Dublin – Takeaways
Ntombenhle Khathwane and Morra Aarons-Mele
When Ntombenhle Khathwane started AfroBotanics seven years ago in South Africa, she faced little competition. The natural hair and skin care line took off, thanks in large part to Ntombenhle’s personal story – her grandmother was a traditional healer in Swaziland. Some of the methods for extracting natural botanical oils and conditioning agents are part of that rich tradition. Ntombenhle’s other secret weapon? Social media. Paired in Dublin with internet marketing expert Morra Aarons-Mele, the two laid the groundwork for a social media campaign to leverage the holiday shopping season. Ntombenhle has big dreams: “I want to be the African Unilever in five years.” She’ll start by focusing on a body care line affordable to more people. Morra has no doubt she’ll be able to scale quickly. “She has tremendous courage as a businesswoman and leader.”
Shilpi Singh and Norah Casey
“I’m lucky the dragon is on my side!” Shilpi Singh was relieved when she discovered her mentor in Dublin would be Norah Casey, media and publishing icon, and former celebrity participant on “Dragons’ Den,” a popular TV show in which the dragon judges entrepreneurial endeavors, similar to “Shark Tank” in the U.S. Shilpi is co-founder of Unhotel, an experiential travel company focusing on Indian immersion. She and Norah took full advantage of their time together, tinkering with mission statements more fully reflective of Unhotel’s ethos and – at Norah’s urging –committing to a stronger command of the financial picture. “I’m more a cheerleader for women than anything else,” said Norah. “Invest in the person, not the business.” With a slew of new connections made by Norah and enriched by the holistic training workshops, Shilpi will return home ready to increase bookings, expand B2B partnerships and engage with media in new ways.
Orit Cohen and Susan Davis
“Women entrepreneurs are never lacking in vision,” said Susan Davis, chairman of Susan Davis International. “What’s challenging is getting to practicality.” Her mentee is Orit Cohen, CEO of Mootag, a branding and advertising social business in Haifa, Israel. The company provides training and employment programs in design and technology for local at-risk youth and young adults. “I came here at a defining moment in my life,” said Orit. “I’m not sure Susan knows how much our conversations affected me.” Orit’s dream is to do business while doing good, on a bigger scale. She’s exploring a new concept, connecting corporations to social action through CSR and tax incentives, starting in Israel and then taking it global. It’s a big goal, but the visionary in Orit is answering a call to make the world a better place.
Farana Boodhram and Mine Ozturk
Farana Boodhram is a serial entrepreneur with a heart of gold. With a day job as CEO of a mining company in South Africa, she put her hidden art and design talents to good use – first, to create the world’s first protective garment for women miners; and second, to design a wheeled school bag that converts to a desk and chair. Millions of children in rural areas attend schools without desks – Farana has the solution, and came to Dublin with a prototype and to learn more about fundraising and marketing. “Farana had a lot before she came here, including website funding and a proudly South African brand,” said her mentor Mine Ozturk, a former healthcare industry veteran, now angel investor and tech entrepreneur. “Entrepreneurship is a lonely road,” said Farana, who is using the GAP week to take her idea further in order to reach her goal of producing and distributing 200,000 rolling desks in 12 months.
Jane Mutulili and Pacita “Chit” Juan
Jane Mutulili, owner of a civil engineering firm in Nairobi, came up with a new name to describe her mentor, Pacita Juan, after intense sessions on financial management: tormentor. All in jest, the two hit it off from the get-go. Pacita, a serial entrepreneur and founder of ECHOstore in the Philippines, was a perfect match to help Jane get her financial house in order at La Femme Engineering, the company she created in 2006. “My sister convinced me to apply to GAP,” said Jane. “Until I was accepted, I didn’t focus on La Femme Engineering as a business.” Instead, Jane was busy just doing the work she loved – with the UN and its agencies as steady clients. “Jane is lucky because her business is profitable,” said Pacita. “She wants to know the numbers [behind her business]. While she might like the work, it is the numbers that will sustain her.” Jane heads back to Kenya with a commitment to stay on top of those numbers and a checklist of to-dos to keep La Femme Engineering flourishing for years to come.
Anne Butterly and Tehya Kopp
“We are a global business in a small town,” said Anne Butterly, founder and CEO of Ireland-based Easydry, an innovative single-use, compostable towel company spreading quickly to new markets around the globe. Tehya Kopp, her mentor, has a background in the LA entertainment industry and now works in social impact strategy. She offered a fresh perspective on Anne’s challenges. “Anne’s business has impressive environmental sustainability benefits, but she was so engrossed in running operations that she hadn’t pulled this up into her overall strategy” said Tehya. “We were able to outline the strategic plan for a triple bottom line social enterprise that will result in the strong positioning and messaging that she was looking for.” At its core, Easydry is an environmentally friendly solution to millions of gallons of water wasted on the traditional laundering of towels. Reconnecting with that premise during the GAP week was helpful, as was taking a look at operations and human resources. “We’re shifting to a growth mindset and changing behaviors,” said Anne. “Outlining the strategy helps clarify the organizational structure which will allow us to match the right people to the right roles.”
