Women making an impact

The Cartier Women’s Initiative celebrates its 15th anniversary with an Impact Report looking back on the programme’s evolution and its footprint. This year, nine remarkable awardees who are former fellows whose businesses have achieved significant impact are announced

For 15 years, the Cartier Women’s Initiative has supported 262 women impact entrepreneurs hailing from 62 countries and has awarded a total of US$6.4 million ($8.7 million) in prize money to support their businesses. The fellowship has expanded,

from funding five fellows in 2007 to 24 fellows last year. Since the launch of the community pillar in January 2019 — aiming to support fellows by connecting them with a global network that can provide them with access to relationships, knowledge and capital — more than 320 community members have actively engaged with the community and 62 community events have been hosted. Last year, to assess the impact of the programme across the globe, The Cartier Women’s Initiative fielded a 40-question online survey to its 228 former fellows. This survey became the baseline for Cartier Women’s initiative impact measurement.

With the launch of the Impact Report — which put the light on the powerful ripples of positive changes initiated by these women entrepreneurs — Cartier Women’s Initiative is aiming to improve the programme and expand opportunities to more women impact entrepreneurs worldwide.

Moving forward, the initiative intends to create a global network of diverse allies of the Cartier Women’s Initiative community that can amplify that impact by leveraging their unique strengths: Their circle of fellows, their knowledge of the ecosystem and their ability to activate different players.
To celebrate the impact of the programme, the Cartier

Women’s Initiative has unveiled for the very first time nine awardees, all former fellows whose businesses have achieved significant impact.

The Impact Awards cover three categories: Improving lives, preserving the planet and creating opportunities, which are based on the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Three former fellows are recognised in each of these three categories.

Improving lives

Nneka Mobisson, mDoc (Nigeria)

A mobile platform that provides people living with chronic disease with 24 hours a day, seven days a week access to virtual healthcare providers

To date, mDoc has improved the lives of more than one million people living with chronic diseases and is expanding geographically. The company now offers tele-education in 25 African countries. “We’ve been selected as the first super hub for Africa. We partnered with the University of New Mexico and trained more than 7,000 healthcare providers, resulting in an average knowledge gain of 11%, more than double the global benchmark,” Mobisson says. The company is closing in on her vision of galvanising a movement across Africa around self-care. “We want to empower people to be health literate and digitally literate and to have the self-efficacy to change their lives for the better so we can achieve a healthier, happier, and more productive Africa.”

Rasha Rady, Chefaa (Egypt)
Cairo-based on-demand medicine delivery platform Chefaa has created an AI- powered, GPS-enabled digital platform to help chronic patients order, schedule and refill their recurring medicines regardless of location or income

The pandemic heightened the need for Chefaa’s services. “Because of Covid-19, we had more chronic patients receiving services, not only in Egypt,” Rasha says. “We had traffic from all the Arabic-speaking populations in Mena (the region made up of Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa), with more than 500,000 Saudis joining the platform in the past year.” The company introduced many new offerings in 2020 and 2021, such as an online payment capability through Stripe so Egyptians living abroad can order for family members. Last October, it launched Cheefa Prime, an employee medical benefits platform offering an end-to-end healthcare experience for a flat subscription fee. More than 1,000 employees participated by year’s end.

Chefaa also is entering the data analytic business. “Lack of accurate data is a big problem here in Mena,” Rasha says. “We started to monetise the data we collect. We categorise patients by diagnosis, like hypertension or diabetes, and place them on a location map.” Using information about the geographical distribution of common diagnoses, pharmacies can determine the optimal allocation of medicines. Building on its recent growth, Chefaa will continue to expand across Egypt and in Saudi Arabia. Rasha still looks forward to the big achievements she envisioned before these tumultuous past two years. Beyond the numbers, she says: “I have the dream that ‘Chefaa’ will become a verb, that people will use the word when they talk about filling their prescriptions like they say ‘Uber’ or ‘Google’.”

Temie Giwa Tubosun, LifeBank (Nigeria)

A medical distribution company that uses data and technology to discover and deliver essential medical products to hospitals in Nigeria

“Sometimes measuring impact by the numbers can seem theoretical,” Tubosun says. “We started printing the first names of everybody we have saved on a card that we hang on the wall. It seems more real when you see their name and the date we rescued them.” Since its launch, the

company has transported 155,569 units of blood and other medical products, served 1,200 hospitals and saved more than 40,000 lives.

LifeBank now operates across Nigeria as well as in Kenya and Ethiopia. Tubosun plans to continue expanding the company’s work with hospitals, putting LifeBank on the way to its ambitious mission of saving a million lives across Africa in 10 years and delivering critical supplies around the clock to all of Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America — and eventually becoming a profitable public company.

Preserving the planet

Joanne Howarth, Planet Protector Packaging (Australia) Planet Protector Packaging manufactures environmentally responsible insulated packaging material made from sheep waste wool for transport of temperature-sensitive goods

Trading since 2016, Planet Protector has diverted more than 4,000 tons of waste wool from landfills, eliminated more than eight million polystyrene boxes from supply chains and generated US$7.5 million in new revenues to sheep farmers. It now works with more than 400 impact-driven businesses across Oceania that share its vision. Immediate plans include expansion into Southeast Asia and in the long-term, Howarth envisions Planet Protector Packaging as a global company.

