Regional and Local Economic
Development Initiative

UKZN Graduate School Hosts International Entrepreneurship Weekend for Women

The South African edition of the Global Startup Weekend Women (GSWW) was held for the first time in Durban this past weekend. Hosted by the UKZN Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSBL), the event was held under the theme: Women in Technology.

This international event, which is part of the globally known Startup Weekend aimed to bring together women from across the globe, to allow them to immerse themselves in a startup environment. Durban is the only city in South Africa that has hosted the event. The initiative was designed to encourage more diverse, inclusive, impactful actions in the field of entrepreneurship through technology by and for women.

The winner received a once in a lifetime chance to compete in the Global Startup Weekend Finals scheduled for March 7th 2018 in Paris, France. Second, third and fourth runner-ups received cash prizes sponsored by UKZN InQubate and an opportunity to pitch directly for R500 000 worth of seed funding from SmartXchange.

At the opening of the event, guest speakers: Academic Leader in Teaching and Learning, Dr Macdonald Kanyangale; eThekwini Deputy Mayor Ms Fawzia Peer and United States of America (USA) Consul General Ms Sherry Sykes addressed participants. Kanyangale and Peer said women face a number of challenges when it comes to entrepreneurship. They concurred that attending projects such as the GSWW, will empower women to overcome those challenges and to grow in their innovative thinking and develop their entrepreneurial futures.

‘The fact that you’re here shows that you have initiative, courage, and creative ideas to share.  You’re here, eager and excited to present your ideas and proposals.  Keep that energy and momentum going for the entire weekend. Learn all that you can from one another and from your mentors. This weekend’s opportunities are just the beginning. The skills you learn will help equip you to reach your goals and impact your communities,’ said Sykes.

Day one was all about networking, pitching ideas and building teams. 30 participants registered and 17 people pitched their ideas at the event. Nine ideas were selected to progress through to the next round.

Day two saw the participants work on their business models by validating these ideas, building their Minimum Viable Products and designing their Business Models. Experienced coaches and mentors were available to guide and assist the teams in the development of their ideas.

On the final day eight teams gave five minute presentations to a panel of experienced judges: Mr Michael Jordan, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Ms Melanie Reddy, Nedbank, Ms Robynne Erwin, SME Diagnostics and Ms Anitha Ramsuran, of Technology and Innovation Agency (TIA) were tasked with this responsibility. Judges evaluated the team’s presentations on their validation, execution and design and business models.

First Prize went to Ms Farnaaz Shaikjee and Ms Angelina Akande, whose business idea Beauty Butler, aimed to maximise the convenience of consumers seeking beauty services as well as the capacity usage of beauty service providers.

Ms Zenani Jama, one of the runners-ups, said she has learnt a lot from the startup weekend, on how to become a successful entrepreneur. She was also excited at the prospects of investment from GSWW sponsors Ithala Bank and SmartXchange.

‘Startup Weekend is a 54 hour immersion in a startup learning environment. It promotes the practice of lean startup methodologies encouraging and inspiring participants to explore the validation of their ideas in building sustainable startups. This theme was designed to provide a safe learning and experiential environment for women who were toying with technology ideas to learn, build and grow them. The event was successful as a catalyst for startup creation and all participants (including men) have been inspired to pursue their dreams beyond the weekend,’ said the projects Lead Organiser Professor Shahida Cassim.

Words: Sibonelo Shinga