Bevin Mahon and Nadiia Vasylieva
Pairing a Ukrainian digital transformation expert with an Irish dentures business owner seemed an unlikely match – at the start. But Nadiia Vasylieva’s passion for technology as a force for good proved the right counterpart to Bevin Mahon’s commitment to expanding DentalTech services throughout Ireland. Bevin’s company provides well-made, proper fitting dentures for elderly men and women that restore their ability to function with dignity. “Eighteen months after a person enters a nursing home, many lose their natural teeth,” said Bevin, citing the grim reality that keeps her focused on changing lives. To scale the business, Bevin needs to hire more senior managers, engage a consultant to ramp up marketing and communications, and reduce the biggest hit to the bottom line – dentists’ time spent with patients. One of the most interesting ideas to emerge with Nadiia was the concept of a digital platform to allow for online interaction between dental professionals and caregivers, once in-person care is no longer necessary. Watch this space!
Michelle Tunno Buelow and Jocelyn Mangan
“True leadership meets you where you are,” said Michelle Tunno Buelow, founder of Bella Tunno, a baby and parent accessory brand headquartered in North Carolina that donates one meal to a child for every product sold. “She has an ability to drill things down – the clouds just opened.” She’s talking about her mentor, Jocelyn Mangan, Silicon Valley tech and start-up veteran and founder of Him for Her, a social enterprise working to get more women on for-profit boards. “I came here at a point of fear,” said Michelle. “We’re in a big growth cycle – our current level of growth is unmanageable. Protecting Bella Tunno as we mass market is critical.” Updating the mission and vision is first on the list, followed by redoing the strategic plan. The week was reassuring for Jocelyn. “I’m no longer afraid that women won’t dominate where we need to dominate,” she said. “Michelle built an incredible business – she is positioned for greatness in business and the world.”
Michelle Pesce and Ellen Voie
A Los Angeles-based DJ and entertainment entrepreneur matched up with an authority on women in the trucking industry? Michelle Pesce, founder of Nona Entertainment (named after her beloved grandmothers) and mentor Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking, hit it off immediately. With constant travel and changing schedules, it was easy for Michelle to put off building a team, putting structure around business operations and positioning herself as a thought leader in a younger, often male-dominated industry. They assessed points of constraint and created an action plan for hiring, simplifying payment options and using client surveys to solicit feedback. “Michelle likes to fly by the seat of her pants,” said Ellen. “She’s going to work on financial goals and KPIs.” She’s also going to use her platform to advocate for women. “As women we need to stop limiting ourselves – In my mind 35 was the limit for a DJ,” said Michelle. “But the female artists ahead of me are pushing boundaries and we are following to push again for those DJs coming up behind us. I’m also getting more involved with art, panel discussions and further inspired avenues so it’s not just me behind the turntables.”
Ciara Crossan and Holly O’Neill
Ciara Crossan runs a successful wedding venue online booking platform out of her busy Cork, Ireland office. It’s a sophisticated business – and growing – but it was time for some long term planning. “On the first day, I wrote down the challenges and assumptions of my business and questioned why I do certain things,” said Ciara. “I was dealing with my business month to month, quarter to quarter.” With her mentor, Holly O’Neill of Bank of America, she took a close look at ways to optimize revenue streams, user experience and customer outreach. “It’s been a true pleasure understanding WeddingDates’ goals and objectives – a great business with a superb leader,” said Holly.
Maria Kim and Jennifer Sloan
Connection, community and radical provocation was the theme between Global Ambassador Jenn Sloan, vice president of public policy for Mastercard Canada, and mentee Maria Kim, president of Cara, a job readiness nonprofit based in Chicago, Illinois. “There was an alchemy in the way Jenn and I intersected,” said Maria. Common connections were Georgia, in the U.S., where Jenn serves on the board of her alma mater, and where – to Atlanta – Maria is bringing the Cara model. “Public service is scratching at the back of my head,” said Maria, remarking on how the first half of Jenn’s career was in government and diplomacy. They clicked, doing a deep dive into Cara’s mission, vision and values. What emerged for Maria – and what she’s taking back to the team to provoke new strategic thinking, boils down to Cara’s essential purpose: “reconnecting people affected by poverty to hope, jobs and opportunity.” For Jenn, the week was transformational. “I’ve attended a gazillion conferences. I can’t remember a single time I have been as engaged as in this room.”
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Photography: David Hume Kennerly