Our mobile learning app for women entrepreneurs, HerVenture, has been shortlisted for the Third Sector Awards! Foundation Partnerships Development Manager, Nora Bendžius-Drennan, reflects on its innovation and success through COVID-19.
In April 2020, just a few months into the pandemic, women entrepreneurs were already sharing with us that their businesses had been significantly affected, threatening devastating impacts on themselves and their families. In fact, 93% of the women entrepreneurs who responded to our survey had already been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and 44% had ceased operations temporarily. Six months later, in November 2020, nearly one in ten women entrepreneurs we surveyed told us that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the single greatest challenge they had ever faced, and nearly four in ten (38.5%) reported their business will or may have to close as a result. It was clear that now more than ever, women needed an app that fits business training and support into their busy lives.
The Foundation is committed to ensuring women entrepreneurs are supported with the resources they need. The app is currently available in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam, and will reach entrepreneurs in Guyana later this year. During the pandemic, we pivoted and expanded our learning training and responded to two critical emerging learning needs to help entrepreneurs’ businesses remain active and resilient: developing their knowledge of e-commerce and digital marketing. And so, over the past year, we have rapidly developed and rolled out new HerVenture learning tracks on these topics.
The app is free, and users can sign up and start learning instantly, wherever they are and at their own pace, making it far more accessible than traditional classroom learning. It generates a personalised learning journey for each entrepreneur based on their individual business needs. It’s fun and flexible as the learning content is provided in bite-sized, easily digestible formats such as swipe-able cards and quizzes, and can be used offline.
When HerVenture was launched in Kenya last year, its uptake exceeded target numbers and the app was praised by the Kenyan government. Wangari, a Kenyan women entrepreneur who runs a soap manufacturing business in Keno, had to overcome tremendous business and personal challenges when the pandemic hit. Through HerVenture’s training, she learned how to navigate launching a business online and reaching wider markets. Wangari said:
“Before we were running blind, so the app is a light in the dark. It helps us to know what to do, and if you’re stuck you can access the tool to address it. I encourage younger women not to be afraid of business: know there is opportunity for all of us, and use tools like HerVenture.”
With many businesses struggling during COVID-19, and women being disproportionately impacted in comparison to men during the pandemic, HerVenture is a way for us to reach a high number of women entrepreneurs quickly, providing them with tools needed to support their business resilience and to pivot to online sales should their business be able to do so. For us these women aren’t just entrepreneurs – they are pioneers, role models and change-makers.
We know that investment in the economic empowerment of women is vital and our ability to reach and support women entrepreneurs and their businesses wouldn’t be possible without the amazing partners who have funded HerVenture so far: USAID, Qualcomm for Good, DHL Express and the ExxonMobil Foundation. Our delivery partners, working directly with women entrepreneurs, also make this work achievable: the Enterprise Development Centre in Nigeria, Sinapis in Kenya, AWIEF in South Africa, Kinara in Indonesia and WISE in Vietnam.
Thank you again, Third Sector Awards, for shortlisting us, and we look forward to celebrating the results with you in September.
HerVenture is highly scalable and adaptable. The Foundation is actively seeking funding partnerships to enable the app to launch in, but not limited, to Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and Mozambique, with each iteration carefully adapted for a local context. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss potential partnerships!