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Entrepreneur Update: Figen Çakır, Figgi Yarns

By | News, Rebecca Self
Figen and team  PepsiCo Istanbul 2012

Figen and team
PepsiCo Istanbul 2012

We love hearing back from business owners after they’ve completed the 6-month Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Partnership Program, especially when they’ve taken the strategic advice and lessons from the program and used them to grow their businesses in new and unexpected ways.

This month, Figen Çakır, founder of Figgi Yarns in Gölcük, Turkey reports:

Within a few months of completing the program, I moved from a small office to a shop. At our last meeting, the Turkish members of the PepsiCo team were insistent about acquiring domestic sales (instead of relying 100% on export).

I was unable to find a reliable distributor so I decided to be a retail shop myself. In the last two months since opening I’ve sold as much Chic yarn locally as I have in six months overseas! Of course the price is much more ‘local’, but sales volume is higher and the product is moving faster.
I’ve also got local brands, but Figgi Yarns are prominent and have been a huge hit. The next step now is to set up a Turkish online sales website. It is no trouble to manage production, design and export sales as before. I have hired a part-time shop assistant who deals with the shop, so I am not speaking to walls anymore!

Figgi storeIt’s a small space and I’m also using it to warehouse some of my stock so excuse the messy appearance!

I do themes for the window dressing every month which apparently is a novelty in Turkey for yarn shops! I think it’s the

window which attracts people to it, usually yarn shops in Turkey have piles of yarn packets stacked against their windows. I’ve got a local woman working part-time, it has been a godsend for her to contribute to her home and the local community relate to her better than they do to me, so her presence has increased customer volume.Figgi store

Overseas sales has seen a drop, the Greece retailer has gone bust – their own recession problems – and the UK is suffering again. However, it’s always been up and down and local sales are a sustenance – the Chic cotton yarns have made a real splash locally and have been selling madly. Amazing.

Unbelievable that it’s only been less than a year since we met in Istanbul and so much has happened so quickly in between! I’m so grateful.

Figen, you’ve done a great job with a new strategy, storefront, hiring your first employee and developing yourself as a businesswoman. We look forward to hearing more about what’s next for you and Figgi Yarns.

International Women’s Day: Meet Susan Mashibe

By | News, Rebecca Self



Susan Mashibe remembers the moment she decided to become a pilot. She was 4 years old in Kigoma, Tanzania. She stood holding hands with her grandmother, watching as her parents’ plane took off.

“If I could fly that plane,” she thought, “they would not leave me behind ever again.”

Susan can also tell you about the moment she saw her first 747. She was 10 years old then, and standing at the Dar es Salaam airport, just above the current site of VIA Aviation – her own company’s office there.

It’s been quite a journey from her childhood in Mwanza and Dar es Salaam, to working her way through Western Michigan University, becoming Tanzania’s first female FAA-certified pilot and mechanic, to now owning and running VIA Aviation, dedicated to providing outstanding private jet handling and hangar services.

inside Kili Hangar

Mashibe founded VIA Aviation (formerly Tanzanite Jet Centre or TanJet) over 10 years ago. The company provides aircraft handling, clearances and ground support, security, and fuel in Dar es Salaam. At Kilimanjaro International Airport, VIA also has 80,000 square feet of hangar space. The company is currently rebranding for expansion from Tanzania across the African continent.

Susan exemplifies the entrepreneurial journey: “I have no fear,” she’ll tell you.

What she does have is deeply-held passion and conviction, first for aircraft, and then for proving that business can be conducted professionally across the African continent. She shares that commitment in this short video:


VIA Aviation from African Leadership Network on Vimeo.

VIA Aviation1How we support women entrepreneurs like Susan Mashibe
Over the years Susan has needed different kinds of support to build the business infrastructure VIA Aviation has required. At the Trestle Group Foundation, this is exactly the kind of entrepreneur we seek to serve. The world over, women are following their dreams and serving needs in their communities. They are visionaries, and learning fast to build the required business infrastructures for their organizations. This includes everything: accounting systems, marketing and communication, advanced strategic decision-making, valuation and more. They haven’t got time to learn each area of business themselves or take years off for MBAs.

