Growing Businesses

Entrepreneurship is a great catalyst to promote inclusive growth in developing countries.

There are more than 300 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world, which provide opportunities for inclusive development to their communities in many ways. They are the main providers of jobs, particularly for less advantaged people; usually the suppliers of basic goods and services in low income or isolated communities; and very often the best market alternative for farmers. Small business owners also set an example for youth in their communities. 

Despite its large economic relevance, the SME sector in the developing world faces enormous challenges to unleashing its full potential. Lack of adequate access to talent, markets and financial services, as well as challenging operating environments have prevented these businesses from becoming small and growing businesses (SGBs), from optimal productivity, and from contributing strongly to their local and national economies.

Our Expertise

For more information,
please contact

Juan Carlos Thomas

Global Entrepreneurship Director

Entrepreneurs and their enterprises come in different shapes and sizes. TechnoServe has partnered with large corporations, multilaterals and governments to provide life changing support in a variety of settings. For instance, we help young entrepreneurs in rural Africa to start a new business; we support established SGBs to accelerate their growth and impact in mining communities in Latin America; and we work with food processors in Africa to expand their business, sourcing more products from smallholder farmers and increasing supply of nutritional food in their communities.

Our successful entrepreneurship portfolio is based on four key pillars:

Careful adaptation: We recognize that entrepreneurs face different opportunities and challenges depending on a variety of dimensions including their particular context, gender, age, stage in their growth cycle and personal appetite for growth, so we carefully adapt our methodology to better serve each particular community of entrepreneurs. 

Market driven approach: We support entrepreneurs to find markets with untapped demand opportunities to build their growth strategies and encourage them to test and capture these opportunities as quickly and affordably as possible.

Effective capacity development: Recognizing that the entrepreneurs we support are busy, hardworking individuals, we aim to efficiently provide the most relevant and effective trainings, in order for them to navigate organizational challenges by themselves in the future.

Rigorous measurement and continuous learning: We currently implement nearly 30 enterprise development programs in more than 20 countries, which provide an excellent base of data and learning. Through adhering to rigorous measurement, we strive to collectively learn and improve each program to be more effective and efficient.


In 2015 alone, our work benefited more than 4,000 businesses (62 percent women-led) in the developing world, generating $33.8 million of incremental revenue attributable to our intervention.

Help entrepreneurs grow their business and create jobs in their community with a sustainable donation.

On The Ground



Solutions for African Food Enterprises

Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE) was a public-private partnership between TechnoServe, Partners in Food Solutions, and USAID that aimed to increase the competitiveness of the African food processing sector to expand availability of affordable and nutritious foods to local populations. The program benefited more than 1,000 food processors who source from more than 800,000 smallholder farmers in five countries.
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Impulsa Tu Empresa

Impulsa Tu Empresa aims to help small and growing businesses boost their growth through mentoring and training. Since its launch in 2012, the program business has increased the sales of over 1,400 businesses by $48 million and generated 1,600 new jobs in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Burkina Faso.
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Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise

TechnoServe is partnering with The MasterCard Foundation to help rural young people ages 18 to 30 in East Africa transition to economic independence.
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Increasing Sales for Micro-Enterprises in Zacatecas

In August 2016, Goldcorp and TechnoServe Mexico partnered to launch the Entrepreneurship and Business Development program, which aims to create inclusive economic growth in the communities surrounding the Goldcorp Minera Peñasquito (MP) mining operation in Zacatecas, Mexico. The program provides business support tailored to the specific needs of local entrepreneurs, providing the skills, knowledge and tools they need to build successful businesses, develop strong markets, and create income and jobs throughout these communities. The program's methodology is based around the implementation of best practices in business development. These skills are taught in customized workshops that cover general themes around entrepreneurship, business planning, finance, marketing, accounting and production, among others key skills. Along with these workshops, each beneficiary works with a business advisor (BA), who provides tailored consultancy services and customized mentoring. This BA works closely with the entrepreneurs, fostering their development and guiding the entire business development process throughout the duration of the program. The program's first generation includes 60 projects and 143 entrepreneurs. A second generation will begin in August 2017.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Bangalore

TechnoServe is working on a business accelerator program for women entrepreneurs in Bangalore in partnership with Intuit, a global business and financial management software company. Intuit’s flagship product QuickBooks is the world’s number one accounting software for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The accelerator program, initially planned for twelve months, is aimed at 20 growth-constrained, women-led, revenue earning small businesses. These 20 women entrepreneurs will be pre-screened prior to selection. The program aims to help scale up the businesses of these participating women entrepreneurs, who will undergo business and financial management training and will also receive access to a business advisory council and mentors.



Empowering Youth Entrepreneurs in Latin America

In Latin America, youth face unique challenges in obtaining formal employment or becoming successful entrepreneurs, and the youth unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent. In partnership with the Citi Foundation, TechnoServe is working to address the challenges of youth unemployment in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama.


Citi Foundation
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Mobile Savings for Women Entrepreneurs

Business Women Connect: With support from the ExxonMobil Foundation, Business Women Connect was born out of research showing that accessible microsavings products are one of the most impactful tools for women entrepreneurs. In a context where only 8 percent of adults access formal mechanisms to save, mobile savings products offer women greater security, privacy and control over their incomes, so they can re-invest in their businesses and gradually move to higher-margin activities. The Business Women Connect 2017 pilot program, which trained a variety of Mozambican businesswomen in financial literacy and business skills, indicated significant potential and need for expansion, given the ongoing development of mobile savings. However, it also highlighted a need to support the supply side of effective, available savings products (beyond simple payments) while helping women to understand and access these products. The pilot found that the product line “LetsGo” offered by Letshego Bank, which provides an accessible formal financial service suite with 10percent interest, is particularly compelling for women due to low documentation requirements, better security and high accessibility.

