The Brains Trust

UnitedSucces is a lean all-inclusive organisation that remains true to the original vision and values of the Founder, Corinne Heijn. The organisation is demand driven and therefore listens very attentively to the feedback and requests of the UnitedSucces community and all other interested parties. In order to remain objective and always ahead of global trends, UnitedSucces has selected extraordinary women with diverse and exemplary expertise to form The Brains Trust.

It is an honour to introduce  Jenny Elissen, Marilou van Golstein BrouwersWendy LuhabeSharron McPherson, Barbara MowatCarole Wainaina and Monique Maissan. See their brief biographies below. UnitedSucces is grateful to harness the wisdom and experience of The Brains Trust.

“To me, entrepreneurial women, are a great promise to this new world.”
Jenny Elissen
Jenny Elissen

Professional creative business strategist and entrepreneur Jenny Elissen worked, campaigned and developed new products and services for 28 years. She worked for most of the world’s biggest and well-known brands, first as a marketing professional and later in various senior management positions, including CEO of the TBWA company group. Her promotion to CEO was “the most rewarding and the most difficult period in my career. I could operate it with ease but had difficulty leading it the way I was expected to by senior management at Omnicom.” By the end of 2003 Jenny felt it was time to move in new directions.

After 2 years of soul searching and studying, Jenny founded NewGenes, a business innovation network for positive impact. NewGenes helps brands and entrepreneurs to stop solving problems with new problems and create world changing business shifts in food, infrastructure, finance and healthcare. The basic thinking behind her company is available for readers to peruse in a book she co-authored with David Smith in 2011 called “perfect world principle”.

Always working for the “greater good” Jenny worked on national and international boards, to enable fundraising campaigns, to audit and connect the project and process excellence of NGO’s with savvy business entrepreneurship. She has a myriad of interests that range from girls and education to microcredit for women, fair-trade and even conservation of our natural habitat. She is an informal investor in eco-tourism, green gold, permaculture and circular economy initiatives.

Jenny says she is “grateful to live in this time where every systems falls and we just don’t accept the rules of the game anymore.”

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“I see finance and investing as an important catalyst for change”
Marilou van Golstein Brouwers
Marilou van Golstein Brouwers

Marilou van Golstein Brouwers is Managing Director of Triodos Investment Management BV, a subsidiary of Triodos Bank. This Impact Investment Management Company manages funds investing in Emerging Markets, Energy & Climate, Sustainable Real Estate, Arts & Culture, Sustainable Food & Agriculture and SRI. Total assets under management at year-end 2012 amount to EUR 2.2 billion.

I am driven by a passion to contribute to a more just and equitable society and care for the earth as the source of all life. I see investing as a way to realize change. After my study in business economics and my first jobs with Cargill and private and investment banking, I wanted to combine my passion with my work and I joined Triodos Bank in 1990 where I managed the first green investment fund. Later on I set up funds investing in microfinance and fair trade in emerging markets. In the past ten years I have served on the Board of Directors of SME and microfinance banks in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was a member of the Group of Advisors for the United Nations Year of Microcredit in 2004/2005 and a member of the Executive Committee of CCAP (2003-2008). I was treasurer of the International Association of Microfinance Investors (2008-2009). In 2003 -2012, I served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Women’s World Banking. I am currently Chair of SBI Ltd, Chair of Steering Committee of the PRI/Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance, Treasurer of the Max Havelaar Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of Triodos Sicav II, Triodos Sustainable Trade Fund and Triodos Renewable Energy for Development Fund. I am also on the Advisory Board of Women in Financial Services in the Netherlands (WIFS).

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“Experienced Board member, Thought leader and Social Entrepreneur”
Wendy Luhabe
Wendy Luhabe

Wendy Luhabe has extensive board experience in Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Corporate Governance and Human Capital Development in both the private and public sectors. She is most known for her pioneering social enterprises, one in developing effective Human Resources Strategies for companies to improve productivity and performance and two for the economic participation of women, through a Portfolio Investment Company and a Venture Capital Equity Fund for women.

She is an Author, an accomplished public speaker, thought Leader and is deeply passionate about Leadership, Mentorship and Women’s development.

She is currently an advisor to The Big Break Legacy, an initiative to make South Africa an Entrepreneurial nation. She is also on the Supervisory board of the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. She is a recipient of 3 honorary doctorates and a member of the International Council of Business Women Leaders initiated by Ms Hilary Clinton, on the Economic Empowerment of Women.

She is married, has a son and two grandchildren and is an aspiring harpist. She travels extensively on speaking engagements and her International board commitments.

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“I’ve become a ‘special advisor’ to a number of multilateral and multinational institutions”
Sharron McPherson
Sharron McPherson

From the very beginning, I have been driven by a deep passion for community upliftment utilising enterprise development. I began working in the area of enterprise development back in 1988 when I approached the NY State Bar Association for special permission to do my own “pro bono” projects. I began working with women from severely disadvantaged backgrounds in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Utilising my banking, tax and law connections I helped to establish community-owned and operated businesses.

