Following ten months of business development support, 50 women entrepreneurs in technology, engineering and manufacturing businesses pitched for additional prize money at the inaugural WomHub Founder Showcase in Johannesburg.

The showcase – an initiative of WomHub, the South African Future Trust and the Finnish Embassy in South Africa – accelerates the growth of local women entrepreneurs in STEM businesses through leadership development and intensive entrepreneurial support.

This, as the global economy slows down, and countries like South Africa with high unemployment rates are seeing further set backs on employment and growth projections forcing the nation to look to entrepreneurs to bring back jobs and opportunities to support economic growth.

Sectors like the circular economy, especially, have showcased unique ways in which the country is not only able to create more jobs, but also place environmental sustainability at the centre.

The WomHub Founder Showcase was held at WomHub’s fit-for-purpose Hub in Rivonia, Johannesburg. This is the first female founder space in Africa, providing business support, eventing and co-working space for female led innovators in STEM fields, which WomHub defines as science, technology, engineering and manufacturing.

WomHub invites top judges, investors

The showcase pitch-off brought together an esteemed panel of judges, including Abu Cassim, the founder and chief executive of Jozi Angels, Maya Burney, associate partner at Caleo Capital, and Syson Kunda, founder and managing director of technology companies PingLady and PingAcademy.

In attendance at the showcase were women entrepreneurs, a number of investors including Five35 Ventures, a pan-African venture capital fund for women in tech businesses, as well as a number of international dignitaries and members from the private sector to support women entrepreneurs with access and entry into global and local supply chains.

The event was opened by WomHub co-founders Naadiya Moosajee and Hema Vallabh, as well as the ambassador of Finland to South Africa, Anne Lammila, and Bridget Fury, head: Oppenheimer Generations Philanthropies and interim head of the SA Future Trust.

WomHub’s Incubators and accelerators offer female founders holistic support in the form of masterclasses and on-going venture skills, aiming to accelerate the growth of the founders’ companies, unlock their potential and empower them to develop and create job opportunities.

“We are ecosystem builders and understand that there are systemic pipeline challenges to get more women and girls into engineering and tech,” said Moosajee. “So, we work with thousands of girls from the age of 12, all the way to seasoned entrepreneurs who are growing businesses and growing economies.”

Addressing the founders at the event, Vallabh said, “This is a safe space where you get to test, experiment and get feedback. We’re here to help each other, to see these businesses through various different lenses, and that for me is where the magic happens.”

“There are extraordinary organisations like WomHub who understand particular sectors and segments of the market, and who are providing really valuable financial and non-financial support to small businesses,” said Fury.

“We’re about partnership, backing ideas, backing people and pushing our trusted partners like WomHub to take on risk and to try new things.”

Circular economy solutions

Meanwhile, Lammila added, “I feel at home here today because when I studied, a long time ago, in the Finnish Foreign Ministry, we had two female ambassadors, and now half of the ambassadors are women

“It’s so lovely to be here in South Africa and see this change happen. I believe that events like this help bring forward innovative new business models and circular economy solutions, where you engage women and create wellbeing not only for that woman but for her community and family.”

Tension ran high and inspiration abounded as the founders pitched their businesses for possible investment and access to market opportunities, while showcasing their tenacity in building incredible technology and engineering companies in South Africa.

All 50 founders from WomHub’s economic growth accelerator and circular economy incubator were given the opportunity to engage with WomHub’s Partners, investors and network, with a number of financial commitments made in the room.

The exciting, closely contested pitch off was won by Rheineth Modiselle, founder of Bokamoso Recycling. Yolanda Mbanguzi, founder of Zoe’ Projects and Consulting, walked away with the People’s Choice Award, thanks to vibrant online engagement on her pitch video.

WomHub will run another founder showcase in October as it aims to ignite and build the entire ecosystem and support economic growth and prosperity by investing in women entrepreneurs in STEM businesses across South Africa and around the world.