10 start-ups approved for Women in Tech incubator project

Percy Ptoo and EmmaStella Gakuo, founders of of Maziwa Plus -Savannah Circuit, awarded by Dr Joseph Sevilla, director @iLabAfrica and @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University, in 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The programme supports female-led entrepreneurial teams with business management training, mentoring and seed funding; this year’s top 10 teams were selected from a pool of over 350 applicants.
  • The entrepreneurs will go through 12 weeks of mentorship at iBizAfrica, where they will be offered expert training in business idea conceptualisation, strategy formulation and marketing.

Standard Chartered Bank, in partnership with @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University, has shortlisted 10 start-ups for the Women in Tech (WiT) programme.

The programme supports female-led entrepreneurial teams with business management training, mentoring and seed funding to scale up operations. This year’s top 10 teams were selected from a pool of over 350 applicants.

The entrepreneurs will go through 12 weeks of mentorship at iBizAfrica, where they will be offered expert training in business idea conceptualisation, strategy formulation and marketing. These areas are key in moving businesses from incubation to sustainable ventures. The training will culminate in five of them getting Sh1 million in funding.

IBizAfrica-Strathmore University Director Joseph Sevilla said the women-led start-ups in the ICT sector are envisaged to transform Kenya through innovation.

“It's remarkable how far we have come on this journey of nurturing women-led entrepreneurial visions from the idea stage to marketable and scaleable ventures through coaching and mentoring sessions on entrepreneurial skills,” said Dr Sevilla.

Fifth cohort

He noted that the programme, which is in its fifth cohort, has transformed Kenya’s women-led start-ups into fully fledged businesses that are thriving and contributing to the economy. Since its inception, it has attracted over 1,800 applicants, trained over 40 entrepreneurs and funded 20 start-ups through partnership with the Standard Chartered Bank.

The programme seeks to further educate, mentor, coach and fund more African female entrepreneurs and innovators whilst providing women-led start-ups with practical support to grow and develop beyond East Africa.

Joyce Kibe, head of corporate affairs at Brand and Marketing Kenya and East Africa, said the programme is designed to address gender disparity in the technology sector and use technology to tackle social challenges faced by communities.

“They are an important part of our entrepreneurship offering within Futuremakers by Standard Chartered, our global initiative to tackle inequality and promote economic inclusion and aligns with our stand to lift participation by creating opportunities for women to contribute to society and economy,” said Ms Kibe.

She, however, regretted that despite women constituting a higher percentage of the global population, they are still underrepresented in this sector owing to financial and capacity barriers.

Sustained growth

“Over the last four years, the Women in Tech programme has successfully contributed to filling this gap through capacity building and financing, which has seen participants register sustained growth, create jobs and foster innovation through technology. We look forward to supporting this year’s cohort and congratulate the 10 businesses that have been shortlisted,” added Ms Kibe.

She said enterprises were shortlisted based on criteria such as demonstrated capacity to execute, clearly defined roles, balanced skill set (team lead, business development, product development and marketing), leveraging technology, availability of market opportunity and potential socioeconomic impact.

IBizAfrica public relations manager Diana Mutua noted access to finance for women has been and still is a challenge, with a recent study indicating that 68 per cent of women-led MSMEs in developing countries lack adequate access to finance, representing a Sh1.5 trillion financing gap.

“Women-led enterprises account for 48 per cent of all micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which contribute 20 per cent to the overall GDP of Kenya. When we launched this year, our theme was Advancing Global Trends in women-owned businesses. These trends, combined with capacity building, coaching and mentoring, will provide opportunities for start-up businesses to upscale and provide better product solutions,” said Ms Mutua.

The incubator programme is committed to being digital by design, to support female entrepreneurs with technology to grow their businesses. The training equips parents, teachers, and caregivers with skills that they can incorporate to support their learners. WiT is Africa’s leading incubator programme for female founded businesses, aligning with calls for more diversity in technology, entrepreneurship and for more opportunities for women to develop entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.

Beneficiaries

The 10 enterprises include Pure Purple, a Nairobi-based contemporary footwear and accessories brand that adds premium value to locally sourced leather, thus creating communal impact; SIAGO, an e-commerce fashion store that makes and sells unique, luxury, free-size dresses targeting the 30+-year-old, plus-size and career woman; Aurora Health Systems, a wearable medical device that uses wireless technology to continuously monitor heart rate; SowPrecise, a farm management system tailor-made for African farmers to communicate with labourers and help them track activities; and Learning Differently Limited, a learning intervention platform tailor-made to support students/learners with learning disabilities.

The others are GoBEBA Everything Limited, a company that offers online retail of household essentials delivered within an hour, uses technology to provide convenience and reduce costs, and uses machine learning for demand planning and delivery optimization; ON MY MIND, a start-up supporting breastfeeding mothers with low milk supply to meet their breastfeeding goals while promoting their health and wellness through value addition to organic and wholesome products; Keyara Botanics, a skincare label that creates products that take care of the skin naturally with raw materials sourced from African farmers; Sello Designs, a social business that designs and makes sustainable, durable, and timeless bags using leather and kitenge fabric; and DigiPath Africa, a digital marketing agency that helps organisations and individuals navigate their way online and take their products and services to existing and new customers using digital marketing.



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