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Celebrating Success: Claire Blackenberg and Zama Ngcobo on Their Award Wins at the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Women Award

It has been almost a year since Claire Blanckenberg and Zama Ngcobo were honoured as the winners of the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award and Bold Future Award, respectively. Launched in 1972, the Bold Woman Award is imbued with the enterprising spirit of the Maison’s leading lady, Madame Clicquot, and celebrates female entrepreneurs who share her values of determination and fearlessness. With entries now open for 2024, we sat down with last year’s laureates to hear what life, and business, have been like since joining the Bold community.

“I've always been a fan of Veuve Clicquot,” says Zama. “When a brand you’ve long admired and believed in, also believes in you, that was a full circle moment for me.” Zama is the Founder of WMN Attorneys Inc., a boutique commercial law firm that provides specialist advice in male-dominated industries – including infrastructure, natural resources, and technology. She explains that the award reinforced what it means to be an entrepreneurial woman. “As a construction lawyer, I advise in male-dominated industries, so the exposure was invaluable for me and my firm,” she adds. “But it's also given me access to spaces where we embrace femininity within the workplace amidst the stronghold of a male-dominated industry, uniting in strength and softness as formidable female forces.”

Zama Ngcobo

Claire’s sentiments echo this, saying that being awarded was something of a watershed moment. “It’s lovely to be recognised, not just for the work I’m doing, but also for being the woman that I am,” says Claire, whose company Reel Gardening has revolutionised home food cultivation and food security in South Africa, through an innovative embedded seed tape system. “I didn't win the award because Reel Gardening was a great idea or I had a patent, I won the award because I'm a bold woman and I have built a mission-driven business that uplifts other women,” she explains.

Since July last year, Zama and Claire have been empowered to steer their respective businesses into new chapters through mentorship provided by the jury panel. Claire has been focused on growing her team and enabling them to make day-to-day decisions without her so that she can spend more time on bigger-picture plans and establishing longevity systems. “Since I've won the award, we've hired an additional 12 people,” says Claire. Along with a growing team, Reel Gardening has experienced global expansion, too. Following a successful launch into Singapore, the company has some very exciting new regions in the works. “Because of all these developments, I’m taking more time to focus on strategy,” Claire explains. “I’m working to understand the bigger picture and plot the map while not necessarily having to be the one behind the steering wheel all the time,” she laughs.

Zama Ngcobo WMN Attorneys

Zama’s schedule has also changed somewhat. “Before the award, I was a lawyer who happened to be running her own business, and I was sitting at my desk negotiating agreements pretty much all day and all night,” she says. During the Bold Woman Award adjudication process, Zama says that mentorship from the jury panel profoundly changed her trajectory. “The judges evaluated my business, my life, and my ambitions, and what they told me was ‘you've proven yourself as an attorney, now it's time to take a step back from being a lawyer, put on your businesswoman hat and look for growth opportunities to start expanding’,” she explains. This growth mindset has shown up in her firm, through expanding her expertise to advise on mergers and acquisitions within sectors the firm currently services, advising tech startups, as well as through business opportunities across Africa, London, and China. “The platform Veuve Clicquot created through the awards and the Bold Open Database puts businesses like mine on the map, on a global scale, and also gives us access to each other,” Zama adds, explaining what else is behind the growth that her business has experienced.

Claire Blanckenberg

Reel Gardening and WMN Attorneys Inc. have both seen immense growth since their founders joined the global Bold community. This shift doesn’t come down to the award, its exposure, and advice from the jury panel alone, but rather how the Bold platform has cemented the founders’ place in an empowering international community, allowing them to connect with other like-minded, inspiring entrepreneurial women from around the world. Blazing the trail for others to follow in their footsteps, both Claire and Zama are committed to supporting women in business.

Claire Blanckenberg Reel Gardening

Internally, Claire is committed to equipping her all-woman management team with the tools to run the business effectively. Meanwhile, externally, she’s exploring new avenues to share her insight with other aspiring female founders. For Zama, successful growth lies with a knowledgeable team, so she’s implemented training programs to encourage the sharing of expertise while honouring her commitment to her work and contributing to several NPOs and social organisations.

Before winning their respective awards, Zama and Claire were both successful in founding innovative businesses. Since becoming Bold Women, they’ve secured their roles as fearless entrepreneurs, encouraging future generations of women to do the same. South African businesswomen who are ready to be recognised for their remarkable achievements are encouraged to enter the 2024 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award by completing a simple form via Entries close on 7 May 2024.

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