Working her way through the ranks of her family owned retail store, Magazine Luiza, Luiza Helena Trajano transformed the company from a retail store in Franca Sao Paulo, into one of Brazil’s leading retailers, now operating over 731 stores across 16 states in the country. Trajano has in the last decade, retained her place as one of Brazil’s leading women entrepreneurs, building and operating a multi-billion – dollar cooperation.

In an interview with Amazons Watch Magazine, Trajano leads us into the world of successful women entrepreneurs and shares with us her watchword in business – ETHICS

Discussing consistency in business, Trajano says: “People First”.

When I reached leadership positions in the network my uncles founded in the late 1980s, the situation was completely different from today, but what always remains is ethics and the need to put people first.

On Innovation and Evolving with the times, she says: do not separate the physical from the digital.

I believe it was the understanding that one should not separate the physical from the digital, but integrate the two. Digital is a culture, and we invested a lot in people so that the whole team understood the meaning of it and how it should act in this new reality. 

Precisely, with this integration, and transformation of the store as a place of experience, integrated with the digital as support for e-commerce. We must always be alert to new changes.

Improving Women’s Access to business financing:

AWM: According to the 2014 International Finance Corporation (IFC) report, Women often bear the brunt of poverty and limited access to economic opportunities, due to unfavorable access to financing. As an experienced business leader and successful entrepreneur, what can be done to improve women’s access to finance?

 Tajano: I believe this scenario has changed a bit in the last six years. Although access to finance is much more difficult for women, some measures have been taken, but impacted by the economic crisis of this period in the country. We need to promote inventive public policies for female entrepreneurship and facilitate and privilege women’s access to funding from public institutions.

AWM: Challenges of Women Entrepreneurship: What are those sentiments that derail the efforts of women in the investment circle? 

Tajano: It is the result of a predominant sexist culture and paradigms that established that women should not occupy leadership positions. Breaking this cycle requires quotas in publicly traded companies for women’s participation on boards. Quota is a transitory process to reduce inequalities. This is one of the steps, but many policies to encourage female entrepreneurship should be taken, as women are increasingly the decision-making center of the family in any purchase or investment.

Her Action on Violence Against Women:

AWM:In 2018, your reaction to the murder of Denise Neves dos Anjos a staff of Magazine Luiza, and her husband led to a well-attended protest. What is the drive that keeps you going?

Tajano: It was not a protest, but a concrete action to prevent further cases of femicide within Magazine Luiza, with internal reporting channels in cases of violence against women and full assistance to victims. The program was so successful that we set out to encourage other companies to do the same, going over the formula we adopted. This sharing is being a success, and dozens of companies are making this system of welcoming victims possible.

On Women Development:

AWM: The Brazilian Group Mulheres do Brasil (Women of Brazil Group) which you lead, today has over 40,000 women. What are the outstanding projects for this group and the successes registered so far?

Tajano: We have dozens of centers in cities all over Brazil and 17 Brazilian women residing abroad. These are not just monthly meetings, but we work intensively through various nuclei, with concrete actions for transformation in areas such as education, health, public policy, refugees, inclusion, racial equality, entrepreneurship, culture, combating violence against women and many others. others.

About Inspirational Leadership:

AWM: Winning many awards as a South American businesswoman comes with its challenges. How do you cope with these are what are the future projects and milestones?

Tajano: I believe winning a prize increases my responsibility to my country and the causes I advocate. My project for 2020 is to continue mobilizing civil society as much as we can so that together we can find a solution to the various causes we advocate.

Her Philanthropy and Access; Trajano says;

I continue to work actively for the company, but in parallel I have been increasingly involved in philanthropy.

I can be reached on Instagram @Luizahelenatrajano

While gender equality in the government sector still proves elusive, and female leadership is almost non-existent in the top echelons of the ruling Communist, some parts of the Asian continent still boast of self-made women who have navigated their way to the top regardless of the unfair economy. Not only are self-made Chinese women growing in global prominence, but the contribution of Chinese women to the economy at all levels has increased greatly in recent years. 

