Lindiwe Matlali teaches South African girls to code—through knitting. And thanks to Matlali’s efforts, more than 40 000 young people have learned to code.

As the founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks, Matlali heads up the continent’s largest computer science non-profit. And her story shows the difference women entrepreneurs can make in their communities.

Matlali is one of the past winners of the Santam Women of the Future Awards. The initiative, now in its sixth year, is a partnership between Santam, FAIRLADY, True Love.

This year, Lulalend is excited to be a co-sponsor.

Trevor Gosling, Lulalend CEO and cofounder, said:

“It’s been proven that women entrepreneurs make a significant impact in their communities. However, they often face several challenges and are underrepresented. That’s why we’ve joined Women of the Future in this initiative to celebrate women business owners. Women entrepreneurs go out and they change the world, and we’re honoured to be a part of that journey.”

Organisers are calling on South African women business owners, across all sectors, to enter the competition.

Suzy Brokensha, FAIRLADY editor, said the awards wanted to honour women in business.

“The figures coming out of South Africa – and the rest of the world – are really shocking in terms of the number of women who rise to board positions, let alone CEOs of companies. And yet it’s very apparent in South Africa that many women are running their own small businesses, and in many cases those small businesses are propping up and supporting communities.

“Our decision to start these awards was two-fold: to recognise and celebrate women who were already succeeding, and to encourage and offer support to women who were setting out to start their own businesses.”

There are three categories:

  • Santam Woman of the Future: entrepreneur older than 30-years old who business is older than 1,000 days
  • Santam Rising Star: entrepreneur between the ages of 16-years old and 30-years old who is still within her first 1,000 days
  • Santam Social Entrepreneur: an entrepreneur who is making a difference in her community; she’s 30-years or older and her business is older than 1,000 days

The competition is open until 30 June.

The winner’s prize package includes R80 000 cash and key business services, including a PR package.

Apart from the prizes, the awards offered another kind of value to women: access to a network of experienced entrepreneurs, said Brokensha.

“The problem with being an entrepreneur is that you place enormous expectations on yourself – you have to do everything, from conceptualising the idea, to planning the business, to making staffing decisions, to working out the finances, to marketing the product.

“There are very few people in the world who can do all those things themselves. For me that’s one of the biggest rewards of the Women of the Future Awards: you connect with people who can really help, and you are given the faith in yourself and your business to make those connections work for you.”

And supporting women entrepreneurs has never been more important, said Brokensha.

“We really want to encourage women entrepreneurs in South Africa. Our economy is in crisis – we all know that. But there are women everywhere who are supporting their families by starting little businesses on the side.

“I always say, when a woman succeeds in business, she uplifts the people around her: she puts her money into education, training, support … her success spreads out like ripples in a pond; she doesn’t just channel it all into buying a flash car or a football club.”

And this year the women who enter the awards have a key role to play in rebuilding the South African economy.

“Our economy needs saving from the grassroots up, and these are the women who can do it.”

Brokensha said the awards would give entrepreneurs the support they needed to thrive during a difficult time.

“We desperately need to kick-start our economy again, and, if you have a fledgling business, you have probably taken a huge knock. You may have a great idea, but in these economic times, that great idea will need all the help it can get to survive. And that’s what the Women of the Future Awards can do for you.”

She called on all South African women to enter the awards.

“My favourite quote of all is one that comes from author Alice walker: ‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.’

“I would replace ‘people’ with ‘women’. With the Women of the Future Awards behind you, you have the power! Let’s make it happen.”

To enter the awards, or to nominate an entrepreneur, visit the Women of the Future website.

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