Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot aims to embolden successive generations of audacious female leaders in South Africa...

Madame Clicquot’s story is one of boldness, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. In 1805, at just 27, she took the reins of Veuve Clicquot after the death of her husband, at a time when women could neither work nor hold a bank account. Revered as one of the first businesswomen of modern times, Madame Clicquot’s focus on new opportunities and willingness to take risks as she expanded her business to all four corners of the globe set the stage for the brand’s support of women entrepreneurship to this day.

With the Bold by Veuve Clicquot platform, Veuve Clicquot remains passionately committed to emboldening successive generations of audacious female leaders. The House relentlessly seeks to understand how the world is evolving and wants to be a driving force, making a real contribution – especially when it comes to female entrepreneurship. The Maison unveiled its first International Women’s Entrepreneurship Barometer study in June 2019, with the aim of delivering clear insights around the state of female entrepreneurship, identifying common prejudices, mental and structural barriers to be overcome and most importantly, driving public debate.

The Veuve Clicquot 2020 Barometer (second edition), conducted as the COVID crisis exerted pressure on global cultures and economies, updated the status of women entrepreneurs across the world and has provided the community with a rare tool: a true understanding of the state of female entrepreneurship. Led by dynamic chairperson Rapelang Rabana, the Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot experience – which took place in the presence of 50 live and 200 digital guests – saw passionate conversation as two panels of business leaders including Amanda Dambuza, Nthabi Taukobong and Mzamo Masito unpacked and debated the findings of this latest study.

The findings of the barometer shed a fascinating light on the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa – the country with the highest level of women entrepreneurship amongst all 17 countries measured. Indeed, entrepreneurship is more the rule than the exception with more than half of South African women (54%) considering themselves entrepreneurs. The majority of women (82%) and men (87%) who aren’t currently entrepreneurs, are interested in becoming one … a trend that is rising. Interestingly, women entrepreneurship has increased since the 2018 study (+11%), yet mostly in lower revenue sectors. Additionally, more women (+12%) and men (+9%) aspire to entrepreneurship in a country with very high levels of entrepreneurship already.


Amanda Dambuza, Nomdeni Mdakhi, Nthabi Taukobong and Erik Kruger started the day’s proceedings with an enlivened discussion around two important and time-appropriate themes. The first theme – overcoming barriers to entry to women entrepreneurship – saw Rapelang frame the discussion with three interesting statistics:

  • Women increasingly choose entrepreneurship for financial reasons: 31% of women and 28% of men rate money as the top benefit of being an entrepreneur and it’s on the rise
  • 60% of women feel that it is much harder for a woman than a man to balance work and family life as an entrepreneur (55% of men agree), as they face an age-old problem; balancing work with their other full-time job: caring for their family; yet women entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs are determined to achieve this balance
  • More than half of women (and only 32% of men) believe that it’s riskier for women to build a business and believe that the risks of entrepreneurship outweigh the benefits, but start a business regardless

These findings resonated with Amanda Dambuza. “I realised at the start of my entrepreneurial journey that I needed money to be able to change my ecosystem, to create more jobs, to empower other women and to be independent and that actually, it had been in my hands all that time to create something new.” Nomdeni Madakhi added “the meaning of work life balance is very different for men and women. When you ask women about this they think of family and cooking and men don’t necessarily think of these aspects. One of the things we’ve done at Agenda Women is to do away with the word balance and use the word harmony and a strong focus on self-care. And in this way, I have fallen in love with my journey.”

The second theme ‘leveraging opportunity in times of crisis’ saw discussion centred around further findings:

  • 59% of women entrepreneurs report growing more confident in their business dealings, and 63% say they’re more professionally bold than before the crisis (male entrepreneurs agree about equally)
  • Caution and determination have increased amongst women entrepreneurs – “Since the covid-19 crisis, I am more cautious (86%) and determined (81%) and professionally confident when it comes to business dealings”
  • In the long run, the covid pandemic has created a more cautious-yet-determined group of entrepreneurs who are optimistic about new opportunities … More than half of male and female entrepreneurs (57% respectively) have realised new opportunities, created by the post-covid recovery

More than this, entrepreneurship is a way of life for many South African women who have no other option if they wish to provide for their children – they’ll do whatever it takes, even if that means selling amadombolo on the side of the road, said Nthabi Taukobong.

Leading business figures Dr Theo Mothoa-Frendo, Mzamo Masito, Adriana Marais and Matsi Modise formed the second panel, with Rapelang opening the discussion around the concepts of networking and mentorship and with questions referring to some insightful statistics:

  • 90% of women and 90% of men agree: mentorship is key for anyone who aspires to entrepreneurship. Wantrepreneurs (92%) and entrepreneurs (92%) confirm this belief
  • 90% of women entrepreneurs agreed that a network of other women entrepreneurs is essential for women who want to become entrepreneurs and have support throughout the process of building their business
  • The vast majority of entrepreneurs (of both sexes) are making the impact of the crisis (on communication with their networks) work in their favor, by employing digital and electronic communications methods: “I am in contact with my peers, colleagues, mentors and professional network more now than I ever was before, thanks to electronic communication methods” – agree 70% entrepreneurs / 60% wantrepreneurs

And Dr Theo and Matsi Modise agreed, saying that today was an opportunity to do exactly that, connect entrepreneurs with wantrepreneurs to support the growth of this very network. While most women consider mentors to be an elite businessperson with whom they should share a formal relationship, the reality is that there are people with whom we are in contact daily – whether neighbours, family members, or fellow school moms – who may be able to shed light on the specific challenges one is experiencing. “Help can also come from authors or global entrepreneurs who have shared their struggles; after all, with the wealth of information available online, it is more than likely that you will find information from someone who has gone through a similar battle,” said Dr Theo Mothoa-Frendo.

Mzamo Masito added “I learned that every entrepreneur needs three people on their business journeys, an influential person of power who speaks about you and your business, a mentor who speaks to you about your business and finally someone who speaks with you, within your business”.

To close the debate on the topic of the importance of resilience and the ability to adapt, Rapelang drew upon three final statistics:

  • Internationally, women are as professionally confident and resilient as men. Women’s professional confidence is equal to that of men’s, with only 18% believing they don’t deserve their professional situation
  • Although 55% of women entrepreneurs have overcome professional failures, few allow failure to dampen their enthusiasm for taking professional risks (only 29% of women entrepreneurs are deterred). All of this indicates that women accept failure as a part of the entrepreneurial journey, but women are resilient and remain focused on their path
  • Women increasingly say they’re the ones in control of their professional destiny (+3% to 96% in this study), fewer report feeling undeserving of the professional situation (-6%), attribute their professional success to “luck” (-9%) or feel unappreciated for their leadership skills (-5%)

Notably, what made the difference, opined panelists taking part in the discussion, are the realisations brought about by the pandemic, including the fact that you cannot rely on anyone else to make your dreams and ambitions come true and remain resilient. “After all, who besides yourself can be in charge of your destiny,” Matsi Modise pointed out. Adriana Marias, meanwhile, observed that Africans have a natural resilience, accustomed as we are to finding solutions while operating in resource-constrained environments. This has helped to hone our spirit of innovation.

The 2021 Bold Conversations by Veuve Clicquot provided an important opportunity for South African women entrepreneurs to network as a proud community and toast to bold future plans with a glass of Veuve Clicquot in hand. Madame Clicquot would certainly have approved.

For the full Veuve Clicquot International Women Entrepreneurship Barometer please visit:


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