[Interview] Jill Sawers, Director, FEMTECH, South Africa
Dr. Jill Sawers is an innovation, business and entrepreneurship development specialist that co-founded FEMTECH to roll out in Africa an experiential training programme for women entrepreneurs running technology-enabled businesses.
What exactly does your company do?
FEMTECH develops its own customized training material that is delivered via training and coaching interventions in developing countries. FEMTECH assists women-owned businesses to grow their companies. The methodology is very experiential and geared specifically towards women growth-oriented entrepreneurs. There is a "Train-the-Trainer" component where selected trainers receive training in the FEMTECH methodology and content, On successful completion, trainers are certified and licensed to deliver FEMTECH SPARK! and IGNITE! programmes in their home countries. To date there are 21 FEMTECH licensed trainers, and over 200 women have graduated from the IGNITE! training programmes delivered in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Where is your base of operations?
My partner and I are in the Western Cape (Somerset West & Durbanville), South Africa.
When was it founded, and by who?
FEMTECH started as a programme for women entrepreneurs in 2007, and was formalised into a company structure in 2012. It was founded by the current directors, myself and Tina James. Together we have extensive experience in entrepreneurship development and gender redress.
Who are your clients?
Our funders have included the Meridian International Center (US); The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
Our clients are women who have formally registered businesses which they intend to grow substantially.
What are the Unique Selling Points of FEMTECH?
Although gender is a topic of interest to many donors, most of the programmes address subsistence level businesses (as this is where most of the women business owners in Africa are positioned). FEMTECH, however, targets a different audience, namely the woman entrepreneur who wishes to grow her business substantially and needs to position her business competitively in order to achieve this. Hence the USP caters for this market, viz:
- The methodology focusses on the specific needs of the adult learner, and in creating a participative, sharing environment.
- Self-actualization modules allow for personal reflection and challenging / changing of unhelpful beliefs
- The facilitation of women business networks (trainer and entrepreneur) that sustain themselves post the FEMTECH training, because of trust and common interest developed during this process.
How is FEMTECH funded?
By donor-funded programmes that are focussed on developing women entrepreneurs, and expanding and strengthening the skills sets of local trainers.
How does your (largely female) clientele respond to your services?
The feedback we have received from entrepreneurs and trainers alike has indicated that the programmes have not only been impactful on their businesses, but in many instances life-changing. We ourselves have witnessed seismic attitudinal shifts happening during the course of programs, as the participant(s) suddenly realises she is in control of her choices and ambition. We have seen businesses change strategic direction, followed by growth in customer base, product offerings and staff employed.
What are the ambitions FEMTECH?
We have been active in Southern Africa and would like to expand the programme into other African regions and countries. Our model is one of training, certifying and licensing trainers in the targetted country, and then assisting these trainers in their efforts to raise their own funds to deliver FEMTECH training. Where trainers are particularly active in their country and wish to expand, we enter into a Master License Agreement which affords them greater flexibility.
What does the company need to make this expansion a reality?
The sustainablility model is based on revenue streams generated from the entrepreneur participants (small, affordable, registration fee); sponsors (venue hire & refreshments); donor funds (trainers time and travel & accommodation).
However in most instances, donors are wanting to support something new, and a tried and tested methodology may no longer offer much excitement. Ensuring an ongoing funding stream is a challenge. Hence what is required are donors who are interested in sustaining established entrepreneurship programmes that have a track record of positive impact, and who will influence governments and the private sector to support this type of entrepreneurship programme.
In what direction is FEMTECH going this year?
Two programmes are planned for Mozambique (via our Mozambique Master License Partner, IdeiaLab), and one in Botswana during 2019.
The ongoing interest and requests to arrange FEMTECH programmes, that are stimulated by word of mouth referrals, is very encouraging. Our vision is to take FEMTECH to Africa and empower women entrepreneurs to realise their visions.
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