In the spotlight: Some enterprising Women Entrepreneurs from Malta
#MaltaEntrepreneurs #EmpoweringWomen #MediterraneanStartups
In the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta’s entrepreneurial landscape is not only a burgeoning hub for startups, but is also witnessing the gradual rise of women entrepreneurs eager to create an impact. In a nation with just over half a million residents, Malta’s promising startup ecosystem, which welcomes expatriates and pioneers alike, is encouraging an increasing number of women to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys.
While Malta’s startup environment is still in its infancy, it offers a supportive atmosphere and strategic geographic positioning. Being an EU member, entrepreneurs here gain seamless access to the European single market. The island’s location facilitates connections with Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East (through regular air & sea routes to major cities).
However, the participation of women in Malta’s entrepreneurial realm hasn’t yet reached its full potential. National statistics from NSO Labor Force highlight a gender gap, with women constituting only 14 percent of the entrepreneurial landscape. These numbers underscore the need to further empower and encourage women – to participate in the startup surge and contribute to the tech ecosystem that Malta is nurturing.
Here we dig into the stories and experiences of women entrepreneurs in Malta who are shaping the island’s startup landscape and driving innovation, highlighting their unique challenges and inspiring journeys.
> Sarah Woods, Co-founder, SHE
Launched in 2017, SHE Co-founders Sarah Woods and Julia Perry developed an idea to bring similar women together in a safe, inviting and inclusive space. The community is essentially a hub for women seeking inspiration and encouragement in life and business. And, yet it is also so much more!
The growing popularity of the community’s networking events on the island of Malta, has unearthed a sense of belonging and sisterhood. Sarah Wood’s professional background is rooted in marketing (with particular focus in graphic design) and events both in Malta and in a leading hotel in Dubai. With a sharp eye for detail, she enjoys nothing more than the organization, set-up and design of a SHE Malta Networking event. A fitness and health enthusiast, Sarah set up her popular blog – Fit Malta Mums in 2016 which featured independent and wellness-related businesses, with an emphasis on the women behind the brand, as well aspromoting and reviewing new products on the local market scene.
With the launch of SHE Malta she utilized her experience in events management and previous work with Fit Malta Mums to grow a community of business women. Coincidentally, in November 2018 Sarah was awarded the JCI “Entrepreneurial Accomplishment” for SHE Malta.
> Laura Taylor, Founder, Taylor Maid Vintage
Actually, the idea of setting up a vintage shop came to Laura Taylor, after her mother died in December 2020. And, trying to cope with her mother’s loss, life took her ahead to set up a website and to build a strong online community that shared a love for unique vintage pieces. Now, she runs her colourful store in Sliema, selling a variety of clothes.
Taylor picks up every garment found on her clothing racks, sourced from different countries. Searching for pieces, Taylor always looks out for quality and uniqueness, with a particular lookout for brands such as Gunne Sax, Laura Ashely and Yves Saint Laurent.
While it is a lengthy and costly process, she felt it is worth it.
> Giselle Borg Olivier – CEO Zaar Crowdfunding Malta, Owner at Content for Success & Foundation Manager at Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives, (FPEI) Malta
In an age where we are familiar with WFH after COVID hit us, Giselle Borg Olivier, General Manager of Zaar Crowdfunding, admitted that she would be reluctant to hire someone who only wanted to work remotely.
While acknowledging that remote working had its advantages, she felt that a potential employee who never wanted to come into the office would raise red flags for her. Working from home doesn’t allow for teamwork. There’s no interest in the company’s culture; and colleagues are simply names over email or faces/voices on a screen for a prescribed amount of time. There’s nothing beyond getting the job description done! Her preference was for flexible working conditions that allow one to work from home when necessary with an office base to come together in.
A self-declared word-nerd with a love for writing, she offers marketing communication services through her freelance business ‘Content for Success’.
> Claire Pisani, Senior Finance Director, TEVA Pharmaceuticals
It is significant that Claire Pisani won the third edition of the Malta Businesswoman of the Year Awards in 2021, in appreciation of her exceptional role in supporting Finance EU and Solids Manufacturing & Supply Operations (SMSO) for TEVA Pharmaceuticals (Malta) as Vice President.
Her tenacity and determination were vital in supporting site operational leaders by developing strategic and operational plans, ensuring delivery of short and long-term goals and conducting comprehensive analytical reviews to connect operational excellence. The designated sites produce 60 billion tablets supplying markets all over the globe, within the EU, USA and Asia, with a revenue of USD$5 billion.
> Krystle Penza, Founder, Mvintage Jewels
Krystle Penza was applauded as the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020 – for inspirational leadership she demonstrated during her 15 years of rich experience in fashion brands, brand management, distribution, wholesale, retail and franchising.
When she first started her business Mvintage, she played many roles. She was the acting salesperson, accountant, operations and product manager, striving to ensure that her product line, which is inspired by local cultural values, meets the highest standards.
> Leonie Baldacchino, Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship
Leonie Baldacchino has many angles to her credit. And, her crowning glory is – education. She holds a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship from Warwick Business School (UK), an M.A. in Creativity and Innovation and a B.Psy.(Hons.) from the University of Malta; and she is an Associate Professor at The Edward de Bono Institute for Creative Thinking and Innovation at the University of Malta, where she held the post of Director from 2013 to 2022.
She wears many hats – she coordinates various entrepreneurship-related incentives at the University of Malta, including the Global Entrepreneurship Week events hosted locally by The Edward de Bono Institute, and she sits on various Boards and Committees at / for the University of Malta, including the Edward de Bono Institute, the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation, the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives, the Institute of Earth Systems, the University Research Ethics Committee, and the SEA-EU (European University of the Seas) Quality and Ethics Committee.
Plus, Professor Baldacchino is also an Associate Editor at the Journal of Enterprising Communities (Emerald), an Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Strategic Change (Wiley), a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Creativity and Innovation (ISSCI), and the OECD’s country (Malta) expert on inclusive entrepreneurship.
Her research focuses on different aspects of entrepreneurship and creativity, and has been published in various places including the Journal of Management Studies, International Journal of Management Reviews, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, International Review of Entrepreneurship, Journal of Creative Behaviour, Journal of Intelligence and in edited books by Routledge, Springer and Edward Elgar.