The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. In honor of today, I chose to highlight three inspiring woman impact founders from around the world who have taken on the challenge in making an impact in social or environmental problems that surround us. All three women are fellows at Cartier Women’s Initiative and gave the program interviews about things surrounding female impact entrepreneurship and their own journeys. I would highly suggest reading the full interviews on the Cartier Women’s Initiative website, as I was only able to quote brief highlights from their insightful interviews.

Charlotte Wang is the CEO of EQuota Energy, an AI and big data-driven energy technology startup that is driving the smart energy transition through innovation and technologies for a low carbon future. 

In her interview for Cartier Women’s Initiative, she stated that the biggest challenges facing women impact entrepreneurs today are to be recognized and to establish one’s voice. Women impact entrepreneurs still often face situations where they find themselves having to explain why one has chosen an impact entrepreneurship journey. How to carry the torch and make people aware of the impact is the foremost important conversation before getting into the details of a project discussion.

Doing business as a force for good provides a different point of view as one looks for a solution through a different lens. We have seen that impact results do not require the society to sacrifice or reduce economic development.

If Wang could give advice to herself, prior to starting EQuota, this is what she would tell herself: Do not hesitate, work on the idea and realize it; Keep finding the people with the talents you need but who also carry the same passion on social impacts and work together. Be bold; Do not let any reason stop your dream. Ask for help (the worst they could say is no.)

Carmina Bayombong launched InvestEd, a FinTech in the Philippines providing education loans to disadvantaged youth, through a proprietary RiskEngine that minimizes risk for both lenders and borrowers. InvestEd envisions themselves as one of the most inclusive and sustainable leaders in education financing by 2025.

Bayombong believes that women are at the nexus of systemic change, simply because they are humble leaders who are able to put egos aside when the stakes are high. When their mission sometimes requires them to not look good, to look like they are losing, or to simply be quiet, they can do it for the greater good. That takes a lot more courage than people think.

She wants to remind women seeking to drive change through entrepreneurship that when you feel like the odds are against you, remember: “If we let statistics dictate why we do what we do, none of us would be here.”

Sofie Blakstad is the driving force and founder behind hiveonline. Hiveonline helps underserved micro-businesses get credit and access markets they couldn’t normally reach by creating a trust history based on facts and business actions. The company began in 2016 by serving Danish businesses, but soon pivoted their focus on Niger, because Sofie knew that there was a greater need in Africa. They are currently expanding in Mozambique, with projects coming up in Zambia and Northern Nigeria.

In her interview for CWI, Blakstad gave loads of advice that she has learned along her journey of building her impact business. Here are a few of her main points:

  • Talk to customers, lots of them, and don’t ask leading questions, like “would you use this”, rather “what are your pain points and how much would you pay to make them go away?”
  • Understand your market – do the research.
  • Don’t waste time talking to the wrong investors at the wrong stage – you can meet dozens of investors, but if they don’t do impact + your market + your business type + your stage, they’re just browsing.
  • Find a community which shares at least some of your interests and goals.  It’s lonely building a business and it’s really helpful to share your struggles with people who are going through the same journey.
  • Ask for help.

And finally: ”Money comes and goes; what remains is purpose and what you can achieve.  There is nothing more fulfilling than making a difference to the world, and when you look back you will remember the achievements, not the struggle.”

From challenge comes change, so let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.

Happy International Women’s Day.