‘Go out into the world and make a difference’

Prodigy: Joana Baptista won the Young Star prize at the Women of the Future Awards 2017.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? On top of her studies, sixth-former Joana Baptista has already founded three companies. She talks to The Day about tech, coding and women in business.

“You can be entrepreneurial in any sector,” Joana Baptista declares — and in her short, yet diverse, entrepreneurial career she is certainly living up to that maxim.

Her first business idea? An interactive attachment for toothbrushes. “It was designed for children to help them improve their brushing,” she explains. “There was a game, and also incentives so you could win prizes. It came from an article I read which said that two thirds of eight-year-olds show signs of tooth decay.”

Baptista was just 12 when she came up with the idea, but it was good enough to win a university enterprise competition: “The prize was to go and pitch to real investors, so suddenly we had to turn a week-old project into a real business.”

Her second company was an app to help university students organise grocery shopping: “That was great because it combined my passion for business but also my enjoyment of technology and coding.”

And it is technology where she sees particular opportunities for teenagers: “It’s such a great space for young people to be in because it’s so easy to learn how to code,” she explains. “There are so many free platforms online, and it’s something that doesn’t involve any cost — apart from your own time.”

Although, for her latest project Baptista has taken things offline, developing a series of children’s picture books with her friends. “Each book takes a modern twist on a classic fairy tale. We rewrite it to tackle issues such as sexism, homophobia, racism and discrimination.”

“I’m very passionate about getting girls involved in business and STEM,” she continues. “People tend to look at women and think they are not sure what they’re doing, whereas men have a lot of confidence.”

Nevertheless, Baptista points to the many inspiring female role models for young people: “My greatest idol is Karren Brady. She runs a football club which is definitely a male-dominated space… I also look up to someone called Anne-Marie Imafidon — she’s doing amazing things at the moment for girls in in STEM.”

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Bright spark

“Embrace failure,” Baptista says. “You are never going to go through life without making mistakes, so it’s important not to look at failure as a negative: you can spin it on its head and make something positive out of it. But the most important thing is to take calculated risk. You don’t need to have everything checked off your list, you just need to go for it — take the opportunity and just run with it.”

“Finally I would say, make connections and build a network,” she continues. “Your network holds lots of resources that you might need… you need friends to lean on, but also to let them lean on you too.”

You Decide

  1. Should everyone be taught how to code?
  2. Should we feel excited or worried about the future of technology?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have been tasked by Google to create a new app to help people complete an everyday task. In pairs or small groups discuss some ideas. When you have a good one, give the app a name, a logo, and write a one-minute pitch describing what it does. Share it with the class.
  2. Watch the Anne-Marie Imafidon TEDx Talk by following the link in Become An Expert. How does she use language to make her point effectively? Do you agree with all the points she makes? How can more girls be encouraged to study STEM subjects?

Some People Say...

“Hard work will always bring opportunities.”

Karren Brady

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In terms of higher education, the number of women graduating in STEM subjects has risen slightly from 22,020 in 2015-16 to 22,340 in 2016-17. However, due to growth in the number of men graduating in these subject areas, the percentage of women graduates has dropped from 25% to 24%. Computer science has one of the lowest proportions of female graduates — women accounted for just 15% of graduates in 2017.
What do we not know?
We do not know how this will change in the future. With initiatives encouraging women to take up STEM subjects, and the growing popularity of computer science as an area of study, these figures may rise.

Word Watch

Maxim
A short statement expressing a general truth or rule to be followed.
Competition
More recently she was also awarded the Young Achiever of the Year award by Women of the Future. To find out more about her work or to get in touch, see the link in Become An Expert.
Homophobia
Dislike of or prejudice against gay people.
STEM
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Women are underrepresented in jobs in these fields — see the Wired link in Become An Expert for more.
Karren Brady
English businesswoman, politician and media personality. She is also known as “The First Lady of Football” after she was appointed managing director of Birmingham Football Club at the age of just 23. When the team was promoted she became the first woman to hold a club directorship in the top league of English football.
Anne-Marie Imafidon
English, computing and maths prodigy. See her speech on women in STEM by following the link in Become An Expert.