Startup Huddle Lilongwe Provides Support Ecosystem to Help Women Start New Businesses

Taona Chigwenembe | November 16, 2016
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My mother is a primary school teacher. I grew up watching her work hard at everything she did.  She used every opportunity and resource at hand to produce a good she could sell.  As I grew older, she had changed from one business to the other but still managed to do numerous businesses along with her job. When you ask her why she worked so tirelessly, she would always say, “I never want my children to lack anything. I want my children to grow, get educated and stand strong on their own. As long as I am alive, I will work and support my children the best way I can.”

For her, it was for us, her children. And indeed, we never lacked anything. The kind of life we lived, nobody would ever guess that some of the things we were able to afford were because of the tiny, small and numerous businesses that my mother was running.  Little did we know, that she was doing much more than run small businesses to provide for our immediate needs but what she was doing is far greater, as she was instilling a spirit of hard work, persistence, creativity, resourcefulness – traits that an entrepreneur needs.

My mother was teaching us entrepreneurship and inspiring us to be more than what we were.  She could have chosen to be content with life as it was and depend our father to provide for every little thing. Instead, she chose not to sit idle but work. For her that gave her a purpose. This is but a story of one woman. There are so many untold stories of different women in business out there. Lots of successes, failures, hanging-ons, untapped talents, unexplored potential, that only needs to come out and get started. 

Having a platform like Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NEW), organizers of Startup Huddle Lilongwe, where all these different women can meet and share their experiences, challenges, knowledge or simply to network, is truly what I as a woman in Malawi needed.

More and more women have joined entrepreneurship for different reasons. Some it is to make ends meet, some it is to push for their dreams, and perhaps it’s something they are passionate about. Whatever the reason, we agree on one thing, everyone wants to provide a solution to something.

Through Startup Huddle, I have met women from different walks of life who are passionate about their ideas and businesses as they strive to bring solutions to their communities and even more. I am amazed at how much of new things I learn at every meeting I attend. I have learnt that entrepreneurship requires hard work, commitment, innovation and knowledge. Bookkeeping, marketing and sales skills, business planning are some of the topics that have been taught during Huddle sessions and these have allowed women to be empowered.

What’s more unique about Huddle is that it is open to everyone, the well-established entrepreneurs, those that are pushing for business growth and even those that are not yet established in business but are looking forward to learning and starting entrepreneurship. This is building a culture of sharing ideas and helping each other grow in our businesses. Through this network, women can easily build connections, educate each other and find business opportunities, which is very important for most new and small businesses that are looking for growth.

It is my desire to see more women in Malawi join Startup Huddle. There are so many hard working women doing small businesses that could potentially be big businesses, if only they had the right networks, connections and knowledge, among other things. Imagine, if my mother was a part of such a Network back then, she might have had her dreams realized, yes, but she could have realized much more. She could have been one of the leading entrepreneurial women.

Today, we have this opportunity to learn from each other, form business partnerships and help support each other to become established entrepreneurs. This could be the greatest movement against women emancipation and poverty in Malawi from an entrepreneurial perspective. We can take this back to communities around us and even take it further to millions of women living in rural areas and show them how they too can provide solutions to the problems in their households and communities through entrepreneurship. Imagine the culture that can be built and the impact on the country’s economy.

It’s possible.

It starts with me and the woman next to me and the one next to her.

Taona Chigwenembe
Taona Chigwenembe is a Managing Partner of a family owned business called Checks Investments that was established in 2014. Checks Investments is a... About the Author