Serving up delicious corn-based biscuits runs in the family for one small business in Nicaragua. For over 30 years, community members have tasted the talented culinary delights of Maria Aquilina Sánchez and her husband José Valdivia. And with an eye to the future, the couple more recently recruited their youngest daughter, Yuliza, to help their business Rosquillería Jazmina diversify and expand its customer base.
Mastering a recipe for biscuits that are in hot demand is only half of the equation. The bakery had long turned to one reliable client — the supermarket chain La Colonia — as their primary source of revenue. Rosquillería Jazmina now faces the challenge of how to reach more customers by selling their products in gas stations and small supermarkets, as well. Where could their upstart business turn to raise the capital needed to build out their infrastructure to make growth a reality?
The challenges facing enterprising businessespeople like Maria are not unique to Nicaragua or any country for that matter. Around the world, entrepreneurs — specifically small and growing businesses — are the main drivers of job growth, lifting people out of poverty and creating a brighter economic future. However, that can only happen if they find the financing and support needed to scale their businesses.
The ability for a small business to secure a loan from a bank or a financial institution is often the difference between success and failure.
USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship initiative aims to lend support to early-stage businesses by connecting them with the resources of incubators, accelerators and impact investors. We do this for hundreds of promising enterprises around the world — particularly those led by women.
Empowering women to take hold of their futures and contribute to the economic success of their respective countries is a foremost U.S. foreign policy priority. It is with that in mind that the United States and co-host India look forward to highlighting the Women First, Prosperity for All theme at the 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in India this week. Full inclusion of women in the global economy not only benefits women entrepreneurs and that of their families — it is the path to fostering greater economic growth globally.
That certainly has been the case for the founder of Wanda Organic, Marion Moon. Marion left her career in advertising and took on a new challenge: turning an innovative way to improve soil productivity into a business that would boost yields and profits for Kenyan farmers. First, Marion needed to prove her concept, and funding was not easy to come by. USAID partner Village Capital, a U.S.-based investment fund, stepped in, providing technical assistance and a $15,000 loan.
Wanda Organic adapted their sales techniques and customer education approaches, growing from 50 farmers to over 800 farmers and increasing farmer yields and profitability on average by 50 percent. Wanda Organics has leveraged the initial loan into something much bigger: $90,000 in grant support from USAID and a $160,000 loan from the private sector.
At USAID, evidence guides all that we do. We continually assess whether the programs we support are reaching the people we want to reach and delivering results. The evidence — to date — indicates our approach has been a resounding success. USAID partnerships, like with Village Capital, have spurred $150 million in private sector investment in support of over 800 small and growing businesses.
For all of the good news stories however, we have found that USAID-supported women-owned enterprises struggle to attract private sector funding. It is with Maria’s growing bakery business and countless others in mind, that USAID is working to correct this imbalance. Gender should never be a barrier to success.
Recently, Rosquillería Jazmina secured a variable payment obligation loan from Banco de America Central as part of the USAID initiative, and Maria and José’s bakery business has taken off. The loan helped them complete construction on a new production facility and equip their other daughter, Jazmina, with the computer skills needed to complete company payroll and to keep up with other needs of an ever-growing business.
USAID will continue to seek out opportunities that help us bridge the “pioneer gap” — the separation between a small business’s great idea and the means for that idea to scale. We are excited about what the future holds and invite you to join the conversation, share your work as well as your big ideas on the road to GES in Hyderabad #GES2017 or by visiting ges2017.org.
About the Authors: Rob Schneider is the Division Chief of Global Partnerships at the U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID. Blake Narendra is the Press Lead for the U.S. Global Development Lab.
Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared in the USAID Medium publication.