It has been 12 years since the launch of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards; and Cartier remains as committed today to helping women entrepreneurs across the globe (49 countries to be exact) realise their social conscience visions. Offering coaching, mentoring, networking and publicity opportunities, the programme – launched in partnership with the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD Business School – also provides each of its 18 finalists funding to get their dreams off the ground: The six first prize winners will receive US$100,000, while the remaining 12 will receive US$30,000.
With the award ceremony happening this Thursday, 26 April, we speak to the 18 women to discover their greatest take away from the Initiative, and the lesson they’ll carry with them for the rest of their career.
MISSION: To provide women with 100% all-natural sanitary pads that offer positive impacts on health and the environment.
“They put us through a lot of different training programs and we learnt a lot: How to communicate what we do, our product, and also [coached us on] business skills and finances and that has been really helpful. I think one of the best things is also learning about the challenges [faced by the women here], because some of them are experiencing some of our issues, and being able to share experiences is an amazing thing as well.”
India, Arboreal Agro Innovations
MISSION: To provide diabetics and individuals battling obesity with Stevia: A 100% natural substitute for sugar
“The one thing I have learnt from this program is that communicating the story is an extremely important part of building a brand and business. You may have a great business model, a very strong theme, but, unless you are able to communicate that to your customers and your investors, it’s not going to help. It’s an extremely important part of entrepreneurism.”
Pakistan, Sehat Kahani
MISSION: To provide stay-at-home, out-of-work female doctors with a tele-health platform that connects them with underserved patients, while democratising health care access.
“I’m going to be very honest with you: It gets quite lonely as a female entrepreneur in Pakistan because there are not many, and it feels like a struggle everyday to push forward. But when I came here and met these 18 ladies, I saw that even though we are from different regions around the world, we have similar issues and difficulties. And all of them have surpassed them to be here. So it just reinforces that I am not alone and that there are other women in the world who have seen much worse, who have struggled; and who do such innovative work. So it is very energizing and inspiring and it motivates me to go back and work harder.”
MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA
Jordan, Hello World Kids
MISSION: To provide children and adolescents with an online learning platform that teaches them computer programming.
“Hello World Kids seeks to prepare our children for the digital age by working with governments to include coding in school curriculums. This entire Cartier experience is a lesson in itself as it connects me with fellow entrepreneurs who are also looking to drive society forward, and we are constantly learning from each other’s ideas and business journeys.”
Egypt, Almouneer Medical Services
MISSION: To provide diabetics with a network of digital eye care centres to aid the prevention of blindness caused by the disease.
“It’s very interesting to see other people’s stories, and I can actually see myself working with four or five of these finalists [who are working on projects for the diabetics blind] who want to lead a normal life. Of course, that’s the direct value. The indirect value is being inspired: Each and every one [of these finalists] has created a very nice idea that I can see working in all our countries. You learn a lot from people; it’s the learning.”
MISSION: To provide school children with an online platform that uses smart technology and data analytics to help with learning and teaching Arabic.
“On a personal level, even though I was very intimidated before coming because of the profiles of these amazing women, I felt like deep down, we’re all the same; and I connected with each one of them and I am very humbled by that experience. On a professional level, one key lesson I learnt is that it’s important to focus on day-to-day business because we are a start-up with big risks. That it is also very important to future proof our business, to plan ahead of time, to think about new trends that are shaping our world and society, and be prepared for any changes.”
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MISSION: To provide hospitals access to ready-to-use blood through a digital supply-chain platform that collects and dispatches.
“Coming here to Singapore for the Cartier Initiative Awards has really helped us to look at clients from a different perspective; to be able to approach them differently and to structure a better business model. Overall, it has given us an outsider’s perspective on the business, which has really been very helpful.”
Kenya, Moringa School
MISSION: To provide young Africans with digital and professional skills training through a multi-disciplinary coding school that aims to improve their employment prospects
“The one lesson I learnt from this program is how important it is to learn from other entrepreneurs as well. Because I think it’s easy for us to get silo-ed into the work that we do. But talking to people from different regions, and even different sectors, has opened my eyes to the way that we look at our business.”
