Cartier awards women with initiative

HOW is this for initiative?

About seven years ago a woman expressed an interest to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos but she did not get a response.

This gave Ms Zieseniss de Thuin the impetus to form the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in 2005.

Now in its seventh year, it has been rated by Forbes magazine as one of the top five most influential forums in the world.

The forum, which is attended by over 1 000 delegates from different countries, is held in Deauville, France, every year in October.

In the words of the founder, it is held “in the spirit of promoting women’s ideas and actions, a tribune where women can debate and express their views, where women of all generations and cultures can discuss socioeconomic issues to help build the future.”

This brings me to the topic of today’s article.

In keeping with the saying “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” Cartier, the jewellery and luxury goods retailer, decided to partner with the Women’s Forum in managing the international business planning competition for women: Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

INSEAD and McKinsey & Co are also partners in this competition.

Women from all over the world, including Lesotho, are encouraged to enter the competition which according to the website, seeks:

  • To identify and support initial- phase women entrepreneurs through funding and coaching;
  •  To foster the spirit of enterprise by celebrating role models in entrepreneurship; and
  • To create an international network of women entrepreneurs and encourage peer networking.

Entries open on November 7, 2011 and close on March 13, 2012 and everything is done online on

The good thing with this process is that one can save their application and update it online as the months go by.

One of the rules is that the business must be at least a year old but not no more than four years old.

But the age of the business is not only measured by date of incorporation but by how long the business has been trading.

To be fair entries are grouped into six regions with sub-Sahara being one of them.

This year, 18 finalists were selected from about 1 000 applications from all over the world and they received coaching before the final round when six winners or Laureates as they are called are chosen.

At the Women’s Forum in October this year the six Laureates were announced and a look at the winning sub-Sahara project will give us an idea of what other women are doing.

Lorna Rutto from Kenya founded EcoPost in 2010 ( and her company collects waste plastic from the dumping grounds, processes it and makes fencing posts from the waste.

A commerce and accounting graduate, she was working in a bank until she decided to follow her passion of science and working with people.

The demand for fencing posts is high and in a country with about two percent forest cover, this presents a problem.

A presidential decree banning the chopping down of red cedar trees means that EcoPost provides a sustainable alternative.

With 20 000 tonnes of waste plastic processed every month, Rutto’s company created employment not only for the 15 permanent staff but also casual work for hundreds of women who collect plastic and sell it to the company by the kilo.

There is competition from other large manufacturers who process their own waste material but EcoPost is on a growth path as it is unable to meet its own demand.

Rutto, like the other Laureates, won US$20 000 (M160 000), a year’s worth of coaching, networking opportunities and media exposure.

The other two finalists from this region were a Mozambican who imports and assembles bicycles for the low income market and a South African who uses video and audio streaming technology to disseminate information to adult learners.

So clearly there is no restriction with regard to the type of industry that is eligible for this competition.

For a dose of inspiration from reading about what other women are up to or if you are interested in entering the competition log onto the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards website

It could be the beginning of something new.

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