Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Femtech | Igniting Tech start-ups

Here's a little article  I penned about my Femtech experience for the City of Windhoek's June Aloe Newsletter. Thank you to the ever-passionate Leonora Joodt,Section Head of SME Development and Promotion for this opportunity. You honour me with your request :)

Since graduation from the programme I've put some new systems in place moving my design business from a lifestyle to a growth business - YAY! Some of these changes include, drum roll, being registered with the Social Security Commission as an employer, with my first full time employee and moving to a new office space three times the size. I've also added to the bottom line by securing larger projects but perhaps THE BOTTOM line warrants a post of its own.

Just because you have a business doesn't mean you know how to run it. It's never easy juggling the technician, manager, entrepreneur roles. You have to plan, dream, believe and do all at once.

If you're a woman entrepreneur based in Southern Africa looking to grow your business I can HIGHLY recommend the Femtech promgramme.

Igniting business knowledge through Femtech
By Tanya Turipamwe Stroh, Graphic designer, entrepreneur, lecturer and blogger

The first really cold winter morning of 2014 descended upon Windhoek on 20 May, but this didn't deter a group of more than 20 enthusiastic women entrepreneurs from all walks of life, whom had gathered at the Community Development Centre in Katutura, as part of the Femtech training programme. Femtech is “an experiential learning programme for women-owned technology-enabled start-ups” and is being hosted as the second of its kind, in collaboration with the City of Windhoek, Bokamoso Entrepreneurial Centre and the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme.

Cups of coffee and enthusiastic meet and greets between “femmies” were settled by Leonora Joodt, Section Head of the SME Development and Promotion for the City of Windhoek as she introduced herself, along with the training facilitators, namely Claudine Mouton from SMEs Compete, Prisca, Leah and Tina.

We were lucky enough to have with us, Dr Jill Sawers, co-founders of the Femtech programme and moderator for this specific workshop. As a consultant and founder of a business incubation centre, to mention a few, Jill welcomed us to the program citing its successes , which would soon become apparent to everyone in the room. After her introduction we were introduced to Silas Neweka, SAID Country Coordinator for Namibia, who gave a presentation on the role of SAIS and the plethora of innovative projects that the organization is backing. It was amazing to see how much is being done by grass roots and government organization alike, to improve entrepreneurship and innovation in Namibia and Africa at large. Namibia is playing an active role in this transformation and the onus is on entrepreneurs to capitalise on these opportunities.

At the root of the Femtech programme, and much of what we experienced through the first week of training, is “modularised experiential learning offering which places emphasis on practical learning although basic theoretical content.” Each day was filled with progressively more challenging activities and exercises, ranging from positioning statements, to marketing, business cycles, product innovation, social media and even visualisation techniques. As someone with a holistic education background, I really appreciated how all the material presented was backed up by either individual or exercises, sharing ideas in small and large groups and Q&A’s. After each exercise there was an opportunity to reflect on the exercise and new knowledge gained – with specific attention to how it can be applied to each of our own businesses. The range of different learning techniques employed was relevant and engaging, often starting with a humorous energizer exercise. Each module was presented by a knowledgeable facilitator, keeping the pace of the workshop quick and applicable to our own businesses. Golden nuggets of knowledge, in the form of AHA! sticky notes were posted to the wall as the days progressed and aplenty they were.

A few of my favourite included:
  • Sustainability moves a lifestyle business to growth business
  • Own your business but share the work
  • What problem is my product or service solving?
  • Know who you’re pitching to. What’s the objective of your pitch?
  • Know your product
  • Innovation comes with energy
As someone with a postgraduate degree, I was initially concerned that perhaps some of the material might be rather obvious to me. But in initially applying for course I realised, as entrepreneurs – we’re often so consumed with get work done that we neglect the real business side of things. Where you are in the business cycle, what are your unique selling points, are you targeting the right market segment, do you have the correct systems in place and most importantly for me – how can you take your business from a “lifestyle business” to a “growth business”. These are all question that need to be answered by any entrepreneur about their business. To my surprise, there was a term for the very thing that I’d been struggling with in the past 2 years! Who knew? And that’s just it – business innovation is about sharing ideas but also problems with another starters or mentors. If you vocalise your business problem – more often than not, there is another business experiencing the exact same issue, and ten to one, they’ll have a solution for you.

The Femtech training had me feeling invisible as both an entrepreneur and a woman. Three days after the first workshop ended, I attended a strategic brand development meeting for middle and senior managers of Namibia’s largest hotel – one of my clients. While planning for the presentation I was really able to draw in some of the key touch points of the Femtech training. Some of these included unique selling points, cost management, brand consistency and working systems structure, which I could weave into my presentation that mostly dealt with corporate identify design. It made me realise again, how business can and should imitate life. Everything is connected and the Femtech programme has proven that in only the first week of training.

Femtech participants are currently completing assignments and meeting with their business mentors.
The second week of training will take place from 15 to 17 July 2014.

Graduation programme

Graduation shenanigans with my fellow Femmie Monica Lopez from Soakuddly

Femmies to Transfer Skills
By Mandisa Rasmeni for the Namibia Economist 

The second intake of FEMMIES graduated from the FEMTECH experiential learning programme on Wednesday, where sixteen women entrepreneurs that went through an intensive four month programme graduated. The group were trained on different aspects that included how to identify their target market, work with cash flow, evaluation of their business and how to deal with obstacles they face in their businesses.

Utete Karimbue Mupaine,Chairperson of Bokamoso Entrepreneurial Trust, who read the speech on behalf of the Hon. Councillor Moses Shiikwa, Chairperson of the Management Committee of the City of Windhoek, said that this is the time when women should be honoured for their hard work and talents.” “Educational attainment and economic participation are the key constituents in ensuring the empowerment of women, therefore it is essential for empowering women in all spheres of our society, as a vital element of strong economic growth in any country,” she added.

Dr Jill Sawers, Director of FEMTECH said with emotion,every time she flies above Africa, she can see only the scattering of lights, which is very different from Europe where there is light every where, therefore with programmes like this Africa is being given light one women at a time.“Therefore FEMMIES go into your communities and pass the light on,” she said. Elisabeth Kivimaki, Counsellor for Private Sector Development, Finnish Embassy encouraged the women to do their best to make it big and succeed in the business world and to look up to female role models that have inspired them locally and internationally. FEMTECH Namibia is a collaboration between FEMTECH (Pty)Ltd South Africa and the Bokamoso Entrepreneurial Centre in Windhoek. Financial support was provided by the Trust of the Bokamoso Entrepreneurial Centre and Southern African Innovation Support Programme (SAIS), a development partnership between the Government of Finland and the Governments of Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.

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