As the recent pandemic responses have increased shipping demand, the company’s mission to eliminate ocean-destroying polystyrene has escalated. “In the last two years, we’ve doubled our year-on-year business,” Howarth (above) says. “As humans collectively retreated indoors during the pandemic, we have had a taste of a world in harmony with nature that enables economic growth, prosperity and equity without the need to mindlessly extract the Earth’s natural resources.”

She reserves a special place in her heart for the sheep and the unique flock that holds pride of place at the Planet Protector offices. “Wherever I go, I buy sheep in all shapes and sizes,” she says, referring to her collection. “I even have a sheep with dreadlocks.” Each Planet Protector team member has their own named sheep, representing not only teamwork but also the passion and commitment to natural, sustainable fibres that underpins Planet Protector’s environmental ethos.

Lorna Rutto, EcoPost (Kenya)
EcoPost manufactures durable fencing posts using plastic waste — an environmentally friendly alternative to timber

Over the next five years, EcoPost plans to train more than 50,000 people, save approximately 100 million trees and prevent 500 million kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Rutto (pictured right) aims to bring EcoPost’s mission beyond Africa. She adds: “People from all over the world recognise this as a problem. Why couldn’t this solution be implemented worldwide to solve the plastic crisis?”

Moving toward that vision, she imagines uncluttered landscapes and intact forests that provide wildlife habitat, neutralise carbon emissions, and enable nature-lovers like herself to enjoy Kenya’s immense beauty.

Charlotte Wang, EQuota Energy (China)
EQuota is an energy optimisation company that combines artificial intelligence and big data to deliver energy efficiency solutions

To date, EQuota has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 82,000 tons, prevented almost 390,000 MWh in energy consumption, and saved customers around US$7.5 million. These accomplishments represent savings equivalent to the energy use of half a million homes over a year and translate into reduced particulate matter and ultimately to fewer illnesses and deaths from pollution.

Recognition has followed. Last year, EQuota became the only private company to serve the state grid on its carbon management platform. It was one of only two energy companies — and the only Chinese company — recognised as a 2021 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Wang (pictured above) also was invited to serve on China’s National Science and Technology Advisory Commission.

Currently, EQuota’s primary market is in China. The company wants to increase its global impact by becoming a leader in supplying timely data to policy- and decision-makers. “I established EQuota to create a better future not just for the next generation but for the current one,” Wang adds. “This is the drive behind what we are doing.”

Creating opportunities

Carmina Bayombong, InvestEd (Philippines) An investment platform providing student loans to underserved youth using a proprietary credit rating algorithm

Bayombong (right) envisions additions to the company’s portfolio
such as InvestEd schools — which would integrate financing with
job-readiness skills training and academics — and venture-building programs to help investors create businesses.

She says: “If disadvantaged youth are provided with three things — capital, coaching and community — during the education-to-adulthood phase, they can get themselves and their families out of poverty.”

Fariel Salahuddin, UpTrade (Pakistan)
A bartering service enabling off-grid rural communities to exchange livestock for solar- powered water pumps and home systems

“In the next two years, we want to expand within Pakistan, where there are five million smallholder farmers,” Fariel says. The company has received requests from entities around the world that want to bring the livestock-as-payment idea to their communities, expanding Up-Trade’s potential reach to the world’s one billion or so smallholder farmers.
“The next step is to create an open-source model to share what we know so anyone in any country can replicate it.”

At the village level, community spirit plays a part in bringing villages on board. Even villagers without goats to contribute still enjoy the benefits of the pump. Returning to a village that now has a pump, Fariel sees life, laughter and activity among women who once trudged to and from the village well.

“In the past, these communities were always waiting for someone from the outside like a non-governmental organisation (NGO), a charity or the government to provide for their big infrastructure needs,” she says. “Now they have the means to meet these needs themselves, which is self-reliance. That to me is the biggest impact.”

Carol Chyau, Shokay (China)

Shokay produces children’s clothes and accessories, home furnishings and yarn using yak fiber purchased directly from the region’s herder

Shokay broadened its scope in sustainable fashion by introducing blockchain technology while maintaining its mission of addressing the lack of economic opportunity in Tibet. “The yak story is specific to the Tibetan population, but pioneering sustainable fashion solutions creates greater market linkage and scale. It’s re- warding to know that we did more than just create a product or a brand,” Chyau (pictured right) says.

A big part of this evolution was Shokay’s major spinning partner, the sustainable yarn supplier UPW, which sells to brands all over the US and Europe that are pursuing sustainability. Fashion labels including Frank And Oak and COS chose Shokay as their exclusive supplier because of its traceability, something not easily available with cashmere suppliers. The human aspect of the business continues to inspire Chyau. “Many Tibetans have told me, ‘We grew up on the plateau, with the yaks. We just didn’t think yak fibre could be made into such gorgeous products.’ This issue of dignity and identity, especially among young people, is very important. We’ve inspired a lot of young Tibetans to start their own brands and their own cooperatives.” This inspiration, combined with Shokay’s new models for linking traditional communities with modern markets, continues to transform lives on the Tibetan plateau and beyond.