The knowledge ripple effect

Women entrepreneurs don't keep knowledge to themselves, they share it. This creates a massive ripple effect of impact.

When women entrepreneurs gain knowledge, they pass it on. Their friends, clients, employees and fellow business owners benefit as a result – better equipped to navigate their own work and lives, and run successful businesses of their own. Here, the Foundation’s Head of Communications and Marketing, Lulu Nunn, shares how the Foundation supports the old adage that “if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”.

Women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries are by no means a homogenous group. Yet, at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women we do find that they often share certain qualities – two key examples being a drive to learn and gain knowledge, and the desire to uplift others around them.

It goes without saying that knowledge is a vital component to successfully starting, sustaining and growing businesses. Women are frequently held back from gaining this knowledge due to a host of systemic reasons:

  • Gender stereotypes and social norms.
  • Gendered disparities in education and upbringings.
  • Less access to or control over finance to pay for education and training.
  • Limited access to digital tools and connectivity to access to knowledge online.
  • A lack of role models and support networks.
  • Reduced availability of learning and training opportunities, or ones that don’t meet women’s needs.
  • An unequal share of unpaid care work that leaves women with less time to learn.

It follows therefore that removing the barriers women face to accessing knowledge—both through providing appropriate training and mentoring opportunities but also by tackling the societal factors—builds women’s capacity for entrepreneurial success.

I have been speaking to my friends and other people I meet about what I learned from HerVenture … It’s important that I not just retain the information, but that I also share it.

Ivonne Ocrospoma, a woman entrepreneur from Guyana stands in front of a desk with a computer and some documents on top of it. She has her arms crossed in front of her body and she's wearing a black and white dress with palm patterns all over it. She is wearing a black pair of glasses and has her hair pulled back into a ponytail.
Ivonne Ocrospoma, Managing Director of L&L Translation Services and HerVenture app user, Guyana

The knowledge chain reaction

These outcomes don’t stop with individuals. We already know that women entrepreneurs’ success creates fantastic benefits for those around them. We also find that when these women gain knowledge and information, they don’t keep it to themselves, they impart it to others – their relatives, friends, staff, clients, mentees and their fellow women entrepreneurs. This supports many others to better navigate their work and lives, and run successful businesses of their own.

What this means is that the knowledge transferal through business training or other development initiatives—like those we provide—permeates through entire communities and across generations. This creates a ripple effect of empowerment and economic growth. 

In this way, women entrepreneurs are huge contributors to the collective knowledge wealth of their societies and all the good that that brings.

For my community, I can have a positive impact on numerous women by passing on what I have learned, and in turn they will teach other women in their circle. When women come to me seeking financial help, I try to empower them with skills that can help them become financially independent.

A woman entrepreneur from Nigeria sits at a wooden table in a white chair. She leans her crossed arms on the chair. She is smiling and wearing a blue patterned dress. Her hair is down.
Natachi Peace Ugbajah, Founder of Health and Healthy Complete Living and Road to Growth participant, Nigeria

Building knowledge by design

Each of our programmes is designed to build participants’ entrepreneurial knowledge in at least one area, for example market research, business compliance, digital marketing or how to use mobile money. This is in addition to building women’s skills, networks, confidence and more. 

I have experienced the ‘ripple effect’ of this programme first-hand as I have seen myself continually teach other women what I have learned.

Our programmes achieve this with great success – for example, of the 360 women who took part in our Road to Growth training programme in 2023, 99% applied learnings from the programme to their businesses. This led to improvements in business performance for 85% of women just six months after they completed their training.  

Our evaluations show that our services not only directly improve women’s business performance, but also indirectly support other businesses in their communities as women go on to share their learnings through their networks. 

Felicia Ohikere, Founder of Lille’s Pastries and Road to Growth participant, Nigeria

Who is sharing their knowledge and how?

When it comes to sharing knowledge with other women entrepreneurs, this was something we measured intentionally in 2022. Of the women who took our training programmes in that year, 65% had either already shared or planned to share the knowledge they gained with other women entrepreneurs at the time they completed the programme.

