One Year of COVID-19: Juliana Mário, Mozambican Entrepreneur

In this series, we check back with TechnoServe program participants previously featured on our blog, documenting how their lives have changed and progressed. In Mozambique, women-owned businesses have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. In our previous story on Juliana Mário, a small business owner in Maputo, her sales had decreased by over 50% from the start of the pandemic. Find out how she is doing now, eight months later.

COVID-19 Brings New Challenges for Women-Owned Businesses

When COVID-19 hit Mozambique in March of last year, women-owned businesses were particularly impacted. Juliana Mário’s sales immediately declined. The 35-year-old owns a small grocery shop in a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique, which was doing so well that Juliana planned to diversify her income by opening a hair salon in the same space.

But, as Juliana reported in our original blog post from June 2020, the COVID-19 crisis caused her daily sales to drop more than 50%. 

Juliana is one of many women who struggle to make ends meet in Mozambique, where almost half the country’s population lives in poverty. Women often have less in savings and assets than men do, making them more vulnerable when unexpected crises occur. Even relatively short disruptions to business can therefore have a long-term impact on women, their families, and entire communities.

Supporting Women-Owned Businesses in Mozambique

In March 2020, Juliana joined the Business Women Connect (BWC) program. BWC is a partnership between TechnoServe and the ExxonMobil Foundation that began in 2017. The program is centered around a five-month course for women entrepreneurs to learn better business skills and how to be more effective financial service providers in their communities.

Because of COVID restrictions, TechnoServe adapted its training to a virtual platform. In these sessions, women learned essential skills such as:

  • Savings
  • Financial Management
  • Investment in Business
  • Stock and Supplier Management
  • Customer Service
  • Merchandising

One important training lesson was how to pivot to different business approaches that could succeed despite COVID limitations. Combining this knowledge with guidance on how to save and manage finances, Juliana reinvigorated her business at an enormously challenging time.

With this determination and energy, Juliana has now improved her earnings by 107%. 

Resilience Through Unexpected Challenges

Last year, TechnoServe program staff helped Juliana and 319 other entrepreneurs like her become more resilient during challenging times. In early April 2020, 46% of BWC businesses were closed or expected to close imminently. In early May, only 11% were closed. Overall, 94% of the businesses in the program have remained open throughout the crisis.

“If I had not accepted the invitation to attend the TechnoServe training and had not had the support and patience of my trainer, my business would have been closed, and I would not have started the confectionery business…I have always wanted to be a woman entrepreneur, and I consider myself a strong woman with many business ideas. And I have always wanted to be financially independent[.]” 

“I am very excited about the coming year, as I have a lot of strength and many ideas for both businesses.”

Read More Stories of Resilience