Top six award winners lauded

[caption id="attachment_36941" align="alignright" width="405"] STELLAR WOMEN: The winners of the Businesswomen's Association's (BWA) Regional Business Achievers Awards held last night are, back from left, Areli Veg owner Sarisa Ferreira, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University senior director of institutional planning Professor Heather Nel and Remax Independent Property owner Kobie Potgieter and, front from left, Joanne Anthony Incorporated owner Joanne Anthony, Ubuntu Educational Fund academic support programme coordinator Thina Maqubela and Access Management chief executive Chantal du Pisani. Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI[/caption]

SIX businesswomen received top honours last night when they were acknowledged for their successes at the Port Elizabeth Business Women's Association's (BWA) glamorous annual Regional Achievers Awards.

Selected from a pool of 18 impressive finalists, the 2014 category winners were Access Management chief executive Chantal du Pisani (corporate), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University senior director of institutional planning Professor Heather Nel (government), Remax Independent Property owner Kobie Potgieter (entrepreneur), Areli Veg owner Sarisa Ferreira (emerging entrepreneur), Ubuntu Educational Fund academic support programme coordinator Thina Maqubela (social entrepreneur) and Joanne Anthony Incorporated owner Joanne Anthony (professional).

Potgieter said the BWA was a fantastic platform where women's contributions were recognised.

"We learnt from each other's successes and failures and made wonderful friends during the competition.

"All of the finalists are worthy winners," Potgieter said.

Social entrepreneur winner Maqubela, who at 24 years old is the youngest finalist, said she felt very intimidated in the beginning of the competition but soon relaxed when she met the other wonderful women who were also finalists.

"It is incredible to meet women who have objectives similar to your own. I am programme coordinator of a project where girls in rural areas are helped with career guidance," Maqubela said.

More than 90 businesswomen, not necessarily BWA members, were nominated this year from a wide range of industries, with the 18 finalists and ultimately six winners assessed and selected through audited judging processes.

The final panel of independent judges represented a broad cross-section of leaders in business, government and civil society, BWA Nelson Mandela Bay chairwoman and BWA South Africa vice-president Michelle Brown said.

Brown said the association's flagship event marked 35 years of celebrating "the courage, achievement and leadership of South African women in business".

She said: "The calibre of our 2014 RBAA winners and finalists is exceptional and we at the PE BWA branch are so very proud of what these women have achieved, and will continue to achieve, beyond this initiative."

The guest speaker at the glittering evening affair was South African talk show hostess and entrepreneur Dr Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, one of South Africa's most influential and inspiring businesswomen.

Mabuza-Suttle, who now lives and works in the United States, said she was particularly proud that the BWA made education of girl children its primary focus.

The PE BWA runs a number of outreach programmes aimed at supporting and uplifting schoolgoing girls in the region.

Its programmes include an annual Grade 12 workshop. - Cindy Preller

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