At the Trestle Group Foundation, our function is to connect passionate, engaged women entrepreneurs in emerging markets with professional expertise in sponsor organizations. We believe that together, empowering women entrepreneurs to build thriving businesses, we support economic development and social progress.

As part of an innovative partnership with Equity Bank, Swisscontact and SCBF, Susan has been paired with a self-nominated, 20+ member, cross-functional team at Credit Suisse. The bank features this program as part of its commitment to skills-based volunteering. On Monday, 10 March, Susan will be a featured speaker in Zurich to honor International Women’s Day.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Changes the World for the Better
Research shows that empowering women entrepreneurs in emerging markets has a multiplier effect in their communities, fueling economic growth and social progress. Vital Voices’ outstanding publication Groundbreakers: Using the strength of women to rebuild the world economy includes the following:

In the book, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World (2007), former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright cites the economic benefits of investing in women, pointing out that women reinvest 90% of their income in their families and communities, compared to men who reinvest only 30% to 40% of their income.

Susan Mashibe is an outstanding example — both as a role model for young Tanzanian girls and because one of her primary commitments is to give back through schools in the community where she grew up. We’re proud to do whatever we can to support her great work and commitment.

Susan w students at hangar


To find out more about VIA Aviation, see their Web site: VIA Aviation.
To learn more about the Empowering Women Entrepreneurs program, contact us.


Photos courtesy of Credit Suisse’s Evelyn Guyot and Louisa Freer, and Susan Mashibe and VIA Aviation.

Trestle Group Foundation & Credit Suisse Empower Tanzanian Women Entrepreneurs

By | News, Rebecca Self

The Trestle Group Foundation operates on the principle that empowering women entrepreneurs in emerging markets drives economic development, growth, and social progress. Our most recent partnership program in Tanzania illustrates first-hand the impact of working with women at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey.

Mwanahawa Maporo & Anne Inderbitzin

In connection with Equity Bank and Swisscontact, Trestle Group Foundation and Credit Suisse have teamed up for the second year. Four high-potential or high-performing flagship entrepreneurs have been paired with executive support from  Credit Suisse. Through Equity Bank, 500 women will have access to early-stage training. The program links executive expertise, financial capital, networks and resources, building a sustainable community of women entrepreneurs across Tanzania.

From a small retailer in Mwanza to a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader servicing private jets from Kilimanjaro International Airport, an architect-turned-developer to heavy investment in stone crushing for concrete aggregate, this year’s flagship entrepreneurs demonstrate courage and commitment as they grow their businesses.

Trestle Group Foundation and four Credit Suisse executives traveled this month to Tanzania for field visits to the businesses:

Mwanahawa Maporo runs Pink’s Quality Collections, a small ladies’ clothing retail shop on a central street in Mwanza Town. Though her background and training are as a journalist, Mwanahawa has a vision, and is committed that her clothing shop will expand to the new shopping mall in town. She needs a solid small-business infrastructure in place. Mwanahawa is paired with Credit Suisse Vice President Anne Inderbitzin (pictured at right).

Getrude Mahity & Marion Schmid
Getrude Mahity started out with a small bar-b-que and bar on a dirt road near Mwanza Town. Now she has over seventy full-time employees and has invested heavily in 20 acres of land outside Mwanza for a stone crushing operation. The equipment was recently imported from China. Getrude’s team seeks strategic advice as they launch the new business. She’s poised to create jobs and build infrastructure. Her Credit Suisse team lead is Marion Schmid (pictured with Gertrude here).

Of the team’s visit, Getrude said, “Your visit is a miracle to us! We are so young a company having an Executive delegation visit from outside Africa. We thank God for bringing you around, that our plan comes to reality.”

Subira Mchumo w/group

Subira Mchumo has run an architecture practice in Dar es Salaam for over a decade. Now she’s transitioning into real estate development, starting with an apartment building in a busy commuter suburb just outside town. Subira’s meetings with Credit Suisse and Equity Bank executives have highlighted the need for documented clarity around her business model and vision. The team will work together with her to document these, under the leadership of Credit Suisse’s Sylvia Kunnos (far left with Subira and the group at right).