Under Phase II of Business Women Connect, TechnoServe aims to increase women’s economic opportunity by promoting the effective use of formal savings products, business skills and financial literacy among women Letshego banking agents as well as women customers. TechnoServe will engage these women entrepreneurs to help them improve their own businesses as well as become effective service providers and ambassadors of formal savings to thousands of other women in Mozambique.


Tokafala: Building Strong Businesses in Botswana

As diamond reserves in Botswana dwindle, the country's entrepreneurs are playing an increasingly leading role in creating new jobs and diversifying the economy. In partnership with Anglo American, TechnoServe is implementing an enterprise development program called Tokafala, which focuses on fostering the growth of small and growing businesses in Botswana by helping them to overcome the challenges that many entrepreneurs face in the country. The four-year program has supported over 230 micro, small and medium enterprises (SMMEs), impacting over 2,000 jobs. From 2014 to 2016, Tokafala provided advisory services and mentorship to more than 215 SMMEs, helping entrepreneurs develop the business, financial management and marketing skills they need to build successful and sustainable businesses. The project has successfully established a business hub and developed strong partnerships with leading organizations that could provide advisory services to local SMMEs, such as the Chamber of Mines’ Business Development Forum, as well as Debswana’s supply chain and a number of commercial banks. The program generated almost $2.5 million in financial benefits for local businesspeople, and helped to mobilize an additional $2.4 in formal financing.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Mumbai

This program targets growth-constrained, women-led small and microenterprises, operating in the unorganized or informal sector in the Mumbai urban area. Potential enterprises would have an annual turnover exceeding $10,000, with a significant number expected to be operating in the social and services sectors. The program includes training of women entrepreneurs selected through a screening process, and a business advisory program including mentoring support for identified women most positioned to scale up their businesses.

Accelerating Women and Youth Led Businesses

The Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs in South African Metros (AWESAM) program aims to increase the economic participation of urban women and youth in the South African economy by converting subsistence-based businesses into high-growth and competitive ventures. AWESAM, which began in 2013, aimed to support 30 entrepreneurs through mentorship, business development services and access to finance to improve their small businesses. In late 2014 through late 2015, Citi Foundation supported TechnoServe in implementing a second phase of the program, AWESAM II. The project supported 83 business through business plan validation, individualized business advisory services and access to finance. Graduating businesses reported an increased financial benefit of over $125,000.


Citi Foundation

Increasing Sales for Small and Growing Businesses

In 2011, TechnoServe began a partnership with Anglo American’s EMERGE program, which was launched in 2006 to accelerate of micro and small businesses in the communities surrounding Anglo American mining operations in Chile. The program helps local entrepreneurs to launch and grow profitable businesses by providing them with tailored business mentoring, one-on-one advisory support, online training, and access to finance. In 2016, the program began offering the opportunity for participating businesses to enter the supply chains of various large companies throughout the country, connecting them with a sustainable market for their goods and services. By providing these emerging business leaders with the financing, and managerial and business skills they need to succeed, the program has helped more than 1,300 businesses to increase their sales by a range of 30 percent to more than 100 percent to date.


Anglo American

Blog Posts

November 9, 2018

Young Visionary Scales Opportunities in Rwanda

A young entrepreneur, equipped with a new understanding, provides for his family and inspires a generation through his rock quarry business in Rwanda.

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August 16, 2018

“Never Say I Can’t”

After a devastating flood forced Daria Arabulo to start a new life in a different country, she launched her own business to provide for her family. Three years after participating in TechnoServe’s Impulsa tu Empresa program, her business continues to grow.

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July 12, 2018

Breaking the Employment Barrier for Mumbai Youth

When underprivileged youth have access to the skills and opportunity to break into formal-sector employment, benefits spread to their families and communities.

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Thought Leadership

In the News

How Goldcorp Managed to Decrease Complaints about its Flagship Mine in Mexico | Mining.com

This article explains how TechnoServe's partnership with Goldcorp is creating shared value in Mexican mining communities.

Success on Every Corner: How Mom-and-Pop Shops Can Drive Growth in Africa | Business Fights Poverty

TechnoServe's Alice Waweru shows the importance of small shops to local economies in Africa, as well as how to support their growth.

Female Workforces Can Revolutionize Latin American Business. Here’s how | World Economic Forum Agenda

This article explains why good gender practices are good business for small enterprises in Central America.

Soweto’s Urban Entrepreneurs Take on the World | AFP

This article profiles some of the young South African entrepreneurs working with the Box Shop program.

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Event Appearances

October 2-4, 2018

ANDE Annual Conference

Tarrytown, NY

TechnoServe's Kindra Halvorson and Juan Carlos Thomas speak about incorporating gender in small businesses and achieving scale in entrepreneurship programs.

September 25-27, 2018

Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit

Silver Spring, MD

Youth entrepreneurs and staff from TechnoServe programs in Africa and Latin America speak about the situation of young business owners.

July 25, 2018

Measuring Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment: A Practical Guide and a Conversation

Washington, DC

TechnoServe's Kate Diaz speaks about how to better measure women's empowerment in development projects.

June 19-20, 2018

How Business Can Measure the Impact – and ROI – of Corporate Sustainability

London, UK

Global entrepreneurship director Juan Carlos Thomas shares insights from TechnoServe's local economic development programs.

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