Our Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020 was a celebration of eleven incredible female entrepreneurs and the culmination of our five-year Youth Business Europe programme with Citi Foundation. During the ceremony, held online on 20th October 2020, we learned more about the finalists’ successful businesses and discussed with leading experts the structural barriers facing women in starting, sustaining and growing a business.
Our programme Youth Business Europe, a consortium of 11 YBI members across Europe as well as Kazakhstan and Russia, was supported by Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress global initiative.
Since 2015, the programme has provided entrepreneurial support services, skills training, mentoring, and access to low-interest loans to young entrepreneurs. Over 26,000 young entrepreneurs across Europe have been supported to grow their business, create jobs, as well as invest in and strengthen their local communities.
Mariia Plotkina, founder of Geek Teachers in Russia, was awarded the Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Europe Award 2020 and received $5,000 USD from Citi Foundation and business coaching to support the ongoing development of her enterprise.
Giulia Pettinau, Founder of Orangogo, an online search engine for sports in Italy, placed first runner-up. Mathilde Cortinovis, Founder of the eco-responsible Équilibres Café in France placed second runner-up. Both will receive business coaching from entrepreneur, investor and YBI Ambassador, Alia Caan, and, together with the other eight finalists, will be provided with a legal workshop and assessment of the business legal needs by YBI Partner Hogan Lovells.
Christina dreamed of founding a manga school after holding a workshop at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2009. Today her school, I am mangaka! introduces manga to children through school projects, such as editing and printing a manga short story book.
“The programme [with KIZ] has supported me with planning on how to reach as many students as possible and change Germans’ attitude towards comics in general by using effective business concepts.”
Christina says that the biggest impact she has felt during her journey has been in her own personal self-development and self-confidence.
Christina received support from YBI’s member in Germany, KIZ
Emma loves dogs and this passion spurred her to launch dog walking service Pawfit in 2018. Pawfit provides busy working people with the opportunity to have their dog exercised and interacted with during the day. Pawfit also offer pet sitting services, allowing dog owners to have the freedom to travel, while knowing their dog is in safe care.
"Although at times being an entrepreneur can be tough, Pawfit has taught me that to become a successful entrepreneur you must be dedicated, motivated and love your business for it to succeed, Emma says."
"As I am still a young entrepreneur, I hope to grow both my business and my understanding of the world of entrepreneurship to provide the best dog walking and dog sitting service Ireland has ever seen."
Emma received support from YBI’s member in Ireland, Inner City Enterprise.
Having seen a gap in the sports market in Italy, Giulia set up Orangogo, an online search engine that allows users to find nearby sports classes and clubs using geolocation and other data filters.
Giulia describes the company as an innovative start-up with the purpose "we help people to discover their inner talent". Orangogo now employs 17 people, 16 of whom are women. More than 22,000 sport clubs have already joined the platform, which is about 15% of the total in just 3 years; the Company have plans to expand the service to Europe, starting from France on 2021.
"I founded Orangogo driven by the mission of a gentle business. In a sector made of people who confuse aggressiveness with courage, and kindness with weakness, I am demonstrating that you can better reach numbers if you respect human values."
Giulia received support from YBI’s member in Italy, MicroLab.
Lara is a passionate ‘green entrepreneur’ whose desire to create a sustainable business model promoted her to start Despensa77 in 2017, the first zero waste mini market in Galicia, Spain.
Her business model is free of plastic packaging and sells products sourced from ethical supply chains. The company aims to be an agent of social change. “We are currently a benchmark in organic food thanks to our offer of bulk unpacked biological food products and sustainable home cleaning products,” says Lara.
Despensa77 promotes healthy eating, healthier environments and the reduction of plastic waste. Lara is now expanding her business to offer new product lines in collaboration with producers and artisans who share her values. “This allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition as well as to offer good value to our customers,” she explains.
Lara received support from YBI’s member in Spain, Youth Business Spain.
For Lola, her brand Maison Dolores is a combination of her own personal values and her desire to produce hand-crafted quality loungewear and lingerie.