Susan Mashibe & Louisa Freer

Susan Mashibe dreamed of being a pilot for Delta airlines. After September 11, 2001 she found herself returning to Tanzania as the first female dual certified pilot and aviation mechanic. Her company, VIA Aviation, services private jets and is in rapid growth mode, with plans to expand to 20 countries in Africa. Susan will work with the team to establish decision-making criteria to evaluate incoming offers and opportunities. A Credit Suisse team will work with her on her business plan, and numerous networking connections will move her toward valuation of her business.  Here Susan is pictured in Dar es Salaam with her Credit Suisse counterpart, Louisa Freer.

Susan will also be featured in Zurich during Credit Suisse’s programming for International Women’s Day.

Susan’s reaction to our first team call was, “I’ve been on a lot of these types of programs, and this one fills an unserved need I want you to know it’s important work.”

For the team at Credit Suisse, the program provides a rich and rewarding internal networking opportunity. Team members will come from across functions and organizational divisions to work together for the first time. It’s a skills-based volunteering engagement that gives back.

Cinzia De Martin Bär, Credit Suisse Diversity & Inclusion Switzerland, said, “Our  employees  -the coaches – are  so excited and I really think it has to do with the great time they spent in Tanzania working together to support the women entrepreneurs. They are having the time of their life, which of course makes us  happy too.”

Turns out empowering women entrepreneurs in emerging markets empowers women executives in Zurich, too.

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Trestle Group Foundation Welcomes New Strategic Advisor Marcia Ayacaba

By | News

Zurich, Switzerland – 24 February 2014 – Trestle Group Foundation (TGF) today announced the addition of new strategic advisor Marcia Ayacaba to the Foundation’s team.


“I am passionate about creating environments where business and people can thrive,” said Ayacaba. “Collaborating with the Foundation was an obvious step for me, she continued. “TGF programs comprise all that I believe in, joining the power, scale and talent pool of corporations with the spirit, vision and drive of entrepreneurs with the purpose of supporting the one economical group (working women) that, if empowered, can truly bring about transformation in the world.”

Marcia has extensive international corporate experience managing cross-functional and multi-cultural teams, which is the pillar for her consulting work on inclusiveness and facilitation.Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, United States, Marcia is the co-owner of BizFoundry Inc.– a boutique management-consulting firm.

Marcia’s corporate career includes expertise in supply chain management facilitation, capability development, trade marketing and finance, both for Fortune 50 FMCG and luxury goods companies.

While at PepsiCo, Marcia invested significant time in several programs to benefit individuals’ health, wellness and impact. She focused on topics including work-life balance, sustainability, diversity and inclusion. Marcia received a Diversity and Inclusion Award for her groundbreaking work around women representation and cross-functional collaboration.

“We are very please to welcome Marcia to the team,” said Dana Brice Smith, Trestle Group Foundation Co-Founder & Managing Director. “We were fortunate to work directly with Marcia on our first partnership program with PepsiCo Europe that supported entrepreneur Rana El-Akhal and her Jordan-based Medal Consulting,” he continued. “She understands first-hand the benefit of delivering shared value by engaging leading organisations to help empower women entrepreneurs in emerging economies.”

Prior to BizFoundry Inc. and PepsiCo, Marcia worked for Bvlgari in Switzerland as a trade-marketing specialist for the accessories division. She lived the fast-paced fashion world life, circling the globe to curate custom assortments and organise showrooms in Paris and Milan to present collections to international buyers.


Meet the Panelist: Liselotte Hägertz Engstam, HCL Vice President, Nordics

By | News

LiselotteWe’re pleased to introduce the sponsor representative of this year’s Annual Trestle Group Foundation Event at the Widder Hotel 18 September, Liselotte Hägertz Engstam, HCL Vice President of the Nordics.

Liselotte is an international executive with passion for innovation and leadership. She is currently responsible for HCL’s business in the Nordics and has quickly established HCL as the fastest growing Technology services & IT services company in Nordics.

HCL is a global technology and IT Enterprise that operates in 31 countries. Its headquarters is in Noida, India.

HCL’s well-respected and Harvard-endorsed Employees First philosophy helped fuel a surge in the company’s growth over the past five years, including during the depths of economic downturn.

Prior to HCL, Liselotte contributed more than 20 years in various international leadership positions at IBM, including start & expansion of several new service lines. She has extensive multicultural experience leading operating units and teams in the Nordics, Europe, the US and Asia. “Liselotte is a dedicated and innovative leader with a passion for business who is thrilled with challenges and sees solutions even in complex scenarios.”

