Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot Four Seasons The Westcliff.
Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot Four Seasons The Westcliff.
Image: Supplied

SA’s women entrepreneurs could gain more support, professionally and personally, if they broaden their understanding and definition of networks. That’s one of the main findings of the Veuve Clicquot International Women Entrepreneurship Barometer, which was debated at the Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot event in Johannesburg on Thursday the 27th of May.

The Veuve Clicquot 2020 Barometer, which was conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, updates the status of women entrepreneurs across the world and provides a rare tool: a proper understanding of the state of female entrepreneurship. Conducted in 17 countries among more than 30,000 participants, it shows that 54% of SA’s women surveyed consider themselves entrepreneurs — the highest rate in the world

Veuve Clicquot has a proud and long-standing association with female entrepreneurship, dating from the days of La Grande Dame herself: Madame Clicquot. When this pioneer took over her father-in-law’s Champagne business in 1805, women weren’t allowed to own businesses; they couldn't even open a bank account. Undeterred, the innovative Madame Clicquot introduced a number of industry firsts. Two hundred years later, in 1972, the company honoured her audacious spirit with the launch of the Bold Awards, recognising standout woman entrepreneurs around the world.

Though the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the awards could not be held this year, Veuve Clicquot continued its work to support female entrepreneurship with the release of the second edition of the Veuve Clicquot International Women Barometer; research which sheds casts the spotlight on obstacles deterring women business-owners while also celebrating their advancement.

The report’s findings were unveiled at an event hosted at Four Seasons’ The Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg, where 50 women entrepreneurs gathered to network and encourage bold conversations. A further 670 women joined the live streaming of the event, listening to discussions chaired by Rapelang Rabana, the founder of Rekindle Learning. Panellists included Amanda Dambuza (founder of Uyandiswa), Adriana Marais (founder of Proudly Human), Erik Kruger (founder of Modern Breed), Matsi Modise (founder of Furaha Afrika Holdings), Mzamo Masito (chief marketing officer at Google Africa), Nomndeni Mdakhi (founder of Agenda Women), Nthabi Taukobong (founding member and MD of Ditau Interiors) and Dr Theo Mothoa-Frendo (founder of Uso Skincare).

As many as 90% of the participants in the barometer say a network that can support them as they build their business is crucial; moreover, the majority of respondents indicated that it would be advantageous if their network included other women. An equal number regarded mentorship as important in building a business.

Panellists at the Johannesburg event said women entrepreneurs could enjoy greater support if they extended their scope on networks and mentorship. For instance, while most women consider a mentor to be an elite businessperson with whom they should share a formal relationship, panellists said people with whom one is in contact daily — neighbours, family members or fellow mothers — may also be able to shed light on the specific challenges one is experiencing.

“Help can also come from authors or global entrepreneurs who have shared their struggles; after all, with the wealth of information available online, it is more than likely that you will find information from someone who has gone through a similar battle,” said Mothoa-Frendo.

“There is also a big difference between mentorship and sponsorship; though both are invaluable, sponsorship may be the key that helps an entrepreneur gain the access they seek,’’ Modise said. “This is why other women should make the effort to introduce up-and-coming business owners to like-minded industry peers.’’

Networking should also be broadened to encompass collaboration. This creates scope for more partnerships and encourages sharing information and skills that may be beneficial to all parties — something that is becoming increasingly important as the complexity of the business arena, and the challenges it presents, deepens.

Carole Bildé, Veuve Clicquot’s chief marketing and communications officer, welcomed the nature of the discussions and their ability to encourage women business owners to look at potential stumbling blocks from a fresh angle and, in so doing, to find solutions.

“This is precisely why we take such pleasure in presenting the Veuve Clicquot Barometer Study: we are delighted to play a role in igniting the debates that will change the way women experience entrepreneurship,” she said.

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