One of the remarkable women on this list of global successes in the midst of hardship is, Zhoe Qunfei, a Chinese entrepreneur who founded the major touchscreen maker Lens Technology Company. She is the Founder and CEO of Lens Technology

When we examine the background of this successful Amazon closely, it becomes obvious that the milestone of success which she has built were primarily achieved through perseverance. Zhoe was a high school dropout and a former factory worker who grew up in a small village in central China. She experienced the hard bite of life as she lost her mum at the tender age of five.  

Her father became partially blinded and lost a finger in an industrial accident.

All these sad experiences were not good enough reasons to make Zhoe Qunfei give up on life. She picked up herself and did all sought of dirty menial jobs to help her family survive through life.

At age 16 Zhoe was forced to leave high school in order to provide for her family. She secured a job at a factory making watch lenses for about $1 a day and through hard work and determination, she struck out on her own at age 22. With only $3,000 in her pocket, Zhou and a few relatives started a workshop, making watch lenses for customers, after she had learnt the trade from a small watch glass making factory in Shenzhen . This then seemed to be the beginning of Zhou Qunfei’s tale of from rags to riches. She paid so much diligence to her glass making factory, so much so that she got involved in every operation of the company and became proficient in each of it, including the repairs and creating improved designs of factory machinery.  

Her companies’ profit sky-rocketed when she took the life changing decision to begin making glass screens for mobile phones. In 2003, she launched Lens Technology, developing the start-up into the touch-screen sector’s dominant player, supplying products made by leading electronics giants including Apple, Samsung and Huawei. As she began to attain these admirable feats, she hit so much bigger challenges, twice she had to sell her house to pay her employees’ salaries, but through much more resilience and confidence she successfully pushed off these barriers on her way to success. Never did she stop learning and making her way out of her predicament. Zhou, found fame after Lens debuted on Shenzhen’s ChiNext A-share market on March 18. In March 2015, Zhou’s Lens Technology had the big boom, and today the company is valued at $11.4 billion and is currently said to have over 82,000 employees across China.

Being a successful entrepreneur with so many people who look up to her, Zhou inspires upcoming entrepreneurs charging them that the key to success is to persevere, especially in most difficult times. Summarizing the success of this business mogul the words “determination and courage” cannot be omitted, since Zhou Qunfei knew how to pull out what she needed from life and not just accepting whatsoever life threw at her.

Zhoe also has a very interesting family life; she married her former factory boss, had a daughter, and divorced. Her daughter is currently studying overseas. In 2008, she married Zheng Junlong a longtime factory colleague who currently serves on the Lens board in the company. They have a seven-year-old son who lives at their Hong Kong family home. The family owns a $27 million estate in Hong Kong.

Zhou has stated that although she considers work to be her hobby, she also enjoys mountain climbing and ping pong. 

Zhou Qunfei’s rags-to-riches story has been credited as an inspiration to the millions of migrant workers in China as she consistently showcases the rare resilience that breeds success. 


The success stories of many women are preceded by a dilemma which often stands as an inspiration to others later.   The ups and downs of life often require a leveler to scale the odds.

Our Amazonpreneur for this week is Victoria Kisyombe, a trailblazer in Tanzania whose story is an inspiration and a pointer to possibilities.

Victoria’s journey to entrepreneurship began after she suddenly lost her husband and breadwinner of the family in 1991. Unlike some widows, Victoria inherited nothing from her late husband, and this made life extremely difficult for her and her three young children.

Victoria had a cow called Sero and that was the only thing she had that could bring in money for her to sustain her home. Victoria began milking Sero and selling the milk to sustain her family. Over a period of time, she was able to put together some money that can rebuild her life. She thoroughly thought of what she could invest on. Through deep thinking, Victoria realized there were women, widows and young girls who were not educated like she was and were worst off financially than her.  She thought of how they were surviving since they had no asset like Sero to survive on. An innovative idea struck and this has completely changed her life for the better.

Thirty-three percent of the people in Tanzania live below the poverty line. Women struggle to open and grow businesses without the collateral needed to qualify for loans. More than 90 percent of women do not own property due to the country’s customary laws, which in most cases supersede other laws; this exclusion propels many women into a cycle of poverty.