We look forward to introducing Liselotte to our large and growing Trestle Group Foundation community, and take this opportunity to thank HCL for its generous sponsorship of the 7th Annual Trestle Group Foundation event at the Widder Hotel 18 September, 2013.

Meet the Panelist: Fatma Riyami, NatureRipe Kilimanjaro

By | News


This is the 200-acre mango orchard in Tanzania’s coastal Mkuranga District where most of Fatma Riyami‘s NatureRipe Kilimanjaro mangoes are grown. It started as a family getaway spot where she and her husband would go with their four kids.

The mangoes started as a family hobby; Fatma’s background is in finance. Then in 2000 the family had so many mangoes moving through their kitchen, they exported 1 – 2 tons per week to Dubai!


Fatma at the NatureRipe nursery.

They’ve gone from being the first Tanzanian exporter of mangoes to manufacturing and distributing a product range including processed mango products (pickle, sauces), roasted nuts, and packaged nut products.

Family-owned NatureRipe Kilimanjaro maintains a nursery of over 50,000 mango seedlings and other plants for sale. The company is in growth mode, with annual turnover expected to double from 2011 – 2013

Through the Trestle Group’s Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Partnership Program, a Credit Suisse executive team addressed Fatma’s primary challenges including: review of business plan, cash flow analysis and review of product line profitability, as well as providing valuable connections to new markets and distributors. For Fatma Riyami’s NatureRipe Tanzania, the Credit Suisse analysts recommended the company’s focus should be on expanding the exportation of the cashew product line, not the original mango products. The team also connected Fatma with potential international distributors, with whom she is in ongoing dialogue.

At the conclusion of the program Fatma said, “Through this program, I’ve realized I had priced my products for only 10% of the potential market. I didn’t realize I was pricing myself out of a large and growing middle class local market.”

We look forward to introducing you to Fatma at our September 18 event in Zurich. Welcome to Switzerland, Fatma!

Meet the Panelist: Bemi Okorodudu

By | News, Rebecca Self

At the Trestle Group Foundation offices on Limmatquai in Zurich, we’re gearing up for our 18th September 7th Annual Event featuring a panel of executives and entrepreneurs from recent partnership programs.

Credit Suisse’s Bemi Okorodudu recently worked with an entrepreneur in Tanzania through a Trestle Group Foundation Partnership Program.

Bemi is a Senior In-House Consultant in the CFO Program Services department of Credit Suisse and a certified Lean Sigma Black Belt practitioner with extensive project management experience. She started her career in London and relocated to Zurich in 2007. She is a certified accountant, earned a BA in French and German, and holds a post graduate diploma in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics. She is passionate about diversity and mentoring, plays an active role in the Credit Suisse Multicultural Forum and is a mentor in the CFO and Women’s Network mentoring programs.

Here’s what Bemi had to say about Credit Suisse’s participation in the Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Program:

Meet the Panelists: Figen Çakır

By | News, Rebecca Self

In preparation for last year’s Annual event at Zürich’s Widder Hotel 18 September, the Trestle Group Foundation’s very first entrepreneur, Luna Shamsuddoha, reflected on her experience six years earlier, saying, “It’s given me so much confidence as a woman in technology. I’ve seen a change in myself. I can’t stop talking about education. I’m heard in many places — in government, in NGOs, in Universities — saying, ‘Girls should study science, math, English.’ It’s the Trestle Group Foundation program that gave me the confidence to be in these positions.”

Our most recent entrepreneur, Figen Çakır of Figgi Yarns in Golcuk, Turkey reports the same:

“A lot of things have changed since we began just a few months ago. The most important thing is how I approach the people I do business with and how I communicate with them. My PepsiCo coachVera’s amazing insights and support has changed me a lot. The Foundation’s belief in me is beyond valuable. I’ve conducted my first successful negotiation with a supplier – I just waited him out – and have also found a new spinner at much lower cost.”

In Figen’s case, the results are tangible. The team from PepsiCo Europe has created a brand toolkit complete with new mission statement, a digital strategy, and a robust financial dashboard that’s clarified her primary strategic focus for the coming years: increase sales volumes.


