Female Social Entrepreneurs Are Using Profits To Change The World

When you think of a ‘social entrepreneur’, you’d be forgiven for picturing a young man, fresh out of varsity (or even high school), armed with idealism and dreams of changing the world. In reality, social entrepreneurs have many faces – and a lot of them are female.

Across the globe, social entrepreneurship is gaining traction. Those with a strong business mind – and a little financial backing – are looking for ways to merge making a profit with doing good. The idea? That they could build a business that makes money, but also benefits communities that need it. And while men may still be ruling the boardrooms, female entrepreneurs are rising up to make their mark on the socially-driven commercial landscape.

In 2015, American Leila Janah started skincare line, LXMI, after she stumbled across the organic shea-butter range in Uganda. Today, it’s stocked in 300 Sephora stores, and is featured on TV sales show, QVC. Through publicising the product to a much larger market, she’s able to ‘help marginalized East African women — many widowed and beleaguered by war — find dignified work through the wild harvesting, production and exportation of the high-grade tree nut,’ says CNBC, ‘over the past two years, LXMI has provided Ugandan women the opportunity to triple their local wages.’

A little closer to home, African women are also forging forward with businesses to help solve a number of social ills. South African Thato Kgatlhanye, 23, founded Repurpose Schoolbags. The company produces school bags for kids in rural areas, which are fitted with solar panels. During the day, the bag charges. At night, the bags can provide light for homework, in homes that often don’t have electricity. 100% of funding received goes to running Repurpose Schoolbags.

Little Green Number, founded by South African, Juanita van der Merwe, creates bags out of recycled billboards – creating jobs, while saving the planet. They have community-based micro-manufacturing franchises all over Gauteng, and intend to take it to a national level.

Sadly, there are still a few hurdles for women who want to make the social entrepreneurship jump. Female social entrepreneurs told CNBC, ‘they face some major obstacles: limited access to funding, especially venture capital; smaller networks, due to gaps in their professional lives; and business structures and cultures built for men.’ And then, of course, there’s the notion that women only want to create non-profits to help the world, says Oberti Noguera, CEO of Pipeline Angels in the U.S., which provides angel investing to women. ‘Society has a gendered perspective of how we’re going to change the world’ she told CNBC. ‘When a woman says she’s going to change the world, society thinks she’s going to start a nonprofit. When a man says he’s going to change the world, society thinks he’s going to start a business.’

What needs to happen, instead, is a focus on – and support of – female business leaders who want to enter the social innovation space. Often, social entrepreneurs are not fresh out of school; they’re business people who’ve been around the boardroom a few times and now want to use their business skills to better the world. One example is Ali Gregg, former CSR, branding and marketing executive and current Pioneering Philanthropist of The Philanthropic Collection, a social enterprise that produces The CEO SleepOut Event. The Event asks business leaders to spend a night outdoors, raising funds and gaining empathy for the homeless. The brand also produces various other projects, aligned to The SleepOut Movement, year round. An estimated 75% of the profits from these projects are awarded to beneficiaries in South Africa. ‘Social entrepreneurship needs to be put under the spotlight in South Africa. Especially when women are driving it. It’s the reason we created the Special Chapter of The CEO SleepOut in 2017; The SheEO SleepOut, focusing on female participants. It’s time to support and encourage our female business minds, and get them on board to move South Africa forward,’ Gregg says.

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


The Philanthropic Collection™ is a boutique social enterprise,
where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.


Our appliqué is made up of global leaders, influencers and forecasters,
all creating conscious capital for humanity.