Although the situation seemed too difficult, however Victoria saw it as an opportunity to turn around the restrictions in other to accommodate women’s economic participation in Tanzania. She restructured the conventional system of micro-finance in Tanzania so that the criteria for eligibility could allow women with no assets and little business experience take loans to engage in commercial activities to support themselves and their families. In 2002, she opened a micro leasing called SELFINA, which she named after her cow Sero (Sero Lease and Finance Limited). SELFINA was launched in Dar es Salaam and the organisation was involved in loaning and leasing productive assets. The requirement for consideration was the client’s ability to generate cash flow. The leased assets enable women to generate income sustainably, and at the end of the lease a client owns the asset in her own name. It becomes collateral that qualifies her for a traditional bank loan.

Twelve years later, Victoria and her team have provided 25,000 leases to women, USD $16 million in credit, impacted more than 200,000 people and created 125,000 jobs. A repayment rate of 95 percent enabled the company to keep growing; to serve more women and their families.

Up till date, SELFINA has been a catalyst for women’s entrepreneurship, responsible for the launch of a range of small businesses and enterprises. The bank leases just about everything, from tractors, photocopiers, ovens, and livestock, and her clients are a diverse group including florists, caterers, fashion designers, and farmers.

Most of the clients, are rural settlers who are widows and young women who would not otherwise have access to the opportunity SELFINA provides. Victoria has designed a solution that meets her community’s needs, and she has built a model recognized by the World Bank and World Economic Forum.

Her entrepreneurship fuels bigger dreams, bigger goals. “If I can change the life of one person it makes a whole difference because behind that person there is a whole family. It’s a family, it’s a society, it’s Tanzania.” Victoria plans to open offices across Tanzania and has her sights set on expanding to other countries in East Africa.

Miracle Nwankwo

It was an uneventful day in India, but a day to be much remembered in the life of Kalpana Saroj, India’s “Slumdog millionaire”, when her father came to her rescue.

Saroj is a victim of child bride, married off at the tender age of twelve and eventually became a victim of abuse.

She was born in a little village called Roperkheda in Maharashtra, 1958, to a lower middle-class Buddhist family. Saroj’s father was a police constable in another village called Repatkhed in Akola. She lived with her parents and four siblings, which consist of two brothers and two sisters.

Life was meaningful to the beautiful young girl, until she was given to marriage after completing class seven. Having being married off, she moved to Mumbai to live in Thane’s Ulhasnagar slum, with her husband’s family who occupied a 10×5 ft room with 12 to 15 people living under the same roof.

Not only was she subjected to living in a slum, after six months of being married into the family she began to suffer constant physical abuse from her husband and his family. Saroj was beaten by her husband on so many occasions and for very trivial reasons like not putting enough salt in his food. She was shut out from associating with people and was also restricted from maintaining any contact with her family.

One day, Saroj’s father decided to pay his daughter and in-laws a surprise visit. However, instead of surprising them, he turned out to be the surprised one when he came face-to-face with his little daughter and failed to recognise her. She had become very pale and unrecognisable. Without wasting much time, he took his daughter and headed home.

That was a day that marked the beginning of a new dawn for Saroj but not the end to her struggles.

After moving back home, she was ostracized by the village people, who began to taunt her and her family about her return. She faced worse mockery and bully in school from friends and other students living in the same community. Tired of being mocked and ostracized, she decided to take her life by consuming 3 bottles of rat poison. She was rushed to the government hospital, and her life was saved.

Saroj recovered and swore to make a meaning out of her life. She begged her family to allow her move to Mumbai in 1972, convincing them that Mumbai was filled with opportunities of earning. She moved to Mumbai and settled there with her uncle. She started out, working in a garment factory and after some months, she began stitching on the side which brought an added income of Rs 100. Within two years she had saved up a reasonable amount of money that could afford a small house in Kalyan East and she moved her family to Mumbai.

However, a sad situation befell the family. That year, they lost her seventeen years old sister due to lack of medical care. The pain and agony of the dead prompted Saroj to engage further in her pursuit.

In 1975, under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Scheme – a government scheme for scheduled caste people, Saroj received a loan of Rs 50,000 and started a tailoring business in Kalyan alongside a re-sales furniture venture. The business grew successfully and she handed the furniture business to her father while her younger sister took over the tailoring business.

