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Home » Women innovators talk about their EQUALS-EU experience: Janet Mulu

Women innovators talk about their EQUALS-EU experience: Janet Mulu

Janet Mulu (on the right), with her team member Priscilla Eunita Okutoyi, representing #ImpactDev during the pitch-off session at the final week of EQUALS-EU Summer School. Photo credit: Sandra Guaita

Janet is an International Trade & Sustainability professional working at the intersection of sustainability, international trade and development. As an accredited International Trade Specialist (ITS) and a B Leader (a B Corporation Consultant) she works with organizations to enable them to build responsible practices, providing access to impact measurement measures tools and resources and encouraging global development.

Functioning as an accredited trade facilitator, Janet actively guides discussions on trade and sustainability topics, showcasing her commitment to fostering sustainable development on a global scale. Janet’s proficiency extends to providing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and sustainability advisory services. She ensures that organizations not only meet industry standards but also make meaningful contributions to the communities and environments in which they operate. 

Janet has a background in tech and has majorly worked within the international trade and development fields. Her dynamic career reflects a dedication to both economic development and sustainable business practices, establishing her as a driving force in international trade and corporate responsibility. 

Janet participated in the EQUALS-EU Hackathon in the UK back in July 2022 where she developed together with three other team members an innovative mobile application solution that ranked as the first-runner up based on jury evaluation: Simupal – a business concept placing a significant emphasis on promoting circularity through Mobile-application to promote use of pre-owned smartphones, fostering financial and digital literacy, with a particular focus on empowering economically disadvantaged women.

Following the hackathon, Janet joined the mentoring programme in September 2022 and further participated in the three-week summer school programme held in Riga, Geneva and Valencia respectively during summer of 2023. Based on learnings obtained through ‘Simupal’, Janet successfully launched her business #ImpactDev which ranked among the top three at the pitch-off session where participants presented their tech innovation ideas to a jury of experts.

We interviewed Janet to hear about her experience with EQUALS-EU.

Q1: Everything started with your participation in the hackathon last year. What was your main motivation in joining this event and how did your hackathon experience help you to move forward with your innovation process?

When I came across the hackathon details, I was convinced that this would definitely be a good platform that I could use to contribute to delivering positive change while gaining knowledge and support on building innovative solutions. 

Through encouraging entry of participants who would be curious about the use of technology for global growth and access to the disadvantaged communities across the world, the hackathon ensured that the solutions were inclusive in their approach and going beyond borders.

Q2: What were your main takes from the mentoring process following the hackathon? How do you see the role of such capacity building activities in empowering young women in their entrepreneurship and innovation journey?

Having achieved a first degree in tech in earlier days but missed the opportunity to work in tech, I was curious to see the interplay of business and tech and how I could contribute towards building innovation that reinforces tech as a force for good. Engaging with mentors who share their passion for technology reinforced my enthusiasm for their field. 

Additionally, the mentoring process enabled me to get granular in developing effective problem-solving strategies, by learning how to break down issues, analyze them critically, and arrive at innovative solutions that can be replicated and used in the business world encompassing international trade where I have worked for over a decade.

Q3: What were the most inspiring and beneficial aspects of your summer school participation? How was your pitch-off experience?

Firstly, the hands-on technical workshops were a standout feature. These sessions provided practical insights into the latest technologies, allowing me to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios. This experiential learning not only enhanced my technical skills but also instilled a deep sense of confidence in tackling complex problems. The access to industry experts and seasoned mentors from all over the world was invaluable. Their insights into current trends, best practices, and personal anecdotes added a rich layer to my understanding of the tech landscape and building of successful businesses.

Networking opportunities were abundant, connecting me with peers who share a passion for technology, social innovation, and entrepreneurship. Engaging in discussions, sharing ideas, and building relationships with like-minded individuals has expanded my professional network, opening doors to potential collaborations and future opportunities. 

Lastly, the tech summer school served as a gateway to a vibrant community. Beyond the structured curriculum, the informal interactions, hackathons, and tech talks created a dynamic atmosphere that fueled my enthusiasm for technology. I have also since been able to contribute widely to policy on gender transformation matters. 

Participating in the pitch-off was an incredible journey that I was both excited and slightly nervous to embark on. It was a unique opportunity to present my ImpactDev idea to a panel of esteemed judges and, in some cases, a diverse and engaged audience.

One of the challenges I encountered during the day with my team was adapting to the time constraints. Condensing the essence of my ImpactDev idea into a concise and impactful presentation required thoughtful consideration of every word and visual element. Receiving feedback from the judges was incredibly valuable. Whether it was positive reinforcement or constructive criticism, every comment provided insights that I could leverage to refine and enhance the businesses. 

Q4: Can you tell us a bit about your innovative idea #ImpactDev that you developed during your EQUALS-EU journey? What are your plans for the future and how will EQUALS-EU experience help you in turning this idea into success?

ImpactDev was created to simplify sustainability. We enable organizations to define their purpose, achieve their sustainability goals and effectively measure their impact for maximum business efficiencies and growth. 

We also connect businesses to emerging impact measurement technologies which are critical to enable businesses to seamlessly and effectively meet their ambitious sustainability goals.

We have launched the businesses and work with partners such as SDG WISE and B LAB AFRICA to fast-track building of responsible businesses. 

As I reflect on the pitch-off, I am eager to implement the lessons learned and refine my approach for future opportunities. This experience has solidified my passion for social innovation, particularly enabling gender transformation within the sectors I support, and I am excited about the journey ahead.

Q5: What can you tell girls and women who would like to choose a career path in the technology sector and innovation?

I would encourage girls and women to embrace their passion. If you have an interest in technology and innovation, follow that passion. Your enthusiasm will drive your commitment and success in the field. More specifically: 

  • Believe in your abilities: Believe in yourself and your capabilities. The technology sector welcomes diverse perspectives and talents, and your unique contributions can make a significant impact. Have confidence in your skills and abilities.
  • Build a supportive network: Connect with other women in technology and business as well as mentors and allies. Building a supportive network can provide guidance, mentorship, and a sense of community. Networking also opens doors to various opportunities.
  • Contribute to diversity and inclusion: Actively contribute to fostering diversity and inclusion not only in tech but in building human-centered design. Your unique perspective adds value, and promoting diversity leads to more innovative solutions and a healthier work environment.

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