Good Business: Servane Mouazan, Ogunte

“We’re primarily about creating a better world, but through a gender lens. It’s not just about women but about what those women do”

Good Business is a column hosted by Anna Levy from HUB Islington, an incubation space for socially driven entrepreneurs. Each month she catches up with the people leading change.

This month, Anna talks to Servane Mouazan, CEO of Ogunte, an organisation that supports innovative women in developing their projects.

Anna: Tell us about your business, in a nutshell

Servane: Ogunte is an organisation that contributes to building a better world, powered by women. We work with female social entrepreneurs, campaigners and activists, and enable them to learn, lead and connect. The connecting – with each other, as well as with stakeholders and potential funders – is really important, as that’s how you grow movements.

Some have lots of ideas but need to work on the business or systems side of things; while for others, it’s about clarifying their vision and making sure they’re looking from all angles and aren’t duplicating what someone else is doing.

Why women?

Helping women to be at the forefront of social enterprise is a good thing, because there’s evidence that they invest more of their wealth in their communities than men do. By focusing on the women who are accelerating social change, we think we can make the most impact.

More than 85% of purchasing decisions are made or influenced by women (in the US at least), and so they have an important part to play in education around social and environmental change. At Ogunte, we’re primarily about creating a better world, but through a gender lens. It’s not just about women, but about what those women do.

How do you personally want to make a difference?

Well there’s a lot to do, but I’m doing my bit, little by little. Being an intermediary, you can enable others to think differently, to accelerate movements and to promote themselves so that their ideas can spread and reach a critical mass. It’s rewarding and helps me feel I’m making an impact on a bigger scale, through others.

I guess it’s similar to what we do at the HUB – you need enablers and facilitators.

And accelerators! I’m sad that there is such a screamingly obvious lack of policy reflecting the contribution of female social entrepreneurs. And when I talk about a social entrepreneur, I mean a woman who ‘activates’ and ‘accelerates’. They might not call themselves a social entrepreneur, but have identified something that’s not right and actively try to solve the problem.

And how did you come up with the idea for Ogunte?

When I was back in Brazil, the elderly mother of a capoeira player gave me my orisha, the spirit I was born with according to the Candomblé tradition, which defines who you are. She told me that it was Ogunte, which is the female spirit. It was only later, on founding a social leadership course for women, that the connection was made and I had a sudden feeling that the circle was complete.

Great work! Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of Make a Wave, our pre-incubator programme for women social entrepreneurs. We support people through a six-month learning journey, enable them to work with people that they wouldn’t normally meet and take part in remote live seminars – all tailored to their needs.

We challenge these women to a point where they can focus, change their business model, make sense of funding and become social investment literate. They co-mentor each other, grow together and change their behaviour; it’s phenomenal!

What advice do you have for other budding social entrepreneurs?

Be a smart networker and strategic connector, because that feeds everything. Pin a huge piece of paper on the wall and start mapping your connections – who are the people you meet and how do they connect to your world and to each other?

See what excites some of these networks more than others, which ones you feed just for your ego but which don’t really contribute, the learning, leadership and impact connections – and prune to help the network grow. Being a smart connector for yourself and the outside world is absolutely key.

Ogunte’s Women’s Social Leadership Awards are open for nominations until the 11 March 2013

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