Women who won in the Dragons’ Den

By Cecily Bryant, Africa Programme Manager

In November 2022 we launched and exciting new project offering intensive business skills training to female entrepreneurs.  With the chance for trainees to pitch for a business grant, the project quickly gained the moniker ‘Dragons’ Den’ and attracted over 130 applicants.  Madalitso and Matrida are two of the inspiring women selected to join the project and whose pitches secured them business grants.

During my recent visit to Malawi, I was lucky enough to meet them both and discover how they are applying their learning and the grant money to growing their businesses.

The Kauma Women’s business development project was established to support women facing challenges to their business success, such as inadequate capital or poor business management skills.  In November last year, 60 candidates were selected to join the training project and receive business skills training, health and wellbeing sessions and guidance with producing business plans.  In addition, each woman was assisted in opening her very first bank account.

On 8 February, 15 finalists pitched their proposals to a judging panel who unanimously chose 8 successful winners.

As all 60 trainees gathered for their graduation ceremony at the end of February, the first grant instalments were transferred into the winners’ bank accounts.  Phones began receiving mobile banking alerts as the funds were deposited.  They women were so delighted they all went to the bank to sing!

Madalitso with her certificate

Madalitso ran Aunty Jeany’s hairdressing salon in the market of Kauma district in the Northeast suburbs of Lilongwe.  A single mother, looking after 6 children, Madalitso had learned hairdressing alongside her daughter who had dropped out of school. Together, step by step, they had developed their skills and started a salon. Before the training, Madalitso didn’t know how to calculate profit and loss, she couldn’t afford to buy and maintain stock levels, and she didn’t know how she could manage the growth of her business.  Although her salon was in a good location for business, passing trade was low and she was often waiting for customers.

Madalitso’s business training and grant helped turn everything around.  She invested the grant money in materials for the salon and with goods on show at her shop, she has rapidly seen an increase in passing trade.  As happy customers leave her salon, Madalitso’s business is growing through word-of-mouth and now she welcomes 20-30 customers a day.  The steady income, which has increased tenfold, has even allowed her to open 2 new salons.

With the ongoing support of her business trainer, Madalitso is managing further investments and growth. She has connected her house and salon to the mains water supply, significantly easing the burden of work.  She plans to extend her business further and she has already secured a trading contract because she could prove her business skills and show her active bank account.

The changes are also having a positive impact for Madalisto’s family.  Her daughter Molly, who has a disability, now attends school regularly as the family can pay for her transport and physiotherapy.  When I met Molly she was excitedly finishing her English homework and looking forward to attending class the next day.


Matrida (centre) with Lemon and Jacob

Matrida was running a small business trading tomatoes before joining the Dragon’s Den project.  She was earning under £2 per day.  Matrida told me she learned a lot from the training, most importantly “don’t eat your capital, always look to re-invest your profit instead”.  She explained how she learned about the importance of choosing a location when setting up a business.  With her trading experience and grant money, Matrida selected a new site to have a structure and oven built to begin a business selling chips. Now Matrida is earning £25-30 per day and employs 2 people to help cook and serve.  She is extending the menu for her customers and has plans to open new pop-up stores for further sales.



Photos from right to left: Dragon’ Annie Mpanganeni (far right) with candidates ready to pitch their business plans; Women receiving their certificates, Madalitso’s hair salon, Matrida (right)

To support projects like these, please visit our donations page to give a one-off or a regular gift.

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June 2023

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