Great British Entrepreneur award winner Ndemera: ‘If you empower a woman, you empower a village – that’s how powerful women are’

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ENGLAND: After growing up in poverty in Zimbabwe, Fungai Ndemera has built an empire from scratch and has enjoyed a 20-year business career.

Ndemera settled in Wolverhampton with her primary profession being nursing. From there, she started her entrepreneurial journey and has recently launched a health tech business called CheckupHealth.

After realising the challenges bought about by the pandemic for chronically-ill patients, especially those that were ethnically diverse, Ndemere set up CheckupHealth so marginalised patients could still receive health services through the platform.

The Business Desk discussed this years’ upcoming International Women’s Day with the Great British Entrepreneur award winner and how important the day is to her.

Have you faced any trials and tribulations due to being a woman on your business journey?

“On one occasion I needed a temporary overdraft because some clients had delayed payments. My bank manager was on holiday but I had to call him to sort it out as the person serving me didn’t seem to understand what the issue was.

“After this, I then requested that we have a meeting. Four or five men turn up to the meeting, which could have been quite intimidating.

“But it also made me think – this bank doesn’t have any women.

“I have had to build my own way and develop ways of taking control of situations but it is very lonely. I’ve never had a female business commercial manager and that is a problem.

“I’m not saying that men are not supportive of women, but you just don’t find women sitting around the table.”

What can be done to bring women into those spaces?

“Diversity and equality has to be a conversation that organisations have to practice.

“Is it embedded in your strategies? Is it bedded in your policies and procedures? When you preach the word diversity – are you actually considering diversity? Is it embedded into your processes from the way you recruit and the way you make decisions?

What does IWD mean to you?

“I always say if you empower a woman, you’ve empowered a village – that’s how powerful women are.

“International Women’s Day is so important because we have to push these conversations forward, as we are still lagging behind in terms of representation.”

Would you say you’re a feminist and do you think there’s any stigma attached to the word?

“Yes I am, but I agree that there is a stigma attached, so I avoid using the word because of the way the word is perceived.

“The minute you use that word, some people will switch off because of the connotations associated. For me, I use it in the sense that both genders must be treated fairly and equally in terms of the way we view them.”

What message do you want to send out to young women at the start of their careers?

“I would advise them to follow their dreams and don’t be afraid. If I was to look back, of course, I’ve been following my dreams, but I think sometimes I would have allowed my fears to be in the way.

“Failure is only going to make you strong and those are the very important lessons you need earlier on. So fail as much as you can as quickly as possible.

“And then be bold. Boldness is what you need to carry you through any situation and any circumstance, your boldness is really important in confidence.”