Uganda, Vouch Digital
MISSION: To provide a efficient, transparent technological system that simplifies cash transfers from government and aid organisations to beneficiaries in agriculture.
“I’ve learnt that there is a lot you can learn from collaborative working. I’ve coming across different products here that are similar to mine in the data aspect. And I will take that back home because we’ve talked about synergies with these companies, and how we can use the data that we collect to empower our beneficiaries and empower the stakeholders. So that has been very helpful for me.”
United States, Nonspec
MISSION: To provide amputees with affordable and adjustable prosthetic limb kits
“The most important lesson that I’ve learnt this week is to make sure that you are going back to the basics, and explaining everything that you are doing very simply. And the way that we practice that is to build it like with Legos. Answering a question, and explaining it to a group of people, you pull out the key words that really ensure you are honing into your key message.”
United States, change:WATER Labs
MISSION: To provide impoverished communities with portable, evaporative and sanitary toilets that require no electricity or plumbing.
“The one thing I’m really treasuring from this whole experience is how powerful women can be as change agents. I started this journey as a social entrepreneur and I felt alone – there’s all sort of things that women have to balance – and meeting all of these women, I realized that every single one of us is figuring it out on our own. Now, we can come together and help each other out – it’s really an inspiration!”
United States, Twiage
MISSION: To provide hospitals with a digital platform that enables the transmission of real-time patient data from the ambulance or accident scene for greater time efficiency.
“What I’ve learnt at my week at Cartier is that there is no amount of technology that makes us safe from competition. You must constantly be thinking about what the future will bring us, what technology will be like in five, 10 years, and that by doing so, we can future-proof our companies to be successful in the long run.”
Chile, La Fábrica Alegre
MISSION: To provide affordable, adaptable and open-source agricultural sensor solutions to meet the needs of developing countries.
“When I see the other ladies, I’m so amazed by what they do, but I’ve also learned to value what we do too. I’ve actually grown and have gained confidence. And the support you get here, it’s amazing. It’s like I have 17 new BFFs. Really! Even though you’re competing against each other, it’s still like: ‘you go, girl!’ because you want win fair; you want everybody to be at their best.”
MISSION: To provide epileptic individuals with a device that alerts them and their caregivers of oncoming epileptic seizures up to 25 minutes in advance.
“Entrepreneurs are very pressured all the time to follow a certain model and that has always bothered me because, I mean, if we are being innovative, then by definition we cannot follow a model, right? Here, I found these completely amazing women who follow their own path. So that made me more secure; that I don’t have to follow anymore. That’s basically what I’ve learnt and I’m leaving here more confident because of it.”
MISSION: To provide the blind and visually impaired with an affordable alternative to guide dogs: A robotic one.
“Thanks to the Cartier Awards, I am bolder because, now, I know that I can go worldwide. In the beginning, there was only Brazil. But now I have everything that I need to go global.”
Austria, BLITAB Technology
MISSION: To provide the blind and visually impaired with an affordable tactile tablet that allows them to connect to the world easily for greater independence.
“Community is everything. It doesn’t matter if your product is the first one worldwide, the best, or the most affordable, community is what makes it feasible. Because here [in this Initiative], I found two other ladies who are also struggling with challenges for the blind and visually impaired; they are solving problems in the same markets we are. And this is all important: Whether we want to scale to Brazil or Asia, I have people that I can go to. So it is very important to make our product, a tablet for the blind, accessible all over the world. And this community has helped us to make it feasible in other regions.”
Spain, Change Dyslexia
MISSION: To provide an online screening and learning platform that detects and treats dyslexia
“I’ve learnt that I can learn from others a lot, even if they come from different countries and markets.”
MISSION: To provide a solar-powered, off-the-grid refrigerator for the reliable storage of vaccines.
(Anya Fernholz on behalf of Römer) “We’ve been working a lot towards Africa and India, but what we haven’t thought about, or not so much are [places like] Pakistan and Egypt. These are also areas that we really have to think about, because, for example, Egypt sounds more developed, but they are also facing this huge problem so we also have to go towards these countries as well. It’s the first such event that I have been to, so for me [the learning has] been huge. The people are very constructive, very positive, and enthusiastic and, yeah, it has been great!”