The inaugural Seed Academy/WDB AccelerateHer programme, a three-month business accelerator for female entrepreneurs, sponsored by Shell Downstream South Africa concluded by notching up a string of successes for young black female owned businesses. The fully-funded AccelerateHer programme provided 25 black female entrepreneurs with an intensive programme including developmental workshops, high impact business development support and mentoring from industry specialists and experienced entrepreneurs to fast track their development.
Seed Engine CEO, Donna Rachelson notes that the rigorous 90-day programme has seen an impressive number of early successes for participating entrepreneurs with four successfully pitching to new clients, three increasing turnovers and expanding their client base, while one business secured a contract with a world-leading diamond company and a leading glass manufacturer. Another participant in the programme received a proposal request from a major African food retailer, two fledgling businesses have since become industry association members and a further two successfully secured the required industry licenses vital to their continued operations. “The strength of the AccelerateHer programme is that it can be customised for women entrepreneurs at all stages of development from the initial ideation phase, to enterprise development and supplier development,” explains Rachelson.
In addition, the AccelerateHer programme creates a pipeline for the WDB Seed Fund, an impact fund that provides funding to growth stage businesses with a particular focus on black women and youth owned businesses. Through the inaugural programme, one business has been selected to be put forward to the Fund. Faith Khanyile, CEO of WDB Investment Holdings says AccelerateHer is a great vehicle for WDB to achieve its objective of advancing female entrepreneurship. “Through AccelerateHer we are able to create a pipeline not just for the WDB Fund to fund some of these outstanding entrepreneurs but also benefit the economy as a whole,” says Khanyile.
Rachelson adds that psycho-social problems of female entrepreneurs are well-known and South Africa is no different. She says much more needs to be done to provide holistic financial and non-financial support to enable the growth and development of female entrepreneurs as a matter of urgency. “Black women business owners still face immense obstacles and it’s these women that hold the key to unlocking economic growth in the country and more needs to be done to foster female entrepreneurs.” This is just one of the reasons why this specific AccelerateHer was developed according to Rachelson: “We wanted to look for black, female entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 with a business idea aligned to Shell’s value chain. They had to be worthy participants in the ideation phase that would like to see their idea become a registered business within 90 days. The business case had to be a solvable problem with a viable solution and a solid business plan. The flare, quality and aptitude of the founder was also taken into account.”
Social Investment Manager at Shell South Africa, Ntobeko Mogadime explains that Shell was a proud sponsor of AccelerateHer because of its strong focus on women entrepreneurs as only one in three South African businesses are owned and run by women. “I’m impressed with the relationships we’ve formed in a relatively short space of time and the passion and dedication exhibited by all involved and we look forward to continuing these relationships to make sure we help more women in the country succeed in starting and sustaining viable businesses,” she says.
Rachelson says that throughout the high-impact 90-day programme all entrepreneurs showed incredible determination, tenacity and dedication. “Nurturing great business ideas to full fruition is just one aspect of the programme. The other vitally important outcome is keeping the spirit of black women entrepreneurs alive and thriving in our communities and providing the ongoing support needed for success which will make a true and lasting impact on South Africa’s economy.”
She says that the programme drew over 900 entries, 400 of which came from other African countries: “Producing tangible results is first and foremost, and the AccelerateHer programme for Shell has generated some excellent results. The ethos of this programme is to take ideas and develop them into viable businesses. AcceleratorHer has very successfully, in only 90 days, developed real business opportunities.”
The inaugural AccelerateHer also concluded with the announcement of its top achievers. Geneva Kuypers of Geneva Projects & Supplies was awarded R 50 000 towards her aspiring business sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings. The winner was joined by runners-up Lelo Rammitloa of Got Paper and Siphumelele Shabalala owner of Krypton Industrial Services who each received R 25 000 in funding from Shell to elevate their businesses towards sustainable growth.