Founded in 2014 by Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, young women passionate about female entrepreneurship in Africa, She Leads Africa is a platform that looks to empower female entrepreneurs in the continent.

They have identified unequal access to education, cultural stereotypes, limited networking opportunities and limited access to finance as the 4 key barriers preventing women from taking part in Africa’s growth story.

By taking on proactive initiatives that will help more women gain access to knowledge, networking and financing, She Leads Africa looks to jumpstart female entrepreneurs from SMEs to pan-African industry leaders. One of such initiatives is the Entrepreneur Showcase.

She Leads Africa’s Entrepreneur Showcase is a pitch competition that introduces the continent’s most promising female entrepreneurs to investors, accelerators, and mentors looking to invest in the next generation of African talent.

TC got in touch with Co-founders Yasmin and Afua to gain a better grasp of the purpose, method and expected outcomes of the pitch competition.

Could you give us some background on SLA’s founding members?

Yasmin is a management consultant focusing primarily on developing growth strategies for a number of local and international corporates. In 2011, she spent a year attending culinary school and working as a sous-chef in the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Yasmin is a graduate of Princeton University with degrees in history and finance.

Afua is a management consultant advising large scale public and private sector organisations on strategy and operations. She previously served as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia and communications staffer for Michelle Obama. Afua is a graduate of the University of Chicago with master’s degrees in business administration and public policy.

The daily operations of the organization are run by them with support from a team of volunteers with a high level professional experience in different sectors, which span across business development, technology, management consultancy and the media.

Please highlight any initiatives/programmes, anything She Leads Africa has undertaken so far?

As a startup itself, She Leads Africa has already made significant traction in the entrepreneurial ecosystem with more than 370 entrepreneurs from more than 16 countries applying for a coveted finalist spot. Winners will receive more than $55,000 in cash and in kind prizes including legal services, tablets and computers, data subscriptions, and exclusive meetings with leading investors. Sponsors and supporters include international and pan-African businesses including Google, GT Bank, Etisalat, ASKY Airlines, and Genevieve Magazine as sponsors. A leading venture capital firm has already committed to investing $25,000 in an entrepreneur from the She Leads Africa community.

With plans to become the 500 Startups of Africa, She Leads Africa is already well on its way to becoming a staple of the African investment community with VC funds already seeking access to their database of female entrepreneurs and plans underway to hold networking events for African female entrepreneurs in major global cities, create an entrepreneurship education platform, and raise an investment fund.

What are some of the expected outcomes of the Entrepreneur Showcase in September?

The outcomes we will be measuring our company are clear: we want to see the female entrepreneurs from our network to go on and raise significant investment capital, acquire new mentors and advisors, and strike partnership deals that enable them to fast track their business growth. With the programme we developed we believe we will be able to achieve all of these outcomes as numerous early stage investment funds, accelerators, and investors have expressed interest in meeting the entrepreneurs to source deal opportunities; we’ve secured 10 dedicated mentors for every startup who is committed to helping those companies grow; and we’ve recruited corporate and organisational partners who are able to make the necessary introductions that high growth entrepreneurs need.

The impression is that the competition places a special focus on women entrepreneurs in technology. Why is there a special focus on the technology sector?

We are looking for high growth entrepreneurs across a variety of industries and have seen impressive applicants spanning across agriculture, finance, education, manufacturing, fashion, transportation, and more. Many of the startups are tech enabled which presents an exciting opportunity to see how technology can help transform existing industries. Regardless of  the level of technology that is involved in their business, we know how powerful it can be in increasing the productivity and efficiency of a business so all finalists will get access to up-to-date business productivity products and Google is supporting the competition by providing year long subscriptions to Google Apps for Business along with Etisalat providing internet credit and tablets for top finalists.

Could you give us an overview of the selection process for the 10 finalists?

Applicants will be rigorously evaluated across four key areas: proof of concept, understanding of competitive landscape, quality of management team, and ability to attain funding targets. For proof of concept, we are looking for entrepreneurs who understand the problem consumers are facing, have come up with a creative solution for that problem and know how to monetise that solution. For understanding of the competitive landscape, we want entrepreneurs who comprehensively understand the other players in the market, the risks that are associated with entering into the space, and have developed mitigation strategies to achieve their company goals. For management team, we want to see a well balanced team that has pulled together individuals able to execute on their vision or a plan to acquire talent or mentors to fill in any gaps. Finally, we will be evaluating the ability for an entrepreneur to realistically raise the funding needed to generate traction in their business and get them to the next stage of growth.

Entrepreneur Showcase

On Saturday September 20th in Lagos, Nigeria 10 finalists will be invited to pitch their business ideas in front of a panel of notable business personalities for a shot at cash prizes of $10, 000 and $5,000 for the winner and first runner-up respectively.

Winners will also get:

    • Access to prominent venture capitalists, angel investors and other leading professionals to act as mentors and sponsors
    • Consultation on brand development with Etisalat in-house marketing team
    • Free business line for one year (including voice and data)
    • 2 meetings with legal advisor from top law firm to discuss incorporation, corporate structures and copyrights.
    • Meeting with 2 executive directors of a leading merchant bank to discuss business plans and fund raising 6 month access to Capital Square co-working space
    • Interviews with media outlets.

Applications for the She Leads Africa Entrepreneur Showcase are now closed.

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass via Compfight cc

Muyiwa Matuluko Author

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