Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Asonele Kotu (AK:) My name is Asonele Kotu and I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. I have always been passionate about women empowerment and development. I have more than 10 years of experience as a public relations and marketing professional and I have worked with various organisations in community development, charities and software development.
MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.
AK: Our work at FemConnect is to strengthen and create easier access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) education, period poverty support and community outreach in alignment with SDG 3, on good health and wellbeing and SDG 5 on empowering women, girls and men/boys as development partners. As part of our #WegotuGirl campaign to end period poverty, we believe no “girl-child” should be missing out on life due to menstruation and poverty. In response, we advocate and mobilise for support to help girls in disadvantaged and rural communities.
Our femtech solution responds to women’s health issues experienced by women in Sub-Saharan Africa. FemConnect equips women with tools for easier access to feminine hygiene products, mentorship education, GBV support and access to family planning services the same way we order food online. Conveniently, discreetly, flexibly and delivered to their doorsteps.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?
AK: Our biggest challenge now is financial backing to grow our team so that we can expand our footprint. Because our business model is still new to South Africa, we needed to educate and transform people’s perceptions by teaching them that SRHR technologies are beneficial to creating easier access to healthcare for those who are unable to get access. The challenge is that not every remote and disadvantaged community has access to the internet.
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
AK: The dream is for FemConnect technologies and platforms to be integrated and used in family planning clinics (public and private). We want to have a presence through self-help kiosks in communities and public spaces so that people can have access to our services reaching at least 1 million girls and women in the next 5 years.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
AK: The sustainability of a purpose-driven business is key, it ensures the longevity of the business. As social and impact entrepreneurs it is critical to combine profit and purpose. As much as profit is important, the vision is always what propels the business forward – follow the vision and purpose first and the profit will ensure your sustainability.
MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from
AK – Little planning and an unclear roadmap can distract you from doing the most important things for your business. I have learned that sometimes, as much as we want to listen to others, without a clear vision you can easily become derailed. It is important to listen to others but to also have a clear directive and strategy of where you are heading. Always ensure that you are doing and listening to what matters most for your business.
MB – How do you spend your time away from work?
AK – I spent a lot of time with my little girls. They bring out the inner child in me every time and they teach me how to let go and savour every moment in life without worrying too much about everything else.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
AK – Sometimes it helps to talk less and listen more, you will be receptive to what the universe and your surroundings are trying to communicate with you.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
AK – “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
AK – I am content with what I am able and unable to do, however, I would LOVE to learn how to code and become a developer because it’s a field that allows me to tap into my creative thinking and build something from scratch.
MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?
AK – In 2022 I plan to grow FemConnect’s footprint and offerings by focusing on incorporating SRHR interventions for physically challenged youth. The most exciting part is that we will be launching an organic sanitary products range as a product line to compliment the work we do with youth. In 2022, I want to achieve growth and positively impact the lives of 1,000 young girls experiencing period poverty. I want to empower women who are going through gender-based violence and abuse with tools to help them get through their challenges.
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.