celebrating women founders

in Pakistan

Sharoon Shahid, Community Lead and Communications Manager, Connected Women Pakistan

This article was first published in 2020 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 3 no 3

Sharoon Shahid introduces Connected Women Pakistan and the Entrepreneurship Challenge that the group organised in summer 2020 with the aim of supporting women-owned businesses.  The winner was announced during the Grand Finale in August…

Connected Women Pakistan (CWPK)

Connected Women Pakistan (CWPK) is a social enterprise led by Tehmina A. Chaudhary that works for women's economic empowerment, and runs networking and business sessions that are geared towards helping women excel in business and professional careers. 

Responding to COVID-19

Covid-19 struck a massive hit on the economy globally and the scenario has also been very difficult for businesses in Pakistan. Amidst this situation, women-led businesses, in particular SMEs, suffered a huge blow and struggled to cope with maintaining their presence in the industry.

Ever since the pandemic-induced lockdown was initiated, CWPK geared up to support women owned business through different initiatives. For example, it arranged business clinics and workshops to help boost online sales.

Image credit: Connected Women Pakistan

An Entrepreneurship Challenge

Most recently CWPK organised a massive entrepreneurship challenge titled ‘Connected Women Pakistan  - Entrepreneurship Challenge’ (CWPK-EC) which received an overwhelming response with more than 50 applications from women owned businesses.  

The CWPK-EC was conducted from 6th July till 14th August 2020.  The challenge comprised of three rounds, with the first one requiring the participants to present their business model; the second one based on pitching their businesses to a panel of 5 judges; and the last round with a more comprehensive pitching session in front of 5 national and international judges.

A Challenge in 3 Rounds

From the total number of initial entries, 25 enthusiastic businesswomen were selected for the first round of the competition; 16 progressed to the second round with 5 finally making it to the Grand Finale. 

The participants throughout the challenge were given workshops and comprehensive guidance by the entire team of CWPK along with mentors and patrons that included Azra Maqsood (Lead Trainer, Consultant and COO at NICVD), Uzma Sadaqat (Founder of Women Retreat), Fayeza Tasneem (Consultant, Coach and Trainer), Hafsa Naseem (Founder of CareerHer) and Zohra Omar (Founder of Mentoring Hub) to better progress through the challenge. 

The pitching round was graced by a lineup of 5 national women entrepreneurs and professionals including Anam Kamran (Founder of Buyon.pk), Samar Jalil (Founder of InspireMill), Hira Ali (Coach and Author), Dania Siddique (Financial Advisor and Consultant) and Samar Hassan (Founder of Epiphany). 

The Grand Finale

The Grand Finale took place on 14th August. The glorious panel of judges comprised of Jehan Ara (Founder of Pasha and Nest I/O), Gina Romero (Founder of Connected Women Global), Collins Rex (Founder of Rex Ideas), Sadaffe Abid (Founder of Circle) and Myra Qureshi (Founder of CoNatural.) Collins Rex and Gina Romero joined the virtual grand finale all the way from Australia and Philippines, respectively. 

The top 5 contestants were: Amina Nasar (Founder of Bake King Queen), Ayesha Nasir (Founder of Scaryammi), Eesha Afridi (Founder of Print Jee), Mehak Ali (Founder of Lylah Organics) and Saira Adeel (Founder of Happy Moms).

After a tough competition of 5 brilliant and confident women pitching perfectly in front of 5 illustrious judges, the results came in and Ayesha Nasir grabbed the first spot followed by Saira Adeel and Amina Nasar ranking at second and third spots, respectively.

Celebrating the Winners

The women were all incredibly thrilled and excited with the results and all of them confirmed that they had gained valuable insights about running a business through the challenge. 

The winner received a cash prize of PKR 50,000 along with a spot at the Virtual Accelerator of CWPK that will be launched shortly while the other 4 of the top 5 received prizes including free static website, social media services and free listing at Buyon.pk. The sponsors of the challenge comprised of CoNatural, Apex Solutions and Digital Sky Hub.

In this difficult time of a severe economic crisis, CWPK and the CWPK-EC proved to be a great support for women owned businesses and has shown that where there is a will, there is a way. 

The entire team of CWPK is now working on organising more such ventures for women entrepreneurs and professionals, and is also prepping to host a special event to honour the winners, patrons and judges. ◼️