Mexican fashion designer Lola moved to France five years ago. Her luxury and artisanal Franco-Mexican label is an original concept, strongly linked to both Mexican culture and the French lifestyle.
Lola describes the brand as an opportunity to work in accordance with her personal values: respect and consideration for other people.
“Being a young entrepreneur has pushed me into developing new skills, learning new things and above all becoming a woman with a more analytical and an open mind. I aspire to grow my business and, one day, to have employees to whom I can give good working conditions and dignified wages,” she says.
Lola received support from YBI’s member in France, Adie.
Lorie’s dream when she started Small is Biotiful in north Brussels was not just to open an organic grocery store, but also a community space. The store offers organic products such as grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables sold by weight so customers take only the quantity they need, thereby limiting waste. The store is also a popular meeting place and hosts workshops where people can learn and exchange ideas.
“The familiar atmosphere and relationships are very appreciated by my clients and the shop is part of the redynamisation of the town Neder-Over-Heembeek, which has seen a lot of small shops closing in the past few years,” says Lorie.
Lorie received support from YBI’s member in Belgium, microStart.
After studying project management in international development with a focus on social inclusion and support for extreme poverty, Mathilde decided to launch a friendly and eco-responsible café in Lyon in order to promote diversity in the city, as well as healthy eating for all.
Équilibres Café was opened two years ago, a place open to all where customers can enjoy 100% homemade drinks and dishes, made using ethical products, in a warm and welcoming setting. They can also participate in one of the many events and workshops that the café hosts. Mathilde also offers customers the option to add one euro to their bill to support the funding of meals for disadvantaged people in the community at the café.
“I really wanted to create an environment that corresponded to my values, and in which I could flourish professionally. After two years of operations, I am delighted to have done this,” says Mathilde.
Mathilde received support from YBI’s member in France, Positive Planet.
Former Computer Science teacher Mariia set up Geek Teachers in 2018, offering online courses and digitally-based festivals to support teachers to access technology and conduct lessons in a new way.
Today, Geek Teachers has provided support to over 12,000 people through online courses and now employs 15 people. Its social networks have grown from 100 to 15,000 and they have run Masterclasses in 12 cities across Russia. Plans for the coming year include three major festivals of 1,500 people.
Mariia’s 10-year aim for Geek Teachers is for at least one teacher in every school in Russia to know about and champion Geek Teachers.
“Our mission is to create an educational environment comfortable for young teachers and innovators, Mariia says. “We realised that we could not immediately reform the educational system of our country, but we could start working with teachers who wanted to use modern technologies to simplify their life and have more time to relax.”
Mariia received support from YBI’s member in Russia, Youth Business Russia alongside Impact Hub Moscow.
Mariya is a director and scriptwriter with 10 years of experience in cinema. In Autumn 2019 she established Step Clap Art School which provides film education for children in Kazakhstan.
The school has trained over 300 students and created more than 1,000 educational films and clips. Students have participated in, and won, international film festivals. Mariya’s business plans include opening branches in different regions of Kazakhstan; establishing new courses for children and teenagers; and creating an international film festival for children and teenagers.
“I am a creative person, so it was very difficult for me to start a business. But now the more I learn, the better my business becomes, as I improve my knowledge and skills,” Mariya says.
Mariya received support from YBI’s member in Kazakhstan, MOST.
Trained chef Mia wanted her restaurant to be a “home away from home”; a place where the ambiance and the food work together creating a warm and fulfilling experience.
She bought Restaurang Hörnet in early 2017 and has never looked back. Setting herself apart from competitors, Mia is dedicated to minimising food waste. She invents delicious veggie-fritter recipes using vegetable stalks and leaves and makes her dessert of the day by reimagining cake crumbs and cut-offs to make something simple but delicious.
“I have had the good fortune to start out as the new fresh face and quickly evolve into the go-to-place for a lot of people, in town and beyond. I might even say that the small town of Vadstena now has two attractions: the mighty monastery and my small restaurant,” says Mia.
Mia received support from YBI’s member in Sweden, NyföretagarCentrum.
