, faith, and a world of possibilities. It began one Sunday when I was sitting with one of my mentors and an amazing leader - having spoken for hours non-stop in his closing remarks he suggested I try my luck and apply for the HB Antwerp Innovation Lab in partnership with WomHub that was coming to Gaborone in August 2022.
I said - “Sure”. Not much thought was put into that part of the conversation. I however did a Google search and to say the least - I was intrigued. A spark of curiosity and awe was born. I had not felt this feeling in weeks if not months. I did not apply. I shared the link with a couple of my friends & went about my day.
Two days later after the meeting with my mentor I decided to pass time and go over the WomHub & HB Antwerp websites and social media pages. It was then that by mistake or by fate I clicked the application link to the second edition of the HB Antwerp Innovation Lab. It was a straightforward form that was not time consuming. I browsed through it and a voice in my head said, “What do I have to lose?” I applied and, after a few minutes, got a confirmation email that I had applied - we all get these emails and it always ends here. Well not with WomHub and HB Antwerp.
I called a few friends whom I shared this with whom I suggested should apply - one actually did go on the site and try applying but because of pessimistic tendencies did not apply. My friend chuckled and said this could be a kidnapping syndicate or online scammers. I concurred; this was a compelling argument. How can a Belgian company and a Pan African non-profit work together to come to Botswana to help Batswana? What was the catch? What do they benefit? Surely, they will get us and sell us on the black market.
To move away from the heavy thoughts I had just had, I googled what a Hackathon was - I mean I knew it from the movie The Social Network. A bunch of tech gurus come together to build some cool, fancy tech product that one day ends up being a billion-dollar company. And I thought that was just what the HB Antwerp Innovation Lab Hackathon was. That is just what I had signed up for. I am excited, I am going to be at the Hackathon, I do not have any tech skills so most definitely me and my team will fail cause - I bring zero tech skills besides some knowledge I had gained from CodeAcademy.
Fast forward, a few weeks later an email comes through and to my amusement I am part of the 50 applicants selected to participate in the Hackathon. This was my “Mama, I made it” moment. This email detailed how the next coming weeks would include an intense series of virtual inductions with thought leaders on how to pitch, how hackathons work, sustainability and positive impact training, and the magnificent leadership from WomHub, HB Antwerp and the amazing work they have been doing across their various sectors.
Through these inductions I had come to realize that WomHub and HB Antwerp are about emancipation, empowerment, uplifting and upskilling the youth - women and men. HB Antwerp and WomHub actually care about the future - the next generation. The work that WomHub and HB Antwerp is centered around sustainability and value creation. This was where they caught my attention. If in a few weeks HB Antwerp was to come along with WomHub and abduct us, I sure was ready. Something about being in the space of people who share a common thing that makes you convinced that everything can be conquered by the right team and right mindset.
Hackathon Day comes - 2nd August 2022. I walked into the hall, and I was ushered into this big hall, and I could feel the energy. I know nobody here but something about everyone waking up bright and early that was so infectious. I take my sit and the proceedings begin shortly thereafter - I realize “No man, this is real, the Belgians (HB Antwerp) are here, WomHub is here everyone is here 49 other participants are here & we are about to begin” I am not worried about being kidnapped anymore. The hackathon is not anywhere close to what I thought it would be - nothing tech related but rather it is everything about being in a room with likeminded people with a common goal. The Hackathon was about diversity, learning - learning yourself and your team, and burning brain power to solve a challenge unique to Botswana with strangers who I now call my team.
The Hackathon taught me about how diversity is power. The fact that we did not know each other but trusted each other to work together in our groups to solve a common problem. It reinforced the sentiment that teamwork makes the dream work. I was here not feeling incompetent as I would have thought I felt at home, I felt accepted, I felt engaged and above all I learned more about myself and people than I had ever done in the past 3 months.
A major takeaway from the Hackathon was that in this big ball called earth we all have an obligation to do something that matters, something the next generation will appreciate we did now. We often care about ourselves; the Hackathon was designed to help us move out of our traditional boxes and think about how we can contribute in impactful ways and generate value for others and our community. It matters to do good in a world that has not been so good to us all. An experience that came at the right time, in the midst of COVID-19.
The Hackathon was not just a competition, it was more of an experience of connecting with others. It challenged me to be vulnerable and unleash my superpower and mixing it with other participants’ superpower to make a remarkable contribution. Having enjoyed the Hackathon, I had a moment when I was outside with other participants to reflect how this Hackathon has impacted me and my future work.
Working in the real estate industry and currently studying, the Hackathon has taught me to believe in collaboration. I know something that someone does not, and someone knows something I don’t and when we share this, we become stronger together. In the classroom the teacher knows something I don’t and on site the foreman knows something I don’t, and I don’t dismiss any contribution from anyone. There is value to be generated from all spectrums of the value chain. We are stronger together. In the end, ultimately what matters is that we contribute in a positive manner, and nobody is too small to make a significant contribution. In any undertaking I owe it to myself and those I work with to think long term and about the impact we bring, what value to offer back to those we serve. I came back feeling like a newborn - with curiosity and energy to explore. Like WomHub and HB Antwerp it is imperative that we serve. My first day at work after the Hackathon, I asked my principals – “how is this sustainable? Will it be there long after us?” and that is the legacy of the HB Antwerp Innovation Lab Hackathon. I am now a sustainable oriented type of individual. Sustainability through positive value generation and positive impact is the conversation the next generation of leaders need to be having.
