Our group is simply about women who have a dream, an entrepreneurial dream. We’re here to help them realise it and grow their business,” explains Ines Gafsi of her vision. As a co-founder of the social enterprise Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), which launched in July, Gafsi and her business partner Anna Wong have rapidly seen their fledgling idea flourish into a network with over 800 subscribers, a series of networking events and organised talks as well as casual monthly meet-ups.
It was last year that Wong and Gafsi met, at a TedxHongKong talk about creativity and learning development. The two women bonded quickly over their shared vision to create a support network for female entrepreneurs. Wong, originally from Hong Kong, had been working in public relations before launching her own ‘social hiring’ startup, am.azed. Gafsi, hailing from France, juggles her time between being a marketing consultant and working on FEW’s events and projects.
“When I met Anna I knew I needed to meet more like-minded people,” recalls Gafsi. “That is how you grow, learn and benefit – being surrounded by the right kind of people; passionate people.” Hong Kong, impressively, ranks second in the world for female entrepreneurship – 49 percent of its entrepreneurs being female (according to a 2015 global survey by BNP Paribas).
However, the same survey showed that only 10 percent of directors in the city are women – we clearly still have a way to go. “What women are really looking for is a sense of community, to feel like they’re not alone,” explains Gafsi of FEW’s mission to get women to thrive in a male-centric and fast-paced environment.
Aiming to give female-led start-ups and businesses the tools they need to overcome the loneliness that is often associated with early entrepreneurship, FEW has asked successful businesswomen to share their knowledge with the women’s network. “Before we design a programme we will have an interview with the female entrepreneur to find out what they want and what they need – like how to get money from investors, or how to promote their products. We design programmes to suit their needs,” Wong explains. FEW’s events encourage speakers to talk about a wide spectrum of topics from establishing connections to gaining online exposure as well as building capital.
FEW so far has attracted talented speakers including Maxine Ryan, (co-founder of money transfer platform Bitspark Limited), Lori Granito, (founder of Little Burro and Kitchen Sync) and mentorship in people including Irene Chu (a partner at KPMG).
“A lot of successful entrepreneurs really want to give back to society and to their community, but they often don’t have the platform to connect with each other,” says Wong. “FEW
can really help celebrate and encourage solidarity and a sense of community between all levels of female entrepreneurs. “Our next event, our Classy Christmas Brunch, is designed to help women get more exposure. We obviously have our online platform [femaleentrepreneurshk.com] to help everyone in our network, but we are also starting to make videos for our YouTube channel. We’ve also done a lot of interviews with successful women in Hong Kong,” Gafsi says.
With Wong’s proven entrepreneurial flair and Gafsi’s background in marketing, public relations, hospitality and consulting, the co-founders have already successfully hosted events for up to 200 people. And there is much more to come. “The response has been overwhelming,” Gafsi smiles. “We only started in July, but nowadays everybody is a global citizen. You don’t have to belong to only one place anymore.” Emma Russell