Women Entrepreneurs Lead on SDGs

Joan Lurie Goldberg, ICJW Representative to the UN in NY, reports on an event about women entrepreneurs and sustainable development.

The NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY held a meeting on March 1 entitled “Women Entrepreneurs Lead on SDGs”. The meeting was a pre-CSW62 discussion by a panel of women entrepreneurs with successful businesses which are in support of SDGs.

Welcome by Margo LaZaro and Sheima Sweiss of the NGOCSD-NY Board of Directors.

The first speaker was Ambassador Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations. He emphasized that the Sustainable Development Goals are the key to development in a world threatened by climate change. He enumerated several SDGs (especially SDG 8) which are particularly relevant to entrepreneurial activity. One disturbing point that he made was that a systemic bias against women has kept women from full empowerment. He believes that if women are given equal access to land and to financial resources, the result will be much less global hunger; “women’s economic empowerment is a force multiplier”.

The situation of women business people in the third world:

  • Most women with businesses have tiny enterprises
  • Only one fifth of medium size companies (50 to 100 employees) are owned by
  • Most women owned businesses are consumer oriented, small profit service companies.
  • Women are also underrepresented among bank account holders
  • We must remove barriers to women’s access to financial services!
  • There are also gender gaps in access to technology and to land ownership. In Vanuatu, they are working to encourage women to take on non-traditional jobs. There is also an effort to give better access to financial resources to women.

Dena Makawi was the moderator of the panel discussion which followed. She is passionate about fashion and about the SDGs and has held a fashion show at the UN in which all the fashions were made sustainably.

Five very interesting entrepreneurial women described their businesses.

• Christine Dimmick, Founder and CEO of The Good Home Company started out
with a conventional career in advertising but was “unfulfilled”. Her company works
to sell products that are non-toxic and sustainable. She believes that women in
business do things men cannot because women are nurturers, negotiators and

• Pooja Bavishi, founder and CEO of Malai has always loved desserts; made her
first one at age 10. She has a background in public policy and urban planning and
has gone to India to help women own land by giving them access to water. Her
present company, just two years old, makes ice creams using the flavors of her native
India. The ice creams are sold in some Whole Food stores and other outlets in NYC.
She is very careful to make sure the sources of her spices and other flavors are

• Jen Forman, Founder and CEO of Charlotte’s Closet, always thought it was
wasteful to buy a new dress for every event in a teenager’s life. She has started a
“sharing company” which is the first to market in teen rentals. Her mission is to have
young women become more environmentally aware while also growing self-esteem
by renting beautiful dresses. Each dress is borrowed an average of 15 times before
being donated.

• Kim McDonnell, Founder of Thankful, had a 25-year career in advertising and
marketing in her native Australia. She always wanted to make people thankful and
travelled the world talking to psychologists. She has created a commercially viable
and sustainable business selling multiple products. Each time a product is purchased
a donation is made to an appropriate cause. For example, if her company sells a
beverage, a donation is made to help clean water. 30% of all business is funneled to
her 501C3 which then channels the money to the right cause. Her foundation,
“Create Thankful Moments”, works on campaigns which fight violence against
women and work for better treatment of migrants.

• Manal Kahi, co-Founder and CEO of Eat Offbeat trains refugees who were home
cooks (in NYC) to be chefs. She then sells meals they create to companies,
conferences and other catering customers. She arrived in the US from Lebanon in
2013 as a student and thought NY hummus was inferior so she imported her Aleppo-born grandmother’s recipe. From that beginning she now has 30 chefs from 17
different countries in her company. All started as home cooks in their native
countries. She has three goals”

  • Create quality jobs for home cook refugees
  • Build bridges from the refugee community to New Yorkers who eat the food
  • Change the narrative around refugees; they are people who help us eat better.All in all, five very impressive, well-spoken women!