Age is just a number

Charline at the pitchen den

Meet 67-year old Charline Rosie Morel, the oldest FemBioBiz Season 2 participant from Seychelles, a qualified nurse by profession who got her start in entrepreneurship later in life. 

Starting a business at a ‘late’ stage is not as rare as one might think. ‘Oldpreneurs’, a term used for entrepreneurs who have started their businesses over the age of 50 are breaking stereotypes and proving that success is a possibility at any age.

Bold and fearlessly ambitious, these are some of the female business leaders who shape the future of the continent and inspire not only countless other women, but also anyone who dares to dream. 

According to Charline, her business started as a hobby grown out of her passion to preserve the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables in Seychelles.

Charline’s Specials are delicious vegetable and mango pickles made from natural indigenous ingredients with Seychellian flair. 

“The business started on a very small scale, but upon realising the commercial potential of the vegetable and fruit preserves I knew that I was on the right track. The products are currently in high demand and well appreciated, and the market demand has been phenomenal,” she boasted.

In order to better meet the high demand, Morel entered the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme with hopes of taking her business to the next level.

“In all the 20 years that I have been exposed to entrepreneurship and all the training programmes that I have attended, none of them match the business skills that I received from the competition,” she told us in an interview.

“The programme has indeed proven that you can teach an old dog new tricks. I thought that I knew it all, but it has been proven otherwise,” she continued.

A NEPAD Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) initiative, the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme is a business training and pitch competition created to develop leadership, technical and business skills in female-owned businesses in the SADC region to support deal-making and business acceleration in the biosciences arena.

Morel was one of the 32 female bio-entrepreneur and student finalists from 10 SADC countries who had the opportunity to pitch their innovative businesses and ideas to investors and funders in the FemBioBiz Pitching Den during the SA Innovation Summit in Cape Town, last week.

Earlier in the programme, from the 500 applications received, 150 applicants were selected for Phase 1, with 90 of them further to partake in Phase 2. The programme was carried out with intensive entrepreneurial workshops in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Seychelles, where participants were introduced to the Business Model Canvas and advised on how to attract investors.

Another finalist who is also proving that success has no age limit is Godfridah Masaiti, student at the University of Zambia School of Medicine and a SANBio Student Ambassador, who is conceptualising a product that delivers antiretroviral drugs through a transdermal patch.

The 23-year old Masaiti had the judges eating out of the palm of her hands with her innovative solution which she believes would help maintain drug concentrations within the therapeutic window for a prolonged period of time, ensuring that drug levels remain at an effective concentration. 

According to Godfridah, this simplified medication regimen would lead to improved patient compliance and reduce the side effects, as well as inter and intra-patient variability.

Masaiti’s innovation and passion made her a student category winner who will be representing her country at Europe’s biggest start-up event, Slush 2018, in Finland

While there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there who are making big strides in their communities regardless of the size of their businesses or the different stages of their lives, it is refreshing and inspiring to see more and more women at the forefront.