Dermot Nicholas, Senior Programmes and MEL Officer at the Foundation, has supported the roll out of our award-winning HerVenture business skills app in Vietnam since 2020. Marking an enormous milestone for our app’s penetration in the country, he gives his insights into HerVenture’s impact and opportunities to expand it in the future.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women first launched our HerVenture business skills learning app, designed to support women entrepreneurs to start and build business, in 2018 in Vietnam. Since its inception, with support from Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ for HerVenture’s launch and expansion, the app has gone from strength to strength. We’re delighted that it has now reached over 25,000 women entrepreneurs in Vietnam, and more than 40,000 more in five other lower and middle income countries winning multiple awards in recognition of its value and impact.
A great example of the reach and impact that long-term partnerships between the private sector and NGOs can achieve.
Women entrepreneurs using HerVenture have built skills and confidence that have supported them to start and grow strong, successful businesses. 100% of users who we surveyed in July 2022 said they had applied their new skills and knowledge gained through the app to their businesses. We see users consistently increasing employees, customers and profit as a result.
Our collaboration with Qualcomm Wireless Reach highlights so well how the private sector can drive strong development outcomes. Our CEO Helen McEachern certainly celebrates this, sharing with me that “our collaboration with Qualcomm Wireless Reach is a great example of the reach and impact that long-term partnering between the private sector and NGOs can achieve for women entrepreneurs. We are proud of this fantastic work together.”
The success of our collaboration has been underpinned by the Foundation’s strong partnership with Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE), who have a strong network of women entrepreneurs as well as other partner organisations in the country, and bring fantastic expertise to the app’s delivery.
One of the women who has been supported through HerVenture is Quynh, who is the founder of AZCare in Hanoi, which produces natural herbal beauty products like shampoo, mouthwash and shower gel. When setting up her business, Quynh faced not only the regular challenges a new business faces like setting up HR processes and marketing and communications, but also further barriers as a woman juggling additional responsibilities like taking care of her family. This made her reconsider her entrepreneurial journey and return to an office job.
Things changed when she started to use HerVenture: “It was like I found light in a dark place, I got a map to follow. The app taught me about identifying my company’s mission, how to expand the business and human resources, and about the digital market and how to do e-commerce sales. Whenever I faced a problem that I couldn’t find the answer to, I would open the lessons in the app and study them until the answer presented itself to me.”
We hear her experiences echoed time and again across the 25,000 women entrepreneurs we have reached in Vietnam.
HerVenture uses mobile technology to make it easy for women who want to start a small business or expand their existing business to access the information that will enable them to achieve this.
From my experience, HerVenture works for women in Vietnam not just because many women entrepreneurs now have smartphones and can access the app, but because it is so flexible and really meets their specific needs. We often get feedback that HerVenture is fantastic because it fits into women’s busy lives. Our app isn’t like a conventional business course where you need to learn in a linear fashion and carve out specific times – HerVenture offers a wide range of learning tracks on different topics and women can learn the areas that are important to their business in the order makes most sense to them. In Vietnam, the most popular tracks women entrepreneurs have learned are how to start a business and managing business records. Users can take these quick bite-size lessons when it suits them too – in between customers, for example, or while waiting to pick their kids up from school.
I often have to go to remote areas across Vietnam. I have been able to spend my time travelling from one place to another more effectively by learning through HerVenture while I’m on the go.
HerVenture is designed so that it doesn’t take up that much space on phones, as often women entrepreneurs have limited space on their devices. It can also be used offline wherever they are: a user can visit a local internet hotspot to download it and then use it at home, at work or on the go with no need for an internet connection. This feature is vital in rural areas where there may be limited connectivity.
As Angela Baker, Qualcomm’s VP of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer, puts it, “At Qualcomm, we understand access to information and resources is vital for small businesses and in particular for women entrepreneurs. “That’s why, since 2018, our Wireless Reach Initiative has been working with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to provide over 65,000 women entrepreneurs with mobile learning tools and support through HerVenture so that they can overcome business challenges and take their enterprises to the next level.”
How have we reached 25,000 Vietnamese women?
Thanks to Qualcomm Wireless Reach’s sustained funding and our delivery with WISE throughout HerVenture’s implementation, we’ve been able to really keep monitoring, evaluating and building on our strategies to reach women and implementing our learnings to keep strengthening delivery.
From early success we knew that using Facebook was a clear winner in the country and we worked to devise new content that would engage users through the platform. We also knew that sharing reviews and feedback from businesswomen in a variety of industries and locations, diverse in age and education, worked really well to engage a wide range of users, from those just starting their business to women running more established micro, small and medium enterprises.
The longevity of HerVenture’s delivery has also meant we’ve been able to hone and refine strong messaging over time to successfully promote the app. For example, we learned that being very busy with both business and family responsibilities was a key challenge for many women entrepreneurs in Vietnam, so WISE developed messaging like “for just 5 minutes a day, HerVenture helps you upgrade your knowledge and build up your future”. This really spoke to users and drove registrations.
One of the aspects that I find most interesting is how we are able to reach women entrepreneurs of ethnic minorities in rural Vietnamese communities with HerVenture. Over the years, WISE have leveraged their networks to grow partnerships in new areas of the country and offer something really unique in the app.
WISE travelled to meet a number of women’s unions in these areas to support them in promoting HerVenture to the women in their community. They organised training and workshops to demonstrate the app as relevant and useful learning resource as this might normally be something they may not consider as an option. Women were able to learn about the app from someone they knew and trusted, which led to HerVenture being able to reach women in an area where business courses and learning are much harder to come by.
Ha Shanam, a HerVenture user, is a great example of this in action. She lives in Ta Xua, a rural village in Northwest Vietnam and runs a business that specialises in selling an ancient type of tea called snowshan. She told us the app was “like having a map for running a business. I truly trust that I have had a guide, like a lighthouse. I am not afraid that I might take the wrong road. I have had a lodestar that shows me the clear journey for me to follow.”
We’re extremely proud not only of the numbers of women entrepreneurs HerVenture has been able to support in Vietnam over the years, but also the scope and depth of engagement we have achieved, bringing vital skills and confidence to women who would otherwise have very few opportunities to access this sort of training. Thanks to Qualcomm Wireless Reach’s recognition of the value our app holds, we’ve brought HerVenture to other countries and know this impact is bound to only keep growing.
Meet some of HerVenture's users in Vietnam
Our programmes were transformational for Quynh and her natural beauty product brand, supporting her to realise her dreams of creating a healthier, more sustainable planet.
Yen took part in our Mentoring and Road to Growth programmes as well as using our HerVenture app. She gained new knowledge and support to strengthen her business through the pandemic, setting her on her way to achieving huge ambitions.
Ha took part in all three of our flagship programmes through our WEAVE initiative, with big aspirations for her traditional tea brand. She gained confidence and knowledge that brought growth and success to her business.