Egyptian Gazette: Why did you start? What’s the passion that drives you?
Soha El-Baklawy: The idea came to me when I attended a retreat called ‘Arab Women Leaders’ in 2016. Eighteen career women attended and it was found that woman all over the world are still victims of stereotyping, diffidence and being overly self-critical. I was too self critical. Then I realised I wanted to do something to help women overcome these obstacles and flourish mentally and physically, hence Businessita, helping women to build their identity through their career and becoming financially independent.
EG-What is your background?
SB: Pharmacology, then an MBA to manage the family business. Then I went into business for myself and now I have a DBA.
EG-What are the issues you are solving and what is your value proposition?
SB: We find solutions to circumvent the gender gap. Women make up only 39 per cent in the work force and only 28 per cent in top management in the Middle East and North Africa region. Unsuitable work environments, lack of opportunities, social stigma — Businessita helps women overcome these obstacles. So, we empower women to create, develop and sustain a business career, especially in a post-pandemic age. The effects of Covid-19 aggravated existing vulnerabilities. More women than men were laid off at the height of the pandemic. More women rely on casual employment and have limited access to finance. The lack of skills reduces women’s opportunities to make their way into digital industries.
Our value proposition is female inclusion in business through better decisions.
EG-Tell us more about the process, users, business model
SB: Woman usually reach out to us when they want to start a business, to develop for promotion in their career path, or to make business prosper. Basically we are the go-to place for women in business
Women aged 18-65 (sometimes 70) are our users. They hold bachelor degrees and have basic competence in computer skills and English.
Our business model is commission-based from our partners and direct revenue from in-house services.
EG-What are your main challenges?
SB: Marketing and outreach expertise, technology development and expansion.
EG-What are your achievements? What are your future plans?
SB: We have been awarded three national and international appreciation awards of appreciation. We have outreach to the US, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Peru. We took part in four Goodwill Initiatives in Egypt in social, health and women. We are on the official website of Women WEPs affiliated to the UN. We have assessed 40 business women and concluded 14 partnerships globally and locally. We are currently looking for sponsors and women-focused initiatives to help us with our ‘build back better’ initiative to qualify 50 women through our fully digitised accelerator programme.
EG-Do you think the entrepreneurial ecosystem is helping you?
SB: Yes, but I guess the Egyptian entrepreneurial ecosystem and global ecosystems are still evolving and none of them have reached maturity yet. The ecosystem is helping as much as possible but that does not meet all our challenges.