“If a huge company partners with a small business, they can both grow,” former U.S. President Bill Clinton said last week while visiting women entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The women are benefiting from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative, a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the Coca-Cola value chain by 2020. By providing business skills training, financial services, networking opportunities and other resources, the initiative is breaking down barriers fruit farmers, shopkeepers, artisans and other female entrepreneurs face.
President Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, stopped by Johannesburg's Park Station as part of a nine-day trip across Africa on behalf of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. During a roundtable discussion, they spoke with local 5by20 entrepreneurs and Coca-Cola leaders about the importance of training and other resources.
Zanele Ndebele, who left her job as a teacher in 2011 to open a fast food restaurant in a bustling area of Johannesburg, called education “the gateway to success.” With support from the 5by20 program, Zanele has boosted her revenues and now employs a staff of nine women.
A fellow 5by20 participant and mom – shop owner Bessie Mogale – said she’s out to prove to the world that a single woman can be as successful in business as a man. “I want to grow my business,” the shop owner added.
And Bessie’s doing just that. She credits 5by20 with providing a “stepping stone” to success by supplying her with a “container” shop with public phones, a cooler and 15 cases of Coca-Cola beverages. She also has attended several skills workshops.
“I learned to crawl, to stand up, and to walk as a
businesswoman,” Bessie said. Read her blog post about the event.
Raised by her mother and grandmother – independent businesswomen themselves – Bessie was born with an enterprising spirit and got her start selling fruit as a young girl. Now she mentors other women and continues to dream big.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” she once said in an interview. “In my case, when life gives you oranges, you start a business.”
Coca-Cola launched 5by20 at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. To date, the program has reached nearly 300,000 women in 12 countries. Learn more at 5by20.com.
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