Small- and medium-sized businesses are the engine of local economies around the world. Contributing up to 40% of GDP in emerging economies, they are run by determined men and women who rely on them to feed and support their families. And with the right training and guidance, these entrepreneurs learn how to grow and improve their businesses to generate even more income and local employment.
TechnoServe works with thousands of entrepreneurs around the world every day, and has the privilege of sharing many of their stories. As we mark Global Entrepreneurship Week this year, here are five of the stories from entrepreneurs that inspired us most in 2022.
Creating the Building Blocks for Success in a Male-Dominated Field
Kgaogela Tumagole was working as an accountant when she decided to start her own business. She had seen lots of construction and renovation projects around her home in Rustenburg, the most populous city in the North West province of South Africa. So she decided to start Mmelegi Bricks, a brick-making business.
But despite being correct about the demand for bricks, Kgaogela struggled to turn a profit, and her business began losing money. When she enrolled in the Zimele program, an Anglo American-TechnoServe collaboration that supports entrepreneurs in communities around Anglo American assets and workshops, she learned how to get permission to access a certain type of ash that is a by-product of an Anglo American smelting operation in Rustenburg. For Anglo American, this was simply waste to be disposed of. But for a brick manufacturer, it was a game-changer. Kgaogela got the ash for free. She just had to pick it up. So she replaced an expensive input in her brick-making process, dramatically lowering her cost. It also made her bricks lighter and stronger, making them more desirable in the local market and increasing their appeal.
Today, Kgaogela’s business is making a reliable profit; she has 14 employees; and demand for her bricks is outstripping her ability to supply. Read her story.
Using Tools to Create Business Success
After her mother died, Ruth Nabatanzi began selling pineapples to earn money, but came back with only about $1.40 a day. “I couldn’t afford basic personal needs, and we weren’t able to afford two meals, as my sister was also not earning enough,” she admits. “Life was hard.” Helping young women like Ruth to achieve their potential is the mission behind TechnoServe’s Girls’ Apprenticeship Program (GAP). GAP participants engage in apprenticeships with successful local businesswomen, who serve as mentors and role models, guiding the young women through their transition to employment. Ruth first heard about the TechnoServe program through her local council. She learned entrepreneurship skills, such as financial literacy, customer service, marketing, and more. Ruth then decided to pursue an apprenticeship in welding.
For the TechnoServe GAP program business plan competition, participants develop a plan for an enterprise they’d like to start, and prizes are awarded to the best plans. With strong business and vocational skills under her belt, Ruth submitted a plan for her own welding enterprise. She was thrilled when she won the business competition – and was awarded welding equipment worth $300. She now has her own welding machines, a grinder, a drilling machine, and a tool box. And in her current job, she can make over $33 a day–a far cry from the dollar or two she used to bring home. Ruth’s story was even aired on Ugandan TV in a feature on women succeeding in male-dominated sectors. “That was my proudest moment,” she says. Read her story.
Overcoming Restrictive Gender Norms to Build a Better Business
Bernadette Sambo, like many Mozambican women, juggles a lot of responsibilities. She is the primary caretaker of three children, two of whom are under the age of 10. She also owns a small grocery shop called Mercearia Sambo in Mozambique’s Maputo province. She was expected to manage both her home and the shop, two full-time jobs which — until recently — she did largely without the support of her husband. “It had been very difficult to work and negotiate with my husband,” Bernadette reported. “He alone got to decide many things related to the business.”
In 2019, Bernadette began looking for an opportunity to improve her business and heard about entrepreneurship training from TechnoServe She soon started applying what she learned in the training: saving more money, keeping better records of her business transactions, and paying more attention to merchandising. After just two months, she was able to pay all of her loans and even purchase a new refrigerator that allows her to sell fresh meat. Read her story.
Feeding Families with Healthy Local Food
Justina needed to find food for her son to eat that was accessible to her and healthy for him. Living in Zambia, she knew that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.
Today, Zambia has one of the highest rates of malnutrition and stunting in Sub-Saharan Africa. While living under these circumstances, Justina Opit saw she had to take action for the wellbeing of her young son. It was this proactiveness that put her on the path to becoming an entrepreneur. “I realized that I was not the only one looking for nutrition,” Justina says. “There are a lot of people out here who are asking the same questions I had. And out of those questions, Omega Foods was born.” The company started as a grain and flour miller to provide nutritious foods for families throughout Zambia. Today, the agro-processing company has grown to include ten employees, and seeks to protect, promote, and enhance the health of local communities by supplying nutritious local foods.
Through the Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP), Omega Foods has received support on business-management topics, designing its processing plant in Chongwe, accessing finance, procuring equipment, implementing good manufacturing processes, and developing new products, like a high-protein instant soya blend. Moving forward, she envisions her business becoming a nutrition hub not just for Zambia, but for the entire East Southern African region. “I look forward to impacting a lot of smallholder farmers that are going to be growing grains for us,” she says. Read her story.
Competing in Front of “Sharks” in India
Aditi Madan went from a TechnoServe business training program in India to becoming the first woman entrepreneur on “Shark Tank India.” Along the way, she had to overcome a number of challenges and to “unlearn” what she thought she knew about business.
“The [TechnoServe] program also helped me identify potential challenges and pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses,” she recalls. “Perhaps most importantly, I gained a lot of confidence working with my mentor. For [my business] BluePine Foods, participating in the accelerator program has been a beautiful journey.” In late 2021, Aditi pitched investors on “Shark Tank India” on her BluePine Foods business. She won $100,000 in startup funding and experienced a surge in sales. Read her story.