In 1978, Saroj started an association called Sushikshit Berozgar Yuvak Sanghatana, to help the unemployed. Around 3,000 people who joined her association were helped with placements.

In 1980, Saroj remarried Samir Saroj and they had two children a boy and a girl, but Samir died in 1989 and she inherited her husband’s steel cupboard manufacturing business.

She continued to thrive successfully in business and a higher opportunity came to her in what looked like a blessing in disguise. In 1995, a man brought Saroj an offer to buy his land at a very cheap price claiming to be in urgent need of Rs 2.5 lakh, but she offered him only Rs 1 lakh and he took it. After purchasing the land, she realised that it was under litigation and that was why he had sold it so cheap. With no knowledge about land deals she was fortunate to meet the district collector who helped her to sort out the court issues and in two years she got the permission to sell the land.

She gave the land to a builder who built on it at his own cost and she took 35 per cent of the sale of the finished building and gave the builder 65 per cent. This opened her eye to the benefits in real estate and she delved into it.

Saroj continued to prosper in real estate business and she turned out to be a land litigation expert. This new line of business of course came withn its own challenges, including death threats from competitors. But Saroj never bulged.

After a period of time, the property business had a turnover of Rs 4 crore and she moved into sugar production after investing in a sugarcane factory.

Her fame soon spread across and into the ears of the owner of Kamani Tubes, a manufacturing company that supplies copper tubes, rods, LED lights and more, located in Kurla. Over the years, Kamani Tubes had suffered many losses and litigations. The company had been shut for many years when, in 1987, the courts ordered the workers to run the company, but they had failed to do so successfully.

In 1999, the workers of the company approached Saroj asking her to take over the company and fix the mess. Faced with a company with 3,500 bosses, huge loan and 140 cases of litigation and two unions, Saroj took up Kamani Tubes and began work immediately. It was not an easy task all through the process of rebranding the company. Saroj formed a 10-member team, which included marketing people, finance people, bank directors, lawyers, and government consultants. She met with the then state finance minister and all those who had given loans to Kamani. Along the line, the banks agreed to remove the penalties, interest, and also 24 per cent from the principal amount to help her revive the company. After some time, the loans were cleared which also involved Saroj selling one of her properties in Kalyan.

She took over as Chairperson of the company and in 2009 Kamani Tubes came out of SICA (Sick Industrial Companies Act), and in 2010 the company was restarted and the factory moved to another location. There was an investment of about Rs 5 crore into the company by 2011, a profit of Rs 3 crore was achieved. Kamani Tubes is now a profitable company, with a profit of Rs 5 crore every year.

Saroj continued to venture into other businesses including film production.

With over six hundred employees Saroj currently controls six companies; Kamani Tubes Limited, Kamani Steel Re-Rolling Mills Pvt Ltd, Saikrupa Sugar Factory Pvt Ltd, Kalpana Builders & Developers, Kalpana Saroj & Associations, and the KS Creations Film Production.

Saroj has been recognised on various platforms for her hardwork and impact on the people, society and economy. One of such recognisions includes; the Padma Shri award for Trade and Industry in 2013.

She is happily married to Shubhkaran and she currently lives with her family in Mumbai.

Her story clearly explains the wise saying of Winston Churchill that: “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”

By Miracle Nwankwo

Daphna Nissenbaum and Plastics Revolutionization

Good thoughts bring beautiful ideas, innovations, unique inventions and lots of creations. People who do not engage their minds to think are actually living their lives on waters. Wondering if this is true?

Think about the heroes and heroines of today. None of them got their ideas without thoughts, fantasies, imaginations, assumptions and even dreams. But in every act, whether through imaginations or thinking, the mind was engaged.

The entrepreneurial journey of Daphna Nissenbaum started on the platform of deep thinking and productive curiosity. Having received her children back from school on a certain day, she realised that one of her sons did not come back with his bottle of water. She was worried because it drew her attention to the millions of “plastic bottles lying at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years” without any remedy to its usage.

