We believe that women’s entrepreneurship is an integral part of an empowered society. That’s why ygap’s work champions a world where women entrepreneurs have quality and equal opportunities to build sustainable businesses. Better economic conditions often equate with increased levels of health care, education, and prosperity for whole communities. An even playing field for all genders in entrepreneurial ecosystems everywhere is better for everyone, both in terms of business success and economic growth, and just as importantly, in the fight for equality and fairness the world over.
Despite the overwhelming benefits of women’s entrepreneurship, there are still deep inequalities between how much support and resources that women-led ventures receive compared to men. At ygap, we believe this can change by directly supporting women-led ventures as they exist now; assisting all ventures to consider gender in their operations, products and services; as well as affecting change at an ecosystem level to make the way easier for these ventures, and these women, to succeed. See our work on incorporating a gender lens in incubation and acceleration here.
International Women’s Day is an important yearly reminder of the importance of striving for equity and equality across all facets of life; in ygap’s case, that is focused on shifting the balance of opportunity, capital, power and resources in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem further towards the hands of those who are most able to create significant change at a local level but who are also systematically under-resourced to do so.
This week, we’re celebrating some of the women in the ygap alumni community who are running innovative and successful impact ventures; businesses with a focus on social or environmental change. These six incredible women are leading change in their communities through the power of entrepreneurship, despite the challenges in access to resources and capital that many women entrepreneurs face.
We hope you enjoy reading about the ventures of these ygap and yher program Alumni. They demonstrate the deep tenacity of working in a world not designed for their success, however, succeeding despite outdated power structures is not enough; work needs to happen at a system level in order to remove the barriers that mean women receive less support, less capital, less resources, rather than being obliged to fight a continuous uphill battle because of them. Women should not have to struggle to build their own seat in the hope of fitting at a table not made for them.
Fanny Fiteli | Mama’s Mushrooms | yher Pacific Islands
Fanny Fiteli is the founder of Mama’s Mushrooms, an indoor farming company that focuses on the production of high-end, edible products like mushrooms and microgreens. Mama’s Mushrooms believes in a community where women are empowered to be entrepreneurs with the ability to provide for their families through improved nutritious meals, access to quality healthcare and education. To this end, they train single mothers in the highly technical process of indoor farming for high-end produce.
Women are taught how to replicate the same growing process in their own kitchens and backyards and can sell their produce back to Mama’s Mushrooms as a second source of household income, as well as use part of their harvest to cook delicious, nutritious daily meals for their families. This allows single mothers to further invest in their children’s education, health, nutrition and wellbeing.
With the international tourism market on hold Fanny is now doubling down on the domestic market introducing fresh, quick-eats like crunchy tempura mushrooms. And in an effort to address supply chain disruptions, she has extended her product line to include items with a longer shelf life, such as dried mushrooms and pickled mushrooms.
Sibongile Mtsabe | Sibocali | ygap South Africa
Sibongile Mtsabe is a local entrepreneur from a community in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa, and the founder of Sibocali, an agribusiness that manufactures a variety of edible products such as crisps and porridge, made from indigienous South African root vegetables.
The business works with rural women and youth, where they teach them how to grow and harvest the vegetables that the venture uses in the production of its products. At harvest, Sibocali buys back these vegetables thereby creating employment and increasing incomes for local women. Sibocali processes the vegetables into healthy flours, snacks and other nutritious products, offering a healthier alternative to snack foods to the wider community.
Lillian Nakigozi | Women Smiles Uganda | yher Africa
Lilian is the Founder of WOMEN SMILES Uganda, a social enterprise that was formed to address food scarcity for women and children living in slum areas. Women Smiles Uganda provides affordable, reliable and modern vertical farms with a well inbuilt drip irrigation system to grow crops for food.
These vertical farms can be positioned in any small space such as verandas, roof tops, walkways and gives everyone with limited space to grow crops like spinach, carrots, beans, peas, strawberries among others. These crops are grown throughout the year without being affected by the ever changing climatic conditions.
Women Smiles Uganda also offers training to mothers, and buys the surplus of their produce which is sold to hotels, restaurants which gives them an extra income stream. Through Lillian’s work, over 1000 women have been able to achieve a more sustainable income by using their vertical farms.
Marion Vigot | Mister Rye | ygap First Gens
Marion Vigot is the founder of Mister Rye, an Australian-based company that utilises rye offcuts as a sustainable and locally sourced alternative to plastic straws. Mister Rye works with farmers in South Australia to use the byproduct of grain production, which would usually go to waste, and repurpose it into drinking straws that can be used both commercially and domestically.
A problem with many disposable plastic straw alternatives is that they require commercial compost facilities to properly decompose. They are also often imported from overseas manufacturers. Mister Rye’s straws are completely natural and don’t need to compost, and they are sourced locally, making them more environmentally sound. Through the work of Mister Rye, Marion is supporting Australian farmers, closing a loop in the waste cycle, reducing single-use plastic waste, and educating people on the importance of living more sustainably.
Muthoni Mate | Cancer Cafe | ygap Kenya
Muthoni Mate is an epidemiologist and cancer survivor who, through her own journey with the illness, discovered that the support and resources for people living with cancer in Kenya wasn’t adequate enough. Using her own lived experience, she founded the Cancer Café.
The Cancer Café is an organization that tailor-makes solutions for people living with cancer by connecting them with cancer management resources, providing credible information and creating networks needed to improve their quality of life as they go through treatment and after.
They bring health care providers and cancer management resources out of the hospitals and into the communities where people living with cancer are better able to articulate their unique needs and have the community and family members in attendance to also learn and provide support for prevention of cancer and care for those afflicted. Areas of focus are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial wellbeing. Cancer Café has been able to reach over 500 patients by providing them with information, connecting them with specialists and other relevant cancer management resources.
Esrat Eve | AMAL Foundation | ygap Bangladesh
AMAL foundation is a non-profit based in Bangladesh which works across education, health, empowerment, and emergency crisis. Currently, it is working all over the country and giving support to more than 400,000 people with different projects. These projects include the distribution of winter kits to help people survive the colder months, building schools and water wells, coordinating access to medical care in crisis response, training women in sewing and jewelry making so that they can earn an income, and much more.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in this world with a weak healthcare system, so the COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant impact, especially on poorer communities. AMAL Foundation has been active during the COVID-19 crisis, including the distribution of emergency goods like food and hygiene products, and the installation of handwashing stations. For her work on AMAL Foundation, Esrat has been recognised as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Listee.
To learn more about our work, head to www.ygap.org