Home Inspiration Inspiring Woman of the Month Colleen Larsen – inspiring women of the month

Colleen Larsen – inspiring women of the month


Colleen Larsen is the epitome of the modern South African woman – far removed from the trials and tribulations of the generations that preceded her.

For Colleen, life is about balance. How do you acquire and hold a marriage, be a caring and dutiful mother, and yet set out and achieve your desires when it comes to your business and professional life. Having a large dose of stamina not to mention die-hard commitment to your ideals certainly helps.

Colleen is the epitome of the modern South African woman – far removed from the trials and tribulations of the generations that preceded her.

For Colleen, life is about balance. How do you acquire and hold a marriage, be a caring and dutiful mother, and yet set out and achieve your desires when it comes to your business and professional life. Having a large dose of stamina not to mention die-hard commitment to your ideals certainly helps.

Life as a young girl growing up in the Southern suburbs, and later the West Rand was not always easy.  At the age of six Colleen抯 mother and father divorced and the family, including an older brother and sister had to draw on all their resources and inner strengths.  But as they say, the difference between winning and losing, is quitting!

Image Starting to work part time at the age of thirteen did not hamper her schooling, where she passed matric with university exemption.  However, university was not forthcoming and she joined the rat race fulfilling various marketing functions.

In 1987 Larsen took time off to au pair in Canada and the USA, having to return home when she left the USA for London only to find she could not get back into the States.

On her return she launched her insurance direct marketing career working for various large institutions until deciding that working for a boss was not in line with her aspiration.  In 1993 she launched her own direct marketing company.

In the late nineties and early into the new millennium life took a new meaning.  She met and later married her current husband Malcolm, diversified her business interests and became passionately involved in women and small business empowerment and upliftment.

After forty-five years of many ups and downs in her life Colleen is living proof that if you live your life to its utmost, remembering it is not a dress rehearsal, you can only end up with one result. The life that you want.

Being a born and bred Johannesburg girl, Colleen prefers the hustle and bustle to the quiet life.

Colleen was involved with the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN), an initiative of the Department of Trade & Industry (dti) to support women owned SMMEs. She was Chairperson of the Board of SAWEN Ltd, a Section 21 company set up by the dti to control the affairs of the network. She was instrumental in the establishment of the SAWEN national strategy, organisation and the constitution. She has also assisted many women entrepreneurs requesting advice regarding their businesses.  Certificate from Colleen recently received a Colleen resigned her positions in SAWEN to concentrate on setting up new empowerment structures.

In 2005, Colleen became the founder and CEO of the National Association of Women in Employee Benefits, which later widened its scope to become Women in Finance (www.womeninfinance.co.za) in November 2005.

Women in Finance is a non-profit organisation that collaboratively develops individuals and business owners through training, networking, mentoring, conferences, exhibitions, entrepreneurial development and support.

Colleen is directly responsible for the provision of products and services which Women in Finance offers members and potential members and associated.  Over the last year she has grown the organisation to receive support of the following corporates and government agencies : FNB, Microsoft, Imara Asset Management, Business Partners, IFC, ABSA and SEDA.  In an independent study recently conducted by IFC, the service delivery of Women in Finance was rated as 4,63 (4 being good, 5 being excellent).  The next organisation on the list had a rating of 4, then 3,8 and 3,6.

In line with Colleen抯 personal philosophy, Women in Finance is a totally inclusive, collaborative organisation that does not exclude anyone on and grounds whether on racial, gender, qualification or turnover.

Colleen is also the founder of United Businesswomen of South Africa (www.ubsa.co.za) which is an organisation that promotes interaction between women business organisations in order to achieve real business opportunities for women.  Through this organisation, membership of Business Unity South Africa has been achieved.

Over the years Colleen has been invited by various organisations to provide input in terms of the empowerment of women, young and old. She was invited by the previous Deputy Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry Lindiwe Hendricks to be a judge at the dti Phenomenal Women Award held in September 2004.

Citigroup, the world抯 largest financial services company, invited Colleen to be on the National Advisory Council for the Global Micro-entrepreneurship Awards held in November 2005 and then in 2006 again, under the auspices of the United Nations.

She was a 2007 Nominee for the Passing the Torch Competition ?Financial Services Sector – in Gauteng.

She was nominated as a judge for the 2006 Enablis R10m Business Plan Competition and fulfilled this role once again in October 2007.

She was a judge in the Standard Bank/Technoserv Business Plan Competition held this year.

In 2007, Colleen initiated a Conference and Exhibition called Showcase Your Business (www.showcaseyourbusiness.co.za). This is a short, powerful learning experience that equips business owners with the practical skills they need to grow their companies, whilst giving them the opportunity to attract new business.

The programme will become an annual showcase for entrepreneurs to not only learn practical skills, but to collaborate with other entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

To provide SMMEs with greater support and access to a central point where information and opportunities may be found, Colleen concluded a satellite license deal with Intelligent Business Systems Group International SA to provide an affordable, interactive portal to small businesses (www.bizvault.co.za).  IBSGI is an internationally listed organisation and the deal concluded is worth 3,2 million dollars.

Colleen co-ordinated the Investec Young Women in Finance programme on financial literacy held on 7th July 2008, was a judge in the 2008 BWA Regional Business Achievers Awards and Colleen was a nominee in the Shoprite Checkers Businesswomen of the Year Award 2008.

Colleen, we salute you!

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