Incubating Success: Young Tanzanian Entrepreneur Mentors Other Businesswomen
After establishing her own business success, Ndinagwe Mboya taught other businesswomen in Tanzania vital skills in savings and entrepreneurship, helping them grow their businesses and transform their lives.
When Ndinagwe Mboya decided to build her business skills, the 22-year-old never imagined herself standing in front of a room full of women, teaching them about profit and loss as a business counselor for the Business Women Connect program.
In fact, Ndinagwe could barely imagine herself speaking in front of any group. “I grew up in an environment where I was not interacting much with people,” says Ndinagwe, who lives in Mbeya, Tanzania, with her parents and younger siblings. “I am normally a very quiet and shy person, even my parents didn’t believe that I could interact with fellow youths in a class and learn.”
Yet in late 2015, Ndinagwe joined a TechnoServe business training with other young women and men and spent three months building interpersonal and business management skills through the STRYDE curriculum. “I learned how to believe in myself and my ability to succeed,” she says.
The STRYDE program, which came to a close this year, worked to set rural youth in East Africa on a path of economic independence. Starting with self-awareness exercises and personal effectiveness training – including skills such as communication and decision-making – STRYDE helped young people discover their strengths, present themselves professionally, manage their finances, and start their own enterprises.
“What woke me up in the STRYDE training was personal effectiveness. This made me discover the opportunity I had that I could use to start and grow a business,” she says. Ndinagwe decided to start with what she knew, by reviving her ailing father’s egg incubation business. She borrowed some money from her friend to buy two trays of eggs and was able to repay the loan 45 days later after tripling her returns.
Gaining more confidence from this early success, she wrote a business plan for STRYDE’s competition and used the prize money to buy her own chickens to lay eggs. Yet her dad, who was left paralyzed by a stroke in 2012, advised her not put all her eggs in one proverbial basket. So Ndinagwe diversified her farming business by buying two young pigs to breed, as well as rabbits.
Empowering [women] with skills will help them grow their businesses and become more successful for their families.”
Ndinagwe went from not earning any income, to earning more than $210 a month. She uses the income from the incubation business to help with family expenses, and she is saving up other earnings to expand her business, build her own house, and continue her education. “I want to go back to college and get further educated in entrepreneurship and business management. My dad cannot pay for my education, so I will save and pay for myself from my business,” she says.
Women Role Models for Women Entrepreneurs
Ndinagwe’s STRYDE trainers took note of her rapidly growing confidence and business acumen and urged her to apply to become a business counselor for a new TechnoServe program, Business Women Connect (BWC). After two interviews, she got the job, and with it, the opportunity to help other women achieve their business dreams.
I learned about keeping records and managing finances. This has helped me because I now see myself as a real businesswoman. I have vision of where I want my business to go.”
Funded by the ExxonMobil Foundation, Business Women Connect aims to improve women micro-entrepreneurs’ access to mobile savings technologies and business skills. Ndinagwe and 14 other local women business counselors learned facilitation skills in a three-week training, where Ndinagwe paid special attention to practicing her public speaking skills. “When I started training women I was not afraid. My voice had increased and I felt well-equipped to do the work,” she says.
Ndinagwe meets with small groups of women once a week for 12 weeks to deliver training using activity-based learning and video. Together, they develop skills such as setting business goals, mobilizing finance, and recordkeeping. The women also receive training on gender equality and on the use and benefits of M-Pawa, a mobile savings platform from Vodacom.
Ndinagwe follows up with individual women to advise them on their business and ensure they are putting these lessons into action. She notes that the training on recordkeeping and profitability is particularly helpful, as many of the women had never separated their business finances from their personal and family finances before.
I want to go back to college and get further educated in entrepreneurship and business management. My dad cannot pay for my education, so I will save and pay for myself from my business.”
Vicky Frank Katage, who was among Ndinagwe’s 63 trainees from the first cohort of BWC, can already see how her tailoring business is benefiting from her new knowledge. “I learned about keeping records and managing finances. This has helped me much as I now see myself as a real businesswoman. I have vision of where I want my business to go.”
BWC participants are gaining a network of other women entrepreneurs in their community, and Ndinagwe has become a role model for many of them.
“Ndinagwe is very young to me but she has inspired me a lot with her passion to help us grow our businesses,” says Martha Zephania Bukuku, a 32-year-old mother of three who runs her own handicraft business. “Since she is also a businesswoman, she shared her experience and successes with us and this made us feel more confident.”
Thanks to the training, Martha realized she could expand her business by using savings, without taking out a loan. After talking with other businesswomen and asking customers about their preferences for the first time, Martha was able to identify a new product line for her business – handmade jewelry purses, which are already selling well.
Measuring the Success of Business Women Connect
The changes Vicky and Martha have made since receiving training from Ndinagwe can help grow their businesses and benefit the women and their families for years to come. In order to test the program’s assumptions, and potentially scale it to other regions and countries, BWC was designed to include a rigorous evaluation.
While the evaluation will bring important insight into how to design interventions that can empower women entrepreneurs, Ndinagwe doesn’t need more convincing. “In Mbeya, women are mostly the ones doing business,” she says. “Empowering them with skills will make them grow their businesses and become more successful for their families. This makes them more respectable in the families and community.”