Across Endeavor’s portfolio of 30 tech-enabled entrepreneurs, six are female founders in business ranging from education, home and business services, mining compliance and contact centres. In the last three years these founders have created over 5000 jobs, close to three-quarters of the jobs across the portfolio with over 75% of these hires being black South Africans. This trend is evidence of inclusive growth happening in the burgeoning tech sector, so says Alison Collier MD of Endeavor South Africa - an organisation that is leading the high-impact entrepreneurship movement with a goal of catalysing long-term economic and job growth.
“Increases in employment are a direct result of both the opportunity and scalability of a business; if it’s growing it’s hiring. Our female founders’ businesses are flourishing because they are providing a solution to a need, using technology as an enabler to better serve their customer base and communities at scale,” says Collier.
She says that businesses that are women founded are often created to serve societal needs and to improve the lives of the people that they cater for. Technology is then used as a means to reach more people, which affords wider access, improved efficiency, and lower costs.
Take the SPARK Schools group, a network of private schools offering affordable, globally competitive education. It provides high-quality education at a cost that is on par with the government. Focused on offering personalised learning through the use of a blended model instruction, where online materials and interactions are integrated with traditional classroom methods, SPARK aims to reach more underserved families and children across the country, as opposed to being a one-off school.
“Technology allows us to focus on the delivery of our products and offering, so that every child can achieve access to a quality education at a certain price point. Because the value-for-money model is working we are able to market and open more SPARK Schools to reach more communities across the country and close the achievement gaps that we have seen over time,” says Stacey Brewer, founder of SPARK Schools.
The tech-led group of schools has 18 locations, and intends on increasing this to 45 by 2026, doubling their staff complement over the next four years.
Aisha Pandor, founder of SweepSouth is also providing a user friendly low cost solution to a need. SweepSouth is the country’s number one home services marketplace provider and has built a platform utilising technology to disrupt a previously offline industry by connecting home service providers with customers in a more seamless, safe and frictionless way.
She says, “There were solutions that existed before SweepSouth but they were capital intensive and very localised. The only way their models work is by taking a large cut of the transaction, whereas we are taking a small amount of the transaction and are focused on flexibility and independence.”
Founded in 2014, SweepSouth operates in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya and has plans to expand into Egypt. With an in-house team of 60 and 25 000 home service providers on their books, their growth is noteworthy. “In the past five years the team has more than tripled and we have grown by over 10X in revenue. There has been tremendous growth and from an impact point of view that is what our mission is, to create opportunities for the underemployed and previously unemployed, at scale.”
Candice Roberts is the founder and CEO of CallForce, a GBS that offers customised contact centre solutions from South Africa to the global market. She notes the rapid expansion in her business – which has experienced 143% growth in the past 12 months - following integrating customised and built out technologies that strategically support a business in a unique and personalised way. This massive scalability has resulted in CallForce being able to provide more employment, particularly to youth and previously disadvantaged women, which form 75% of her 1000 strong workforce.
She says, “We have been successful in providing our staff with the opportunity to develop both their skills and experience to grow a successful career while being exposed to top corporate brands. This is especially poignant given that 64% of the youth in South Africa are unemployed.”
All three women believe that the reason women-run, tech-led businesses are thriving is because there is a greater need now for empathetic and EQ leadership. This as social impact and awareness is becoming more and more at the forefront or even integral to conversations, and more so since the pandemic.
“In a world where empathetic leadership is what brings a competitive advantage, females tend to deliver these skills very naturally, creating a caring and collaborative environment for employees, as they are after all often our greatest and should be our most valued asset,” says Roberts.
“In this new business landscape, it is becoming the norm to see these empathic qualities of leadership being valued, take Angela Merkel the first female Chancellor of Germany since 2005, Christina Lagarde the first female president of the ECB and before that the first female Managing Director of the IMF, and closer to home the previous governor of the South Africa Reserve Bank, Gill Marcus who was the first and only female to hold this position. The landscape is changing and it’s encouraging to see the early signs of empathetic leadership being valued more and more, especially given the over indexed job creation this delivers,” concludes Collier.