The Standard Chartered Women in Technology Incubator Program is Africa’s leading incubator program for female-led and founded businesses. It aligns with calls for more diversity in technology, and entrepreneurship and for more opportunities for women to develop entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.
In Zambia, BongoHive has been the implementing partner of the programme which is now in its third year.
Through the program, women-led businesses have had the opportunity to refine and improve their businesses and business models.
One such business is AccessBubble, Access Bubble was a participant and winner of SC Women in Tech Cohort 2. We caught up with the Founder, Hanna Mwenzi Siliya for a Q and A session to get a sense of how the incubation in SC Women in Tech program has impacted her business.
My name is Hannah Mwenzi Siliya, and I was raised in Chongwe, east of Zambia, by my grandmother who unknowingly gave me a great passion for design, and everything creative. I am a graduate of Heriot-Watt University, with an FD in International Business Management, and a BA in Fashion Marketing and Retail Management.
I have also worked as a digital designer at Emirates Flight Catering, and International Fashion week Dubai, However, none of this education nor work could have prepared me for my profession today: entrepreneurship.
It is in fact, my experiences within my community that have shaped my exciting yet demanding entrepreneurship journey.
Q: When was Access Bubble founded?
Access bubble formally began operating as an Information Technology and Education Support business in November 2021. The business was created to provide people with access to relevant digital, innovation, and entrepreneurship skills in the creative sector, through global and local connectivity.
A: What gaps did you come across that inspired you to start the business?
It is quite difficult to pinpoint a specific moment in time when the inspiration to start Access Bubble came about. I believe it started due to a series of impactful life events that pushed me to leave formal employment and make a difference in the local creative industry. For instance, in August 2021, I walked into a vocational training centre, with hopes of teaching Fashion Marketing in a tailoring department. To my surprise, I learned there existed no provision for knowledge in leadership, management, digital design, among other core development skills to sustainably support vocational students in the real business or professional environment. It became apparent and relevant for me to support both an institution and students, through a start-up to close these gaps.
Q: How would you describe your experience in the SCWiT program?
The SCWiT program was challenging, although it did push me out of my comfort zone, which is often centred around marketing and digital design-related roles. The weekly exercises, tests, online coaching sessions, and homework all greatly helped to improve my business know-how and experience.
Q: In what ways did the incubation improve your business know-how?
It improved my performance in four key areas; Leadership, Financial Management, Operations and Strategy. I must admit, I was a novice mere weeks before the program. With each day, I found myself dedicated and committed to becoming business smart, tech-savvy, and growing personally alongside other incredible women.
Q: What are the 3 key things that you learned during the incubation period?
I have learned that it is not good enough to just have a good idea. You must have ample knowledge of the problem you are trying to solve, who it affects, and how frequently it occurs, which then gives you an opportunity to weigh how best you can leverage a solution, and whom you must bring on board.
Understanding this in the early stage of your business can help you avoid certain mistakes or losses. Above all, I walked away with three key statements from my trainers during the SCWiT Program Cohort 2.
I religiously operate my business with the following
- ‘’As a Founder, you are managing Energy” – Mark Monkondo
- ‘’You need a business bank account to be a business person” – Peter Nawa
- ‘’You must lead yourself first before you can lead others” – Nankhonde Van Den Broek
Q: What problems were you facing as a startup that have been solved or improved upon after the training in the SCWiT?
A few challenges we had were:
1. Poor knowledge of legal issues that affect the operation of a business
2. Financial modeling
3. Pitching for various audiences
4. Market positioning within the Zambia Tertiary education space
5. Production and execution of our product
Q: What changes have you implemented in your business since the training?
My team and I work more efficiently, with the aid of digital systems in our workflow. The training helped us identify, which internal pain points our business had been experiencing at the time, and how they affect our customer’s experience, specifically identified within the administration, and creative department. We now, communicate effectively with all business stakeholders through an open-source platform and utilize email marketing, a learning platform, and animation software to produce our product (online courses).
Q. Lastly, what impact did the mentorship program have on both your personal and business development?
The mentorship program has given me lifelong friends and advisors who have continued to motivate and support Accessbubble, outside the SCWiT Incubation Program. I have also had the exposure and opportunity to meet and connect with key Industry leaders/protagonists, both regionally and globally. I believe it is crucial as an entrepreneur to be invited into rooms where opportunity awaits, and this is what the program gives its beneficiaries.