by Elizabeth Wells, Senior Programme Manager
Earlier this year, after just starting with the Foundation, I visited Indonesia. I was excited to travel with a new colleague and meet some donors and, of course, the women supported by my new work. The three days were busy and packed full of learnings.
We started the first day meeting our local partner, ASPPUK, at their offices. We reviewed how the marketing for our new app, HerVenture, was going and the rewards and challenges ASPPUK had with training women regionally how to download and use it. We also met with a local marketing agency to learn about the most effective techniques for promoting our free, educational business-skills app across the region.
The second day we met representatives from two donor organisations supporting the roll out the Foundation’s app in Indonesia and together we spoke with users directly. As the women speak Bahasa, our local partner ASSPUK facilitated an interactive session to provide us with the opportunity to talk directly with the women about their experiences.
Women from Sukabumi and East Jakarta sat down with us to tell us how the app could better serve women in their community. While they all found the registration process easy, having HerVenture linked to an email account could be tricky. Many women are moving away from using email and wondered instead if it could be linked to a handset number or a different form of account. We also received really positive feedback:
- The app is very easy to use and it’s offline functionality makes it more accessible.
- It’s an enjoyable game – the points you can earn and sounds it makes when a module is completed ensure it’s fun to use.
- Being able to refer back to training content from previous modules made for a better learning experience.
And on the difference it was already making to the way the women micro-entrepreneurs ran their businesses:
- The women learnt how to work goals and aspirations into their strategies and better justify the value of their businesses
- Content helped them identify the best customers
- Learning to manage and calculate finances meant they had started keeping some money for their own monthly salary for the first time
- Lessons on bookkeeping and analysis of target markets helped them avoid business failures that many of the women had experienced previously.
Though Foundation staff don’t take trips often, they are a vital part of our work because it allows us to better connect with local partners and the women we support. Face to face meetings help us develop strong working relationships that foster knowledge sharing with our partners. We also gain a deeper insight into how our programmes can be improved to better support the women entrepreneurs we serve. Some key recommendations we came away with were:
- Though small, a certain level of business knowledge was assumed in the language used in the app. Having a dictionary component to unpack some of the business language would make is more accessible. Alternatively we can rephrase some of the business terms so that they are easier to understand.
- Cheaper versions of Android phones are commonplace. These have less memory, which can make downloading the app a challenge. It’s offline usability is a great feature. We need to determine the best way to make the app the smallest size while delivering all the content the women find helpful. For example, some women asked for a lesson on gender in business that offered guidance in how to navigate domestic and community relations as a business owner and help bring about support from their family to ensure the women could continue their entrepreneurship journey.
As we evaluate the first pilot year of our app in Indonesia, these recommendations, alongside a formal evaluation will help us to determine improvements to our tech and next steps in our marketing and training plans.
Because trips are infrequent, our small staff and donor contingent also took the chance to meet with another woman entrepreneur supported by a different aspect our work – our Mentoring Programme. By matching women in low and middle-income countries with men and women mentors around the world, through an online platform, our Mentoring Programme facilitates as 12 month relationship between a mentee and mentor to work one-on-one to achieve key business goals.
As is the diverse nature of the work at the Foundation, a majority of the businesses run by women entrepreneur mentees in the region are quite different to those using our HerVenture app. The visit to one of our mentee’s businesses gave us further insight into women’s entrepreneurship in Indonesia and the work of the Foundation. This is Cisca’s story.
For the last five years Cisca has been working hard to grow her cookie business. Now she has three employees in her head office; two in sales, and one administrator. Cisca is yet to make a profit despite successfully selling her product into high profile stores such as IKEA.
In a bid to diversity her business, she has recently started a line in ready-to-eat jarred meals. Cisca is working with her mentor, the acting CEO of a consumer and enterprise tech consulting firm in Canada to increase productivity and develop her marketing strategy. We’re excited to see what thriving results their partnership leads to.