Thanks to all the participants who took a chance to trust WomHub and HB Antwerp to facilitate this. We might not have all won the Hackathon but by virtue of being a part of this we were all winners. Special Shoutout to the alumni of the first HB Antwerp Innovation Lab for making our experience what it was. Special gratitude goes to everyone far and beyond who made this possible.
Larry O. Motshegwe
Continuing with our theme for August of celebrating Women’s Month here in South Africa, we addressed the importance and value of mentorship in our latest livestream, and how powerful it is for us to support one another and lift our fellow women as we rise. Mentorship offers a golden opportunity for growth and it forms an integral part of Womhub’s programmes. We are so grateful to Elizabeth Chiza for the wonderful mentorship she provides for our founders, and for sharing her special insight and inspiration in this session, which you can watch below.
Elizabeth is a business development manager and small business consultant, who has travelled a fascinating journey and has a mentorship portfolio that includes women entrepreneurs in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. She provides excellent tips and advice, including recommending that “Before embarking on a mentorship path, the mentee and mentor should set some ground rules and agree on goals and expected outcomes for the relationship.” She suggests that you “Map the route jointly to ensure that you're both on the same page.”
Watch the recording below for plenty more valuable guidance from Elizabeth:
If you have any questions about how to make the most of your relationship as a mentee, or you’re interested in the benefits of becoming a mentor, then this session is for you! WomHub Community Manager, Tanganani Mugivhi hosted the interview, she shared how she has seen first hand, the impact Elizabeth's mentorship has had on the WomHub founder community.
Elizabeth explains the fundamental ground rules that she communicates with her mentees in order to strengthen the mentor/mentee relationship.
She says, “Share your vision and SMART goals, or at the very least let me know what you expect from the mentorship journey. Take notes and record all critical action points during our sessions. Be coachable and take ownership of the adventure. Commit to your own personal development and improvement. Participate fully and actively. Respect the mentor's time, be prompt, and offer apologies on time. Provide honest criticism - evaluate yourself and the mentor.”
Don’t miss the gold in this recording and join our next session live from 19h00 - 19h30 (GMT + 2) on Tuesday 30 August 2022, when we’ll be talking about “Accelerating Growth”, on our WomHub Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and YouTube channel. We’d love to “see” you there!
In line with our celebration of Women’s Month, we were delighted and honored to host Mimi Kalinda on our latest WomHub livestream session, speaking about the value of owning your voice, especially for us women. As many of you in our community may know, Mimi is the group CEO and co-founder of Africa Communications Media Group, a pan African public relations and communications agency based in Johannesburg. She is passionate about storytelling, leadership and shaping narratives.
Mimi captivated our live audience, sharing insight about her fascinating and far-reaching storytelling journey, the experiences and inspiration that led to starting her business and the power of impactful communication that she has harnessed in building her brand and her clients’ brands. She addressed key questions, such as this one that entrepreneurs often ask her: “do I need to separate my personal brand from my company brand?” Her response is “not when you’re first starting out”.
She goes on to say that “At some point, you will need to, in order for your business to be scalable and sustainable without you. But at the beginning, the very raison d’être of your organization is that it solves a challenge you have identified as a challenge because of who YOU are: your background, experience and the ‘baggage’ you bring into the room. Also, people buy into people first, before they buy into companies, concepts and ideas. There is power in your personal story. Lean into it!”
Watch the replay below for more valuable advice for your entrepreneurial and brand journey:
There is a wealth of insight to gain from this session, as Mimi explains some common mistakes that she sees women entrepreneurs making in relation to crafting and sharing their brand story, and how they can overcome these. She offers key tips about how to own your unique voice, what this means, and how to ‘put yourself out there’ to gain media exposure, which is such an important business skill.
We’re so grateful for our wonderful partnership with Mimi, for her contribution to a number of our WomHub programmes, and the consequent impact of her wisdom on our founders and their businesses. Watch this session and be inspired to own your voice and craft your compelling brand story. Then stay tuned for more insight and inspiration in our next livestream session on Tuesday 16 August at 19h00 (GMT+ 2), where we’ll be exploring the importance and value of the mentorship path. Simply hop on and join us on our WomHub Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or YouTube channel.
WomHub and Partners are Igniting the Ecosystem by accelerating growth through intensive entrepreneurial support, leadership development and access to funding for women entrepreneurs in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) businesses. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, WomEng (a non-profit subsidiary of WomHub) has powered the Africa Innovation Fellowship (AIF) programme, with more than 100 female founders in STEM businesses having participated between 2019 and 2022.
