Queen joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme as a mentee in 2014, matched with mentor Shanda. Having finished the programme, they reflect on their journey together.
South Africa and the USA
My mentor has taken a huge weight off my shoulders and helped me to focus my energies.
Queen is a mentee from our Mentoring Women in Business programme. The programme uses technology to offer cross-border support, connecting women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies with men and women mentors from around the world. This is her story.
In 2014, after spending 18 years in the South African mining industry, Queen launched her own company, Somila Engineering, a niche engineering company that manufactures and supplies specialised engineering products to a variety of industries including mining, rail and construction.
Queen had spent years being the only woman in the boardroom and felt passionately about getting more women and girls into STEM, so she felt it was time to make her mark. However, she faced challenges in the early phases of her startup. As a new player, Queen needed to develop a clear product offering and secure repeat customers in order to compete with larger, more established competitors. Despite her considerable experience, Queen also struggled with the skills to promote the business. Queen joined our Mentoring Programme a few months after launching her business. She wanted support to develop her products, improve her communication skills and secure new clients. She was matched with Shanda, a Credit Risk Approval Executive at Bank of America, based in the United States, with expertise in relationship building and communications.
Queen and Shanda focused on defining and marketing Queen’s product offering, developing a short YouTube video to showcase her services. Given that the mining industry was in a recession, Shanda and Queen also discussed strategies for attracting interest from other sectors. Queen also used our programme’s online forums to network with other women entrepreneurs. After learning about a specialist exhibition for women vendors via the forums, she successfully applied and received a full sponsorship to attend. The event, which was held in Brazil, provided a great platform for her to promote her company internationally. Queen’s business is progressing well: she secured a longterm contract with a multinational mining company and started generating revenue in the first quarter of 2016.
Queen’s confidence has grown during her time in the programme. She now speaks up in business meetings and feels able to communicate and promote the business more effectively. She has also learned how to set clear goals with specific timeframes and break down the bigger picture into day-to-day tasks. Queen said that Shanda’s support has, “taken a huge weight off my shoulders and helped me to focus my energies”.
Shanda felt that supporting Queen has given her more confidence in her own skills and abilities. She also learned a great deal about the South African market and mining industry, and will be staying in the programme to support another mentee in 2016.
Find out more about our global Mentoring programme
Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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