I left my position as a Wall Street investment banker in 1995, relocated to South Africa and have essentially operated as a banker cum lawyer turned social entrepreneur as head of the Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative since that time. In addition, I have channelled approximately $500 million in direct foreign investment into small and medium enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. I’ve become a “special advisor” to a number of multilateral and multinational institutions including the IFC, World Bank, SA Reserve Bank, the African Presidential Roundtable, the British Commonwealth Secretariat, Citibank and Shell Corporation.

I love to write, am a published author and also teach finance at the Africagrowth Institute which is housed at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. I sit on a number of boards of organisations and institutions committed to investing differently in women, including New Faces New Voices, a pan-African initiative that is being spearheaded by Mrs. Graça Machel.

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“An international leader in the development of SME enterprises”
Barbara Mowat
Barbara Mowat

Known as a trade and international business development specialist, Barbara Mowat is President of Impact Communications Ltd. and GroYourBiz.. Impact is a multi-faceted consulting company that features management training and consulting and international product, business and market development for the global marketplace. She created the well-respected Uniquely Programs, that assisted 12,000 Canadian entrepreneurs access increased markets; created and owned a national magazine, a retail store and an e-commerce site. She is an international leader in the development of SME enterprises, and her work has assisted entrepreneurs and facilitated trade throughout Canada, South East Asia, USA, South America, Europe, Afghanistan, India and Africa.

In a public service capacity, Barbara devotes considerable time and energy to sit on a number of boards and committees concerned with issues of promoting business development. She is the Women Presidents’ Organization Chapter Chair in Vancouver for two chapters, along with several GroYourBiz chapters for women business owners wanting to make their first million. She is also a TEC-Canada Chair for Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners. Multi-award winning Barbara continues to devote time as an Advisory Board Member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs. She is a certified woman business owner of WEConnect Canada, as well as an Ambassador and member of UnitedSucces, and a Global Ambassador for TIAW (The International Alliance for Women). By invitation, she sat on the Global Membership Circle for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

Her achievements have been acknowledged with several awards, including:

  • 2010 Governor General’s Awards recognizing individuals who have helped to advance equality for women and girls in Canada
  • Winner of the of the 1993 Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Impact on the Local Economy
  • Recipient of the 2011 TIAW Global World of Difference Awards for the advancement of women’s economic and social empowerment, plus many more.
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“I care deeply about the education and development of girls and young women. I have seen first-hand what a difference it makes.”
Carole Wainaina
Carole Wainaina

Carole Wainaina is the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Department of Management at the United Nations. Carole has a wealth of global experience from various senior leadership positions including human resources strategy, leadership development, change management and driving organisational transformation. She has more than two decades of national and international, corporate and non-profit leadership experience. Carole started her career as a management consultant at Price Waterhouse in Kenya, after which she moved to the Coca-Cola Company where she held various positions in Africa, Eurasia, Europe and the United States over the course of 13 years. Prior to her UN appointment she was the Chief Human Resources Officer and member of the Executive Committee at Royal Phillips in the Netherlands.

Carole is passionate about Leadership, Women, Youth and Africa. She loves to participate actively in community initiatives, particularly in support of the education and development of girls and young women. She was for two years the President of the Young Business and Professional Women’s Club in Kenya and continues to leverage her experience to provide career counselling for girls in high schools as well as inspire women from all walks of life to be the best they can be. She is a board member of the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership and on the Global Board of Advisors for Operation HOPE Inc: a non-profit private banker for the working poor, the underserved and struggling middle class. Their mission is to be the best provider of financial literacy empowerment for youth, financial capability for communities, and ultimately, financial dignity for all. Carole is also an angel investor who supports women entrepreneurs through investing, coaching and mentoring.

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“I am passionate about creating a new “circular economy”, sustainable standard in textile.”
Monique Maissan
Monique Maissan

Monique Maissan is a China-based Dutch entrepreneur, specialising in high quality woven and knitted garments. She is the driving force behind Vision Textiles, Waste2Wear® and Waste2Weave. Monique founded Vision Textiles in Shanghai in 1998 which has evolved from a wholesale trader to a manufacturer with offices in India, Malaysia, the USA and Europe and its own factories in China and India. Monique has 25 years of experience in the textile industry and is passionate about creating a new “circular economy”, sustainable standard in textile.

Waste2Wear® and Waste2Weave produce eco-friendly fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles. This special process involves turning environmentally damaging waste into useable, sustainable yarns. The latest sustainable product is “the green pillow” made from 82 Recycled Plastic Bottles. It took two years to bring to market as Monique didn't want to compromise quality in order to be truly environmentally friendly.

Producing fabrics and garments is just the tip of the iceberg for Monique and her team. They are constantly developing initiatives that have a direct impact and improve the livelihood of people in local communities. They are involved in the Handloom Project in India and the Ocean Recovery Alliance in Hong Kong. They also support disabled children in special schools and orphanages in China and Tibet by supplying school and sports garments via active involvement projects contributed by children attending international schools. Such projects help in creating awareness and consciousness about life and goodwill amongst fortunate children.

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Meet the UnitedSucces team

  • Corinne Heijn
  • Founder
  • and President
  • Yvonne Finch
  • Director
  • Susan Small
  • Membership Administrator
  • Mariëlla Punt-Marree
  • Accounts
About_q&a