These women lead the way

“Men and women are both human beings. And as humans, we’re by-products of our upbringings, victims of our lackluster educational systems, and choosers of our behaviors. In short, the reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue. Everything skyrockets out of control from there.”

— Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry

“But then we saw that that was a problem for most entrepreneurs — most small business owners — that access to finance was a real problem. And not only in Zambia. Doing a bit of research, we realized that this was an African problem.

Looking further into that problem, we also realized that women are more marginalized than men in Africa.

70% of the marginalized demographic is made up [of] women. And why is that?

Because women in Africa don't own assets that can be placed as collateral, mostly their husband owns those assets.

So… they're not starting from a level playing field.”

That’s how Muchu Kaingu puts it when he tells me that his fintech startup, Lupiya, picked the right problem.

This conversation came on the heels of Monday's announcement that his business secured 8.25M in funding, putting their 10M goal within reach.

The right problem, indeed.

But the best part?

His wife runs the show.

Pay Me Make It Rain GIF by Women's History

Gif by womenshistory on Giphy

In today's email:

  • Featured founder: An award-winning Ethiopian shoemaker

  • Becoming better: Tips to combat unconscious bias and gender stereotypes

  • Weekly reflection: Global perspectives on supporting and uplifting women

  • Watchlist: Keep an eye out for these inspiring women

Sustainable sneakers (with a street fashion edge) made by communities in Ethiopia

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu founded her first business, soleRebels, to blend her Ethiopian community’s creative artisan talents with the traditional ‘barabasso’ (Ethiopian recycled tire) shoe.

She started the company in 2005 to “provide solid community-based jobs.” In the past two decades, she’s been named one of Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and appeared in CNN’s 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of the Last Century.

According to their website, soleRebels is also the “planet's fastest growing African footwear brand, the world’s first and only World Fair Trade Federation [WFTO] FAIR TRADE certified footwear company AND the very 1st global footwear brand to ever emerge from a developing nation!”

In 2016, she moved into the coffee industry with Garden of Coffee and continues to make her mark on the entrepreneurial world by staying true to her Ethiopian roots.

💪 Becoming better

Combat unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, and a lack of female representation in VC firms with these global insights:

Prioritize product quality

In terms of leveling the playing field, this anonymous reader emphasizes a commitment to product quality: "Building a great product not only validates your business, but it also commands respect. In my career, I've found that perceptions and biases shift when you demonstrate superior product quality and functionality."

Ellen DaSilva, Founder and CEO of Summer Health, says there are 5 things you need to develop great products.

Invest “ridiculously early”

Odunayo Eweniyi co-founded First Check Africa, a specialist seed fund that invests “ridiculously early” in women-led African tech startups. Her mission is two-fold and creates a rising tide effect: “…to make it easier for women in Africa to raise venture-backed capital and invest in technology startups and to advance equity, capital, and leadership for a generation of women in Africa.”

(Side note - she’s a hustler! Odunayo is also behind PiggyVest, the Feminist Coalition, and a co-creator of @wineandwhineng.)

Spread the word

This study from the World Bank, this study from KPMG, and “Missing Middle: why can’t Latin American women entrepreneurs get funding?” (among many others!) make it clear that mentors, advisors, and communities are vital components of success in entrepreneurship.

Though initiatives like We-Fi, these in LatAm, WEN in Hong Kong, and WEgate in Europe exist worldwide, making these communities a regular part of our conversations will help to close the gender gap in global entrepreneurship.

🤔 Weekly reflection

How can the global entrepreneurial community better support and uplift women pursuing entrepreneurship?

A few resources to spark your introspection:

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report rates the “enabling environment for women entrepreneurs very poorly in most countries.” This report, relying on data from 50 countries, gives insight into the actions needed to push policymakers in the right direction — to enable equality in entrepreneurship worldwide.

In the words of one Amazon reviewer, Lean Out by Elissa Shevinsky is a “Graduate-level seminar in women in tech.” This book challenges the prevailing norms and biases in the tech industry and highlights the strength and resilience of women in tech.

Sage Levine, CEO of Women Rocking Business (a training company that supports over 100,000 women worldwide), digs into the power of connection and collaboration in her TEDx talk “The Secret Power of Female Entrepreneurs.”

Have a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Drop us a line at [email protected].

🔎 Watchlist

Keep an eye on our website.

Here’s a little taste of the feature stories we’re working on with inspiring women:

Marina Taliberto from Soup Interactive will give us a peek into her collaboration with a Chilean author to raise awareness of female tech entrepreneurs.

Catalina Opazo shares more about the community-building strategy that helps Marlife Business Hub stand out in the crowded coworking space.

And Jana Marlé-Zizková will discuss her passion project, She Loves Data, along with her efforts to empower women in tech.

Until next time,

Nolan Bulger

Founder, Mergerous Media Co.

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