This got her worried and she kept thinking of a solution. She asked herself, “what can I throw into the waste bin without guilt?” this question was all she needed to end her days of worries, the answer was bio-degradable. These are organic matter in waste that can be decomposed into carbon dioxide, water, methane or simple organic molecules by either micro-organisms or other living things using composting or aerobic digestion.

“Then it hit me!” she said, “What if I put water in a bag, a bio-degradable bag? And like an orange, we will eat or drink the content of the package, disposing of the package into the organic waste stream. The package will then decompose and go back to nature. If that happened, I wouldn’t have to worry anymore about my kids not bringing their water bottles home!”

At this stance, she was ready to solve a world environmental problem of pollution. Glad about her remedy, she began to draft her plans.

However, she was the CEO of a research center on capital markets and had worked as a software engineer at different times previously. Venturing into packaging plastics was a new deal for her, but she had this perfect idea of making beverage bags out of bio-degradable. This was new and very big and she was ready to take the bull by its horn by giving it all it takes to bring it to actualization.

She met with her co-founder and discussed her idea to him, they set out to design perfect packaging bags that could be used by school children and students, athletes, adults and many others who consume contents of packaged products. They also went as far as hiring bio plastic experts to help them find the appropriate material that could be used for the bags.

“After six months they came back to us and said that there was no biodegradable material on the market that was suitable for the bags. They suggested we come back in few years and make the same inquiry.

We thought to ourselves: well, humanity landed on the moon, so how difficult can it be to make this bio-degradable bag? We had no idea then, how difficult this could be. That’s how Tipa, our company, was founded,” she said.

Obviously, the establishment of Tipa did not come on a bed of roses it took time, research, energy and a lot to bring Tipa to existence, considering how rare it is to gather degradable. But Daphna had a vision, she was not ready to give up, she knew that it will not only solve the problem of her children littering packaging plastics around but will reduce the amount of waste that is gotten from food packaging industries.

But as she continued to search for measures to tackle the challenge that seems to be limiting her prospective engagement, she realised two key things, “The first was that it isn’t that easy to develop a flexible biodegradable packaging solution.

The gap between conventional plastic and biodegradable plastic is quite big and challenging. The second realisation was that the problem of bio-degradable or recyclable packaging was most prominent in the flexible packaging segment of the market, a segment that is huge and growing.

I then understood that my kids’ water bottles were actually the smaller part of the problem, a drop in the ocean of the packaging industry…” she thought.

Plastics are equipment used by industries to package beverages over several decades, and it is very convenient and easy to use. But the pollution that comes along with them is very deteriorating because they litter the surrounding and cannot decompose even in many years to come. they can only be moved from one place to another put them away will mean burning or burying which are not better solutions either.

A possible solution is recycling but this method is very limited. It is limited to just the rigid packaging, such as bottles. The other flexible packages because they aren’t made from polymer and they are made of several layers of materials, they are not recyclable.

This is a huge problem because the amount of waste that is produced by the food industry is huge, Food-related plastics waste makes up 66% of the volume of plastics waste and 50% of the weight of total packaging waste. Yet there is no appropriate solution to this problem because more food is being packaged and more waste are generated.

This is the point where Tipa plans to dominate. The vision of Tipa is to Create a compostable future for flexible packaging. According to Daphna, “Imagine that your package was just like an orange peel, you eat or drink your food and your package just goes into the organic waste stream. It would decompose in the same way as organic waste and leave nothing (except fertiliser) behind.

Tipa’s packaging is bio-based and fully compostable. It offers a compostable package that feels like plastic, looks like plastic and has the properties of traditional plastic. There’s just one difference – at the package’s end of life, it is fully compostable.”

Nonetheless, biodegradable products are now being produced more than before, in form of waste bags, shopping bags, disposable utensils, etc. So, Daphna’s company is engaged in creating similar compostable plastic and bringing new properties to the material with the aim of “making the experience of choosing Tipa products seamless”.

Tipa’s packaging solution offers a way to treat packaging like an organic waste, like a creation of nature, like an orange peel. This is a new way of thinking and handling our packaging waste. The infrastructure is there – we just have to integrate into it.