We’re thrilled to have Figen and several members of the PepsiCo team join us at the September 18 7th Annual Event. For more information, contact us.

Meet the Foundation’s Voice: Katie Ledger

By | News, Rebecca Self

Katie LedgerThe Trestle Group Foundation is thrilled to announce that for our 7th Annual Event, former BBC journalist Katie Ledger will lead a panel of executives and entrepreneurs from recent Foundation programs.

If you’ve followed our work over the years, you’ll recognize Katie’s voice. She’s the narrator of every film we’ve produced. What most viewers don’t know is that Katie has been a supporter and participant in our work and growth from the very first partnership, when she trekked through Dhaka, Bangladesh with our founder, Dana Smith, to capture Luna Shamsuddoha’s story on film. Of the experience Katie says, “I have never seen such determination and courage by a female leader, in a traditionally male industry against a backdrop of such unrelenting poverty.”

“I believe business has the potential to solve much of the world’s suffering. Many female entrepreneurs instinctively understand this and use their social & emotional intelligence help people, profit and the planet.”

We’re pleased to introduce Katie to you in person September 18th at the Widder Hotel, downtown Zurich. For more details, please contact us.


* Special thanks to our generous event sponsor: HCL.

Trestle Group Foundation Partners with Global Private Equity Platform

By | News

Zürich, Switzerland, August 7, 2013 – Trestle Group Foundation has the pleasure to announce its partnership with global private equity platform DealMarket.

Trestle Group Foundation’s mission is to empower women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies by providing vital executive human capital support. is an online platform enabling private equity buyers, sellers and advisors to maximize opportunities around the world – a one-stop shop for PE professionals.

This unique partnership provides a critical bridge between women entrepreneurs seeking support and the Foundation’s search to identify high-potential women entrepreneurs in emerging economies to participate in their programs.

As a second stage, the DealMarket platform allows qualified entrepreneurs to access the investment community.

“Identifying talented women entrepreneurs to support can be a challenge,” said Dana Brice Smith, Managing Director, Trestle Group Foundation. “The DealMarket platform will help make the process more efficient and allow us to reach a greater audience,” he continued. “Particularly exciting is the second step, which allows us to provide access to financial support through the investment community – this is always a critical challenge to be addressed for our entrepreneurs.”

“We are excited to be able to provide a comprehensive solution for Trestle Group Foundation,” said Urs Haeusler, CEO, DealMarket. “Our technology will be of great benefit in developing a comprehensive overview of women entrepreneurs in emerging markets and provides an efficient bridge between financial support required and the investment community.


You can directly support Trestle Group Foundation by sharing this information with women entrepreneurs in emerging economies or with individuals who have access to entrepreneur networks.  Forward today and be part of the movement to create both social and economic progress for women entrepreneurs!

About Trestle Group Foundation

The Trestle Group Foundation is an innovative non-pro­fit organization dedicated to creating and expanding sustainable economic opportunities by supporting high-potential women-led businesses. Built on a new model of non-profi­t support, and guided by the belief that entrepreneurship fuels the engine that drives economic opportunity, growth and social progress, the Foundation works to empower women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies. For more information, please visit:

About DealMarket

DealMarket is an online platform enabling private equity buyers, sellers and advisors to maximize opportunities around the world – a one-stop shop for PE professionals.

DealMarket’s offering includes:

  • DealMarketPLACE, an unfiltered view of the global deal and advice marketplace, where searching is free and postings are the price of a cappuccino a day (with no commission).
  • DealMarketSTORE offers affordable access to industry-leading third-party information and services on demand; and
  • DealMarketOFFICE is a state-of-the-art deal flow management tool, helping Private Equity investors to capture, store, manage and share their deal flow more efficiently.

Competition for deals is intensifying, raising money is becoming tougher and the industry is becoming more global. Market participants are demanding greater transparency and connectivity – and DealMarket is the solution. Designed by PE professionals for PE professionals, the platform is easy to use, cost effective and secure, providing access, choice and control across the investment cycle. For more information, please visit:


Dana Brice Smith

Trestle Group Foundation

T: +41 43 500 17 41

[email protected]

Alexander Groschup


T: +41 43 888 75 33

[email protected]