WVEF: Inspiring women entrepreneurs with stories of success

3 September 2015
ITC News
Successful businesswomen ignite entrepreneurs meeting in São Paulo for the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum.

Successful businesswomen fire up entrepreneurs’ meeting in São Paulo for the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum.

The Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum (WVEF) today continued in São Paulo, Brazil, with powerful testimonials by entrepreneurs from across the world who have overcome the barriers that often prevent women from succeeding in business.

Dr. Anna T. M. Mokgokong, co-founder and executive chairman of Community Investment Holdings, a South African company led the charge. She called on businesswomen to work even harder to succeed. ‘The patriarchal is system is global and is everywhere, and we are all suffering from the system,’ she said.

Born in Soweto, Dr. Mokgokong was raised in Swaziland, and knew since she was eight years old that she would be a businesswoman. Starting off by selling bags to fellow students while studying to be a doctor, she never looked back and is today in charge of a US$2 billion investment company with holdings across sectors including finance, logistics, healthcare and mining.

Another trailblazer inspiring the 500-strong audience was Archana Bhatnagar, founder of India-based Haylide Chemicals, which manufactures environmentally-sound cleaning products. After working as a model and then in the media industry, she turned her hand to entrepreneurship,launching a company together with her husband. Launching Haylide came later, but Ms. Bhatnagar also set up the Madhya Pradesh Association of Women Entrepreneurs to help other women entrepreneurs in the central Indian state to overcome gender-specific barriers.

Among the other successful women entrepreneurs telling their stories to the vendors and buyers at WVEF were Carmen Castillo and Janete Vaz.

Born in Mallorca, Spain, Ms. Castillo has built a successful Miami-based company – SDI International – that helps other businesses with procurement outsourcing. Ms. Vaz, meanwhile, built Sabin Laboratory, which today is among Brazil’s largest laboratories with more than 1,800 staff in 100 locations.

Organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in association with Apex-Brasil, WVEF also relies on other partners to connect women entrepreneurs with prospective buyers of goods and services.

Josiane Cotrim, founding member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Yasmin Darwich, president of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, Virginia Littlejohn, president of Quantum Leaps, and Joan Kerr, board member of WEConnect International and director of supplier diversity at Pacific Gas & Electric, all shared their experiences in campaigning for women entrepreneurs and women’s economic empowerment.

Champions of change

The women vendors attending WVEF also heard from Anna Illy of illycaffé, Yesim Sevig of KAGIDER, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, and ITC Executive Director Arancha González, who all called on women across the world to not to be beaten down by invisible barriers preventing them from succeeding in business.

Learn more about ITC’s Women and Trade Programme.