A small restaurant in Chile

How Entrepreneurs in Chile are Confronting Crisis

In Chile, the coronavirus pandemic is threatening the survival of many micro and small businesses. We talked to Corina Rivas, TechnoServe’s Chile country director, about the “very hard” situation on the ground, and how TechnoServe is helping entrepreneurs “reset” their businesses to survive.

A small restaurant in Chile

Series: Resilience through COVID-19

Entrepreneurs in Chile are still recovering from the effects of disruptive political protests that began last October. Now a new threat has taken hold. As more of the country has gone under mandatory quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many micro and small businesses are struggling to survive in an unprecedented time. 

What is it like on the ground in Chile right now?

Corina Rivas, country director in Chile
Chile Country Director Corina Rivas

The situation right now in Chile is very hard. Parts of Santiago are under a mandatory quarantine, and there is a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. If you want to leave your residence during this time, you need to have a permit. I live in one of the areas that is under a lockdown. Most businesses are closed — they can only be open if they are considered an essential business, such as a grocery store, bank, or pharmacy. This will have major impacts on the local economy. Demand has slowed down considerably for most businesses, and small businesses are especially struggling right now.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about the business, but about the families who rely on the income from this business to survive.”
— Corina Rivas

As an organization, we are working diligently to make sure that our programs can keep running effectively. Now more than ever, the work we are doing with entrepreneurs is essential — both in Chile and around the world. Obviously we have had to adjust our activities and move a lot of the training online. This is a big change because previously we were doing a lot of one-on-one in-person training, but we have a great team in Chile and everyone is very technologically savvy, so we don’t see this being a problem. 

How does this compare to other crises Chile has faced?

In Chile, we have had a lot of challenges recently. Beginning last October, there were widespread civil protests related to frustrations over social inequality. This had a negative impact on businesses because it was dangerous for people to be outside their homes. Starting in December, things began to get a little better, but they were still not back to normal. Then in March, everything with the coronavirus started impacting business as well. Most of these businesses had not fully recovered from the protests and now they are facing even greater challenges. 

Now more than ever, the work we are doing with entrepreneurs is essential — both in Chile and around the world.”
— Corina Rivas

What are the main challenges entrepreneurs are currently facing?

Entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable during this crisis. One of the biggest challenges they face currently is lack of demand. Many people are not going outside and are not making purchases or buying services. This makes it very difficult for entrepreneurs who own businesses that are not considered essential — for example, hairdressers, wedding planners, caterers, etc. Many of the entrepreneurs we work with also employ other people. They do not want to let their staff go, but with no revenue coming in, they have very difficult decisions to make. 

What is TechnoServe doing to help?

Right now, our work is focused on identifying and prioritizing the businesses that need the most help. At the end of the day, it’s not just about the business, but about the families who rely on the income from this business to survive. 

We have a group of senior business advisors who know the local context well and are providing recommendations for entrepreneurs based on their individual situations. We suggest that businesses reset their goals to business survival first and foremost. This might mean that they have to change the products they are selling or cut back on product offerings, but will ultimately help the business survive and ensure that families are able to pay the bills and put food on the table. The entrepreneurs we work with are extremely talented and creative, so we just have to figure out alternative ways for them to earn an income during these unpredictable times.

More information on what TechnoServe is doing to support entrepreneurs during the coronavirus crisis:

How to Support Entrepreneurs with Digital Tools 

Learning to Support Business in Crisis