A woman small business owner and participant in TechnoServe's Impulsa tu Empresa program

Entrepreneurship & SMEs

There are more than 300 million small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries, which contribute up to 40% of national GDP. They are operated and often founded by women and men aiming to provide greater life opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.

How Small Businesses Help Economies in Developing Countries

Led by small business owners, these SMEs promote inclusive development, serving as the main providers of jobs for many low-income individuals; the main suppliers of basic goods and services in poor or isolated communities.  Often, they serve as the best market alternative for smallholder farmers. Entrepreneurship also provides critical opportunities for women and youth to earn their own incomes.

Despite its great importance, the SME sector in the developing world faces enormous challenges to unleashing its full potential.

Lack of adequate access to:

  • Talent
  • Markets
  • Financial services
  • Challenging operating environments

have prevented these businesses from growing, from achieving optimal productivity, and from contributing strongly to their local and national economies.


Help struggling farmers and small business owners lift themselves out of poverty.

Donate Now

small business owners

Our Work With Small Business Owners & Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs and their enterprises come in different shapes and sizes. TechnoServe has partnered with large corporations, multilateral institutions, and governments to provide life-changing support in a variety of settings. 

Consider the following examples:

  • TechnoServe promotes youth economic opportunity by helping young entrepreneurs in rural Africa to start new businesses
  • We support established enterprises to accelerate their growth and impact in Latin America
  • We work with food processors in Africa to expand their business
  • TechnoServe helps small business owners source more products from small-scale farmers
  • Our work helps small shop owners in the micro-retail sector to improve their businesses and profits.

Our successful entrepreneurship portfolio is based on four key pillars:

Careful adaptation for Small Business Owners

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. Therefore, TechnoServe carefully adapts our methodology to better serve each particular community of entrepreneurs. 

Market-driven approach for small business owners

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. TechnoServe is a leader in reducing poverty because our programs help small business owners worldwide 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. By adhering to rigorous measurement, we strive to collectively learn and improve each program to be more effective and efficient.

Featured Entrepreneurship Projects

Who Benefits


Training entrepreneurs in business skills and connecting them to better financing and markets helps them earn reliable incomes for the long term. In 2022, TechnoServe helped increase revenue of more than 452,136 people and businesses around the world, 80% of which were women.

Local consumers

Small businesses provide important goods and services to underserved populations in the developing world. Small shops, for instance, supply the vast majority of consumer goods in many countries; and many enterprises meet critical needs like health care in remote areas. When small businesses run better and are more responsive to consumer needs, the whole community benefits.

Local workers

SMEs account for about 70% of all jobs in developing countries. TechnoServe works to boost this engine of employment, helping businesses to improve their operations and profits and to create new jobs. In particular, these businesses can offer important employment opportunities for women and youth.

Women and youth

Entrepreneurship provides women and young people in particular with opportunities to earn their own incomes. This helps women achieve greater financial independence, often improving their decision-making power within families and increasing household spending on needs like education and health. For the millions of youth in developing countries who may struggle to find formal jobs, obtaining the skills to start and expand their own business is not just critical to their own well-being but to their countries’ economic and political security.

New Jobs Created in 2023

Dreams Come True: Entrepreneurs Reach Their Potential in Chile

Small business owners in Chile

Learn how we help these entrepreneurs build the skills and confidence they need to grow their businesses.