“I can only please one person per day and today, I choose myself”.

It all seems daunting in the beginning. “What would they think? How can I possibly be so selfish? Perhaps I’m too old for this. I don’t think this is relevant right now. I have it all together, this sure is not for me.” These are normally the harsh truths expressed at the beginning of the course. But to us, all that matters is that this is not how the story ends, as a matter of fact, this is exactly how it all began.

Start-Up Women is a programme designed by a  group of incredible and passionate women for women between the ages of 20 and 40 years old, from all backgrounds facing and encountering different phases of their lives by embarking on this journey of empowerment and self-discovery. 

Christine Taphel (Co-Lead and programme designer), had this to say about how it all started:

“In December 2015, I remember this day as if it happened yesterday. Immense excitement across the table, ideation flowing from all directions, laughter and certainty that this programme is sure to unlock the truths of any woman willing to enhance their future. In the process, we discovered the secret in making anything successful, requires for one to be authentic and open to change. I mean, who best to create the content than the persons who have experienced it themselves and this is the approach we took. What a rollercoaster experience it has been. Along with like minded and passion driven women, we developed this programme as a pilot in testing various methods in self empowerment and discovery at its most basic level and shared experience. We are all about Making Hope Contagious and we could not have done this without putting our plans into action. “

Below is an overview of topics covered during the 5 weeks as well as the 5 challenges given to the women:

Week 1


Week 1 Topic Making Connections and Networking. The opening session of Start-Up Women included a “rejuvenating your senses” experience comprising of having #1. Head, Neck & Shoulder Massage, #2. Mini Mani and #3. Real Talk. This allowed the women to be pampered, have some “me time”,  experience a positive form of touch and get to know the facilitators via having a one-on-one chat. The second part of the session introduced the women to Making Connections: firstly with oneself and then with others using Social Media. Challenge #1 – Approach a stranger with a random request and ask them 3 questions.

Week 2

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Week 2 Topic Finding Yourself and Your Place, Life Relations. After receiving feedback from the women on the  previous week’s challenge, they went straight into the Finding Yourself and Your Place session using Lego Blocks as a creative method in doing introspection and being able to express themselves. Life Relations was the topic in the 2nd session for Week 2 and we found that the women were eager to share how they related to others as a woman, mother, daughter, granddaughter, niece, aunt, sister, cousin, colleague, role model, etc. Through this exercise they also had to rate themselves on a scale from 1-10 on how they relate to finance, career, travel, social life, health, family and friends. This was tough task as it is not common to do this type of reflection everyday and having to take time to think about yourself in these various roles and how you relate to these aspects of your life. The women were also encouraged to go even deeper into the self discovery experience by thinking about what advice they would actually give their younger selves. Challenge #2 – Using the 5 love languages to implement a love language with someone close to you.

Week 3


Week 3 Topic The Internet of Things and Transacting & Engaging Online. This was an introduction to the internet and world wide web and then taking a closer look at the internet of things as a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. The women were then introduced to transacting online and exposed to various online platforms that allows transacting and engaging online to be an easy process and not as daunting as previously perceived. As an example of online and mobile transacting they were introduced to Zlto (A virtual currency with a purpose that impacts lives). This is one of RLabs innovations and all the women signed up to the platform and earned Zlto immediately. They were shown how to earn and spend online. Challenge # 3 – Using the virtual currency they were asked to spend and earn.

Week 4

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Week 4 Topic Self Concept vs. Self Empowerment and Leading Ground Breakers. The women took a deeper look at the difference between Self Concept and Self Empowerment. The session ended with a quote: “Some day everything will make perfect sense, so for now laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a REASON”… unknown. The 2nd session for the day focused on Leading Ground Breakers. Challenge # 4 – Goal Setting.

Week 5

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Week 5 Topic Stand Out and Be Outstanding. The final week was the most powerful week and a culmination of all the previous weeks rolled into 1. For the first step the women looked at dreaming and allowing oneself to dream by being blindfolded and spending some time in nature. The next step was using paint to create a piece of art that depicts their dreams of past as well as the future and how they feel about it now. While their works of art was drying, they then started answering these questions: How do you stand out once you’ve fallen? What does it mean to fall emotionally? Do you value your own input in things? Why do we feel unworthy or not good enough? What really matters? And finally they concluded by coming up with these easy steps: Investigate, Clean-up, Embrace and Stick to the Plan.  The women ended the week by proudly showcasing their art pieces and said their goodbyes to RLabs facilitators as well as the new friends they made over the 5 weeks. The final challenge that was given #5 Allow yourself to Dream Again!

The unfolding of this 5 week programme has not only surprised the facilitators but the students as well. And the feedback received has been positive with a few key recommendations in making this programme better for the next group of women. The approach was one of constant learning and design which evolved with each class and each person’s unique experience.

Written by Rene Parker

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