Women Entrepreneurs Struggling & Innovating in the Face of COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries.

Women Entrepreneurs Struggling & Innovating in the Face of COVID-19

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As COVID-19 began to take a hold across the globe impacting individuals, families, and economies, we could barely begin to imagine the impact this would have, both