Nanke set up Flamingo Services at the age of 20 to follow her dream. “I have dyslexia and had to overcome many setbacks, especially at school,” she explains.
Nanke and her team of four offer web design, web development, marketing, graphic design and content creation services. “Before starting Flamingo Services, I was told that I have rheumatism, which for me was a wakeup call. I made the decision to follow my passion to create my online marketing business,” she says.
Nanke says her ambition is to make Flamingo Services the best and most famous marketing bureau in the Netherlands. “We are especially focused on Small and Medium Enterprises and our goal is to create more job opportunities and to create more chances for starting entrepreneurs within this city.”
Nanke received support from YBI’s member in the Netherlands, Qredits.
Adenike is a YBI Trustee and was a judge in the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is the Executive Director of FATE Foundation in Nigeria.
She leads the Foundation’s efforts to design and implement strategies and programmes that enable aspiring and emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs while fostering enterprise development in Nigeria. We are pleased for Adenike to join us for this online event as Master of Ceremonies (MC).
Anita is CEO of YBI, and leads the global network’s efforts to connect members, partners and young people to develop and scale new solutions that leverage the power of entrepreneurship to drive social and economic change.
Anita has extensive experience in international development, human rights and leading global networks. Anita chaired the judging panel for this year’s Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Bonnie Chiu is an award-winning social entrepreneur, a gender equality advocate and a leading social impact and impact investing consultant.
She is a senior contributor to Forbes on gender and diversity and the Managing Director of The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC), a global network of consultants specialised in impact assessment and impact investing strategies. Bonnie has also been coordinating the Women in Social Finance network.
Silvia Boschetti is Public Affairs and Government Affairs Officer at Citi in Italy, where she oversees media relations, events, internal communication, corporate identity, and corporate social responsibility.
She has more than 20 years' experience in marketing and corporate communication for leading global financial institutions and corporates. Her experience includes working for Deutsche Bank. Silvia was on the judging panel for this year’s Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Pip Jamieson is the Founder & CEO of The Dots, a professional network for people that don't wear suits to work - 'dubbed "The next LinkedIn?" by Forbes. She was named by The Sunday Times as one of the Top 100 Disruptive Entrepreneurs innovating in their respective fields.
Being a dyslexic sole female tech founder, Pip has put promoting social responsibility and helping businesses build diverse teams at the heart of everything they do! 68% + of The Dots community is female, 31% + BAME and 16% + LGBT+. The Dots also do a lot of work around socioeconomic diversity and neurodiversity to fuel a more balanced future industry.
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. They invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyse job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation's "More than Philanthropy" approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfil our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation.
In 2015, Youth Business International and Citi Foundation launched Youth Business Europe, a regional programme to support young people to start, grow and sustain their business. Through this partnership, YBI are working together with the Citi Foundation to tackle youth unemployment and drive sustainable economic growth across Europe.
The Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020 celebrates this partnership.
“When we started, my co-founders and I were teachers and about to leave our jobs because we felt defeated with the state of education. Instead we decided to organise an edutainment event to encourage teachers to use new technology in class, equip them with IT skills and feel motivated in their job. We had no experience in business. The first event we organised, 300 people took part, and 1,300 people turned up to our last party. You can make education fun, you can learn with fun. I don’t want teachers to ever leave school. I would like to say thank you to Impact Hub Moscow and Youth Business Russia who have supported me and assisted me in being able to participate in this Award.”
“Like thousands of entrepreneurs we worked with, the eleven talented and resilient finalists we are celebrating needed support to transform their idea into a successful business. Women-owned businesses aren’t side hustles. The Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalists are filling gaps in their markets and coming up with innovative solutions to address issues we face at a really difficult time for our economies and communities.”
“I am incredibly proud of what all of the finalists have achieved. Every woman who succeeds brings us one step closer to gender equality in the entrepreneurship space. But as governments worldwide plan for economic recovery, we cannot risk leaving a generation of girls and young women behind. We urgently need them to build back better and create the SMEs that are vital to our economies and communities.”