I believe that in the future the only place for flexible packaging will be in the food waste stream, and this is where it ought to be. Get into the compost system, decompose, and go back to nature.  Just like an orange peel. In this future world, the piles of plastic that we use for packaging will disappear within a short time. The world will take care of its waste. This is the legacy I would love to leave for generations to come,” said Daphna.

Flipping through the pages of a magazine content containing the list of women whose giant strides in S.T.E.M are unbelievable, I noticed that one woman was distinctly different from the others just by the uniqueness displayed by each person in a particular S.T.E.M field.

Against all the odds, women in S.T.E.M are still excelling and impacting the world with their knowledge and skills in the various S.T.E.M fields in which they operate. They have been encouraging, impactful and very teachable to the worldwide women society.

An example of these women is the amiable Thai Lee, the Owner, CEO and President of the largest female-owned business in America, SHI International.

Thai is a successful woman in S.T.E.M and a wealthy female business leader; she was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1958. Her father was a prominent Korean economist, who traveled the world with his wife and four children, promoting his country’s postwar development plan.

Thai was born during the period when the heat between both sides of Korea was really intense. She is the second girl among three sisters and a brother. During her early years, Thai acted differently from her other siblings, she was focused and a deep thinker, who spent most of her time thinking and planning on her family’s survival.

Thai moved to the United States with Margaret her older sister when she was a teenager, to pursue and further her education. They lived with a family friend in Amherst a little town in Massachusetts, United States.

She attended a high school in Amherst and later enrolled at Amherst College earning a double major BA in biology and economics. During her college days, like most foreigners, Thai had difficulty with her accent and fluency in English. Because she was determined to get the best grade, she avoided any course that required writing and speaking in class. She had always believed that her only chance of becoming a successful person in life was to do business and start up her own enterprise.

She had set her heart on being an entrepreneur and she was ready to go the extra mile without any distraction. Her plans were to devote her 20s, to learning all about business so that by age 30, she would be running her own company and then get married and have kids by age 40.

As sweet and clean as it may sound, it did not end up as she had planned it out, but today she is a renowned successful woman in S.T.E.M.

Thai moved to Korea after college and worked at Daesung Industrial Co. an auto parts maker in Seoul in order to raise enough money to further her education. After some years, she was back in Massachusetts to pursue her MBA in the Harvard Business School and earned her degree 1985, becoming the first Korean woman to graduate from the business school.

After her MBA, Thai started out with a job at Procter & Gamble working on brands like Always and Crest, she worked there for two years and later moved to American Express where she also worked for another two years. The whole essence of working after business school was to help prepare herself for the entrepreneurship journey which she has now built in the S.T.E.M Industry.

Speaking of S.T.E.M, Thai was never interested in technology, all the while she had been dreaming of becoming a self-made business tycoon, she was not looking at the Technology Industry. At the time when she became very passionate about her ambition, she had very little exposure to personal computers and her access to it was very limited.

Thai got married to a Columbia-educated lawyer Leo Koguan in 1989. Having shared her entrepreneurship dream with Leo, he was ready to go all the way with her to see that her dream becomes a reality. Soon after the couple was married they came face to face with a golden opportunity that could make Thai’s dream come true. It had to do with a software company in New Jersey, called Lautek. At that time, Lautek was on the verge of running down, the company had a tiny division called Software House that sold business licenses to run programs like Lotus 1-2-3. During that period the company had lost a large number of its customers and was left with just a few. However, the few customers were big like AT&T with vendors such as IBM.

Seeing the many potential values in its relationships with the vendors, the couple grabbed the opportunity by paying less than $1 million for the purchase of Software House, funding the purchase with savings and a few small loans.

Having bought the business, renamed the company as Software House International (SHI), just the way Thai has always dreamed about it. In the space of few years, with Thai’s vision and relentless hard work, she turned the company around into one of the most successful businesses in America with 3,000 employees.

Under her leadership, SHI has grown into a top-ranked provider of IT products and services. With an industry-high of 99 percent in customer retention. Currently, SHI is one of the largest privately-owned firms in the Industry.

Thai did not get up the ladder in a twinkle of an eye, it took dedication and perseverance amidst challenges for Thai to become a leading female business leader in the S.T.E.M industry and she is still making waves up till date.