DISADVANTAGED businesswomen have been presented with the opportunity of a lifetime to become better entrepreneurs through the 2009 KwaZulu-Natal Succeed Programme.

The programme is a joint venture between Deloitte Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI) and the eThekwini municipality's business support and market unit.

It was launched recently amid great expectations for the entrepreneurs involved.

The municipality has committed more than R1,5million to empowering women, of which the current programme comprises a small part.

Deloitte's WLI representative Kimmy Singh said the idea was to assist women entrepreneurs to build and maintain sustainable businesses.

"Many interventions for young companies focus on how to raise finance rather than providing the skills and advice to ensure that the business succeeds - which is the very essence of the Succeed Programme," Singh said.

Addressing women who attended the launch at Deloitte offices, eThekwini deputy mayor Logie Naidoo said the initiative followed shortly on a very successful Women in Business conference hosted by the municipality.

Naidoo urged all corporate companies to emulate this effort and follow suit.

Women who attended the programme were mainly from eThekwini and represented a variety of business sectors, including retail, manufacturing, construction, interior decorating and event coordinating and organising.

They went through a selection process before being admitted to the programme.

Deloitte mentors included managers, partners and directors from service lines such as audit, taxation, consulting, information technology, risk advisory, corporate finance, human resources and events coordination.

"The mentors will also work through the Deloitte entrepreneur business tool kits with the entrepreneurs to assist them to achieve their strategic goals," said Singh.

He said the pilot project would run for a year to build a sustainable mentorship programme to assist women entrepreneurs.

Zanele Mngoma of Mabhala Foods said a mentorship programme for women only "was a great idea".