Across our five programmes, although still more than half, the number of women sharing their newfound knowledge with other women entrepreneurs was lowest amongst users of our HerVenture app, at 53%.

HerVenture users tend to be younger and have younger and smaller businesses, or may not even have a business yet, and are therefore simply less likely to know other women entrepreneurs. We do see a high percentage of users going on to recommend the app itself to others – 60% in 2023 did so – highlighting how keen these women are to support others to learn.

68% of Road to Growth participants and 79% of Road to Finance participants had shared the knowledge they gained with others during their time on the programme alone. It stands to reason that these women would then continue to share this knowledge long after completing the programme owing to the intentional development of networking capacity. These participants are more likely to have established businesses and know other women entrepreneurs.

As for our Road to Leadership training, an enormous 96% of women who took part in 2022 said that they planned to share the knowledge they gained with other women entrepreneurs. This is no surprise: The training is geared around leadership development and advocacy to support other women entrepreneurs. 

Sola Adesakin poses at Smart Stewards in Nigeria
Sola Adesakin, Founder of Smart Stewards and Road to Growth participant, Nigeria

These figures do not count the many others with whom these women share their knowledge, either informally or indeed formally. We also find that women running businesses where their product is expertise often use our programmes to plug knowledge gaps and to identify best knowledge areas specifically with the intention of sharing this knowledge professionally. For example, we find professional business consultants taking Road to Growth and seasoned financial advisors taking Road to Finance for example – which then enables them to provide an even stronger service to their clients.  

Being a community leader and a leader of women, I wasn’t the only beneficiary of [Road to Growth’s] learning points, I went back to teach my community, and we have all become better for it … Having completed the Road to Growth programme, I am now able to impart the knowledge learned to the people that I consult for.

Women entrepreneurs are often role models to other women in their families, networks and communities. They therefore provide a fantastic route for knowledge-sharing. Our Mentoring Women in Business programme perhaps best exemplifies this – with its LinkedIn group, community webinars and other opportunities, it is designed to foster mutual community learning and knowledge-sharing, across borders, cultures and industries. In 2023, 91% of women who took part as mentees left feeling inspired to mentor others. We know that many do indeed go on to do so either informally or even by joining our programme again but as a mentor to another woman entrepreneur. 

One such mentee-turned-mentor was Van Dang, founder of Savvycom in Vietnam, who observed: “I see that the Mentoring Women in Business programme is the place where we can connect with each other, learn from each other and share knowledge and practical solutions with each other.” 

Juliet Kathendu is posing for a portrait next to her small shop where she sells vegetables, and household commodities along the street, Kayole, Kenya.
Juliet Kathendu, vegetable stall owner and HerVenture user, Kenya

A world where knowledge isn’t out of reach

As we see so often at the Foundation, one economically empowered woman begets many others. But economic empowerment is not only something that happens at the individual level.

In addition to our programmes, we undertake research, advocacy and influencing activity that we undertake in order to remove the barriers that women face in the first place. This is the responsibility of governments, the private sector, multilateral organisations and NGOs.

That networking opportunity is something I will cherish for a lifetime: we have a WhatsApp group where the mentors and female entrepreneurs still share knowledge, opportunities and support each other.

Natachi Peace Ugbajah, Founder of Health and Healthy Complete Living and Road to Growth participant, Nigeria

The surest and most sustainable routes to not only enable not only individual women entrepreneurs but, as a result, others around them to build vital business knowledge include:

  • Calling out and combating gender stereotypes that mean girls and women are less likely to be taught business skills.
  • Designing and implementing woman-centred business training programmes that operate on women’s terms – like our HerVenture app and “Road to” trainings.
  • Supporting women to build business networks where they can share knowledge.
  • Recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work so women have the time and ability to undertake training.

As many say, if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. The facts are clear: If you want to invest in the collective knowledge of a community or society, invest in training and mentoring its women entrepreneurs.

Before the app I didn’t know much about business, but I have a good picture now … I teach other women how to start a business from nothing too, so that they can become something.

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