Entrepreneurship: the development of new businesses to meet the needs of the population, allowing for productivity increases that lead to greater levels of employment and growth of the economy.
Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day recognized by the United Nations to economically empower women and alleviate poverty worldwide. The organization that spearheaded this day, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO), states, “When women are elevated financially, communities and countries prosper. It builds a global blueprint to alleviate and eradicate poverty.”
We could not agree more.
At Friendship Bridge, we see every day that when the women we serve in Guatemala experience success, they invest beyond themselves and give back to their children and their communities. But we also see how gender inequality remains a significant limiting factor in women’s ability to thrive economically. Across the globe, women still participate in paid economic activities less often than men.
Entrepreneurship by both men and women is vital to Guatemala’s economic and social development, and it will be a priority in the country’s quest to prosper after the pandemic. By definition, entrepreneurship involves the development of new businesses to meet the needs of the population, allowing for productivity increases that lead to greater levels of employment and growth of the economy. Still, the ability for such businesses to emerge in the first place, and then thrive, is dependent on the environment they are in.
Entrepreneurs in Guatemala face widely-known structural challenges, like:
- lack of formal education
- poor access to capital
- lack of accessible information (e.g., business skills)
But women entrepreneurs experience some or all of these additional limitations:
- social norms and practices inherent in a culture that is still characterized by machismo (e.g., lack of autonomy, lack of access to collateral)
- limited legal provisions in place to prevent the discrimination of women (e.g., equal access to financing, labor)
- lack of adequate public policies
- lack of investment supply
- limited access to networks
- gender-based violence against women, and more
Despite these obstacles, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in Guatemala. One in six Guatemalans is an entrepreneur, according to a report from the World Economic Forum, and the country ranks fourth in the top 50 with the greatest number of women entrepreneurs. Harnessing their motivation and innovation, however, can only be achieved through a conducive environment, one in which these determined individuals have access not only to the necessary financial resources but also to the knowledge required to start, manage, and scale their enterprises successfully.
Bridge to Success
In order to support the motivations of our women entrepreneur clients, Friendship Bridge launched the Bridge to Success this year. This unique and comprehensive program, backed by a $1 million, will empower more than 1,000 additional women entrepreneurs in rural Guatemala by 2025 and provide them with:
- Intensive business development trainings
- Individual loans and other seed funding
- Technical assistance
- Connections to peer networks
- Access to new markets
Additionally, some market insertion services are offered, such as brand generation, formalization services, business networks, fairs, and awards recognition.
“The new Bridge to Success program will be excellent. I will invest my loan more securely because I know there will be buyers and connections. This will bring more orders and more work.” – RUTH, a Friendship Bridge client, pictured right
The program was formally rolled out in August of 2021 and has already hosted business training workshops in the following locations: Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, Santo Tomas la Union, and San Marcos. It is expected to expand to all Friendship Bridge branches in 2022, and grow significantly over the next five years. This will result in increased income for these entrepreneurs and employment generation in Guatemala’s rural communities, where it is most needed; these are also the main success indicators of the program.
The combination of intensive business and leadership training with personalized support, both in terms of financing and technical assistance, tailored to the needs of each entrepreneur, is what makes this program unique in Guatemala and what differentiates it from other alternatives. And we expect the impact to extend beyond one Entrepreneur client and will reach their families and a larger community.
The impacts we expect to see for Entrepreneur Clients:
- Create jobs and quality employment
- Increased income and/or assets
- Contribute to community sustainability
- Increased leadership at home, in her business, and in her community
Women are important agents of change, and harnessing the potential of women entrepreneurs – and the noteworthy entrepreneurial spirit amongst women in Guatemala – will be crucial for the sustainable and inclusive recovery of the country’s economy post-COVID. On this special celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, we remember the value and importance of having programs that help to improve the living conditions of communities and families in developing countries like Guatemala, providing tools and opportunities to the most economically vulnerable sectors.