AIF is a premier pan-African programme for female innovators who are developing early stage engineering start-ups. Alice Radley, Programme Manager for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation at the Royal Academy of Engineering shares that the AIF programme “has been an incredibly successful and popular programme,” and that, “One of the goals of the Africa Innovation Fellowship is to encourage and support female entrepreneurs to apply to the Africa Prize programme. Many of the women who’ve been recently shortlisted for the award are AIF alumnae, which really speaks to the quality of innovators who have come through the programme.”
Since the inception of the programme in 2019, a number of founders from the AIF programme have featured as finalists in the annual Africa Prize, which aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward innovation and engineering entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2020, AIF alumna Charlette N’Guessan, CEO and co-founder of Ghana-based software company BACE Group, was the first woman to win the award, with Aisha Raheem being a finalist. In 2021, AIF alumnae, Elohor Thomas (AIF 2019), Armelle Sidje (AIF 2020) and Faith Adesemowo (AIF 2020) were all finalists for the Africa Prize.
The much anticipated finals took place in June this year and all members of the shortlist had the opportunity to pitch, including AIF alumna Juveline Ngum from Cameroon. She is the co-founder of Bleaglee, which is a smart cooking system made entirely of recycled materials. It includes a smokeless cook stove made of metal scraps, a clean cooking fuel made in solar-powered bio-digesters from plastic and agricultural waste, and a digital platform that allows cooks to track and offset their carbon footprint. Formerly working in metals and materials engineering, Juveline shifted her focus to sustainability and studying climate change, recycling and renewables in the process of starting the company.
As well as selling the system, Bleaglee empowers women by teaching them to source scrap metal and make the stoves, which are 80% less expensive than using firewood, and cook food 5 times faster than traditional ovens used in Cameroon. With the global economy under strain and countries that have high unemployment rates, such as those across the African continent, suffering further set backs on unemployment and growth projections, we look to entrepreneurs like these to create jobs and opportunities to promote economic growth, and we celebrate that sectors like the circular economy are generating ways to create more jobs, as well as environmental sustainability.
WomHub shares the Royal Academy of Engineering’s commitment to building a sustainable society for all and an inclusive economy that works for everyone, which is reflected in the equal gender split for the Africa Prize for the first time this year. To learn more about the founders and programmes powered by WomHub and its valued partners, visit www.womhub.com, and contact the team if you’d like to participate in igniting and building the ecosystem to support economic growth and prosperity by investing in women entrepreneurs in STEM businesses across Africa and around the world.
About the Royal Academy of Engineering
The Royal Academy of Engineering is a charity that harnesses the power of engineering to build a sustainable society for all and an inclusive economy that works for everyone. In collaboration with their fellows and partners, they are growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, influencing policy and engaging the public. Together, they are working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.
WomHub is a boutique Pan-African ecosystem builder with a focus on the entire women in STEM value chain from attraction to ownership. In unlocking the potential across the STEM value chain, they have created verticals to support women by focusing on unblocking bottlenecks. Their strategy is to ensure a comprehensive, holistic approach and create systemic change. WomHub is the only ecosystem builder in the world providing end to end support that focusses on:
To find out more, go to www.womhub.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know what’s happening on the front lines of developing talent and sustainability for women and girls globally in STEM fields? Watch the recording below of our latest livestream where WomHub Project Manager Atupele Phiri interviews Shahila Perumalpillai, Head of Equity and Inclusion at De Beers Group, to discover special insight and an exciting opportunity!
Shahila’s background spans social anthropology and development, social impact management, community development, skills development, livelihood development, and the inclusion and diversity space. She shares that De Beers Group wants to deliver equal opportunity for everyone and as part of that achieve gender parity across their workforce and in leadership. For that to happen requires investing in pipeline and in talent, not just for the organization, but more widely to support economic development and the green transition in a way that benefits many.
Through our non-profit subsidiary WomEng, WomHub is honoured to have partnered with De Beers Group for the past 3 years, and to have recently extended this partnership for a further 3 years. We’re excited that this extension will see our programmes expanded beyond Southern Africa to reach students in Canada and the UK, as well as beyond university courses to include vocational and skilled trades. In the meantime, as Atupele and Shahila share, we’re delighted to have opened applications to our WomEng Southern Africa Fellowship 2022 programme.
Powered by De Beers Group, this develops leadership, innovation, well-being and employability skills required by young graduates to succeed in the engineering industry and beyond. Take a look below to learn all about the programme and visit www.womeng.org to find out more and apply:
Shahila also shares the forward thinking, wholistic approach of De Beers Group’s “Building Forever” framework, which includes four pillars, namely leading equitable practices across the industry, partnering for thriving communities, protecting the natural world, and accelerating equal opportunity. She highlights the incredible experimentation and learning that has been achieved through the Southern Africa Fellowship programme, pivoting from in person to virtual content, in a way that retains such a high level of engagement, while emphasizing how important wellness and connections are to people, and having the community aspect of the Fellowship.
Community is a big part of growth for us all, and a strong focus for us at WomHub, which is what inspired our livestream series. Please join us for our next session from 19h00 - 19h30 (GMT + 2) on Tuesday 2 August 2022, when we’ll be talking about “Owning Your Voice”, on our WomHub Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and YouTube channel. We’d love for you to engage with us!