Our Story

Women Empowerment. We shape our future by learning from the past and building on the reason for our existence.

The SACBW is proud of its 35-year legacy – a brand with a strong heritage carved out by trailblazers. The Council was founded by strong women who fought for a rightful place for business women on a male-dominated stage and in doing so, paved the way for generations of women in business. Join us as we celebrate the milestones and women who helped shape our story.


A South African first:
The Johannesburg Business Women’s Club

The club was established in 1985 by a brave consortium of women who challenged the status quo: A world ruled by men and in which women did not have equal rights.

A home for our women:
The National Council for Business Women

As other cities started to follow Johannesburg’s suit, it became necessary to create a home where all these business clubs’ efforts could be united. Hence the founding of the National Council.

Our very first President:
Rika Venter


Mover and shaker Rika Venter, who became the National Council’s very first President back in 1988 and sadly passed away on 23 August 2022.

The first five

Proving that women empowerment needed a go-to place in business, five Business Women’s Clubs were established across the country, by 1992.

Recognising our business women’s achievements

In 2003, the National Council for Business Women took over the renowned Business Women of the Year Competition from the Johannesburg Business Women’s Club. Ever since, this competition has literally become life-altering for the nominees and winners involved, who i.e., doubled their turnover due to the public recognition and exposure.

Our Gala Evenings:
Celebrating in style

On an annual basis, the Council hosted illustrious gala evenings during which the winners of the Business Women of the Year Competition were announced. Originally, these events took place at the famous Johannesburg Sun Hotel.

Kotie Botha:
Making her voice heard amongst men

In 1992, our then President Kotie Botha, held a function at RAU, which attracted top speakers from nationwide. One of the female speakers voiced her opinion about the fact that high riser buildings did not provide female restrooms on top floors, as the belief was that women would never make it to leadership positions anyway.

Matty Reid:
Waking women up to the cold, hard facts

Winner of the 1988 Entrepreneurial Business Woman of the Year award, Matty Reid, publically tackled a controversial women empowerment topic: That women were not allowed to do anything on their own, without the permission of their husbands. This includes owning a business, taking out a loan and even having their own tax number.

Splitting off and forming its own entity

In 1990, the Johannesburg Business Women’s Club seceded from the Johannesburg Business Chamber. To do so, the women first had to explain to the male management in charge of the Chamber, what the purpose was of this “women thing” they were busy doing.

Theresa van der Merwe:
Speaking at the AHI, now SBI

In 1993, George Huysamer from the “Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI),” which is now the Small Business Institute (SBI), approached the National Council of Business Women to lead one of the four talking points at one of their congresses. Theresa van der Merwe was selected by the Council and she made us proud by delivering an outstanding speech on the topic of entrepreneurship.

Pat Gorvalla:
A true inspiration

In 1991, Pat Gorvalla from Cape Town won the Entrepreneurial Business Woman of the Year Award. She was originally a teacher who needed to supplement her salary, so she came up with the idea to offer a weekend taxi service. Her ‘weekend business’ soon earned more than her fulltime job and within a record time, she owned 22 taxis and four S Class Mercedes Benz vehicles. This inspired her to become a serial entrepreneur who started up several other businesses, including a petroleum- and panel beating enterprise, as well as a hair salon and florist, to name but a few.

Thelma Mathamelo:
Embracing diversity

In support of our country’s Constitution, the Council actively made work of involving women of all ethnicities and belief systems. In 2010, Thelma Mathamelo became the first black President. Since then, a multitude of black business women has seen the value of joining the Council and currently, Erikka Motang from Liel Consulting also serves as a Member of the Board.


Considering the rapidly-changing business landscape, the Honourary Life Members realised that it is time for the Council to evolve too, to effectively lead our women into future business. As a result, a National Leader, Elise Coetser, was appointed to lead the Council into a re-engineering process which ultimately places the reason for our existence; our “Why,” right at the heart of all activities.

Women Empowerment – Our Past Presidents

1988 – 1990

Rika Venter


Annique Theron


Kotie Botha


Erna Pretorius

1994 – 1995

Retha Nel-Rossouw


Theresa van der Merwe

1997- 1999

Winda Austin-Loeve


Rita Aucamp

2001 – 2003

Hermine Wilken

2004 -2005

Janine Myburgh

2006 -2007

Diana Becker

2008 – 2009

Elise Coetser


Thelma Mathamelo

2010 – 2013

Melinda Stark


Hester du Bruyn


Cerita Nagy


Honorary Life Members Executive Committee


Honorary Life Members Executive Committee


Elise Coetser


Hester du Bruyn


Hester du Bruyn

2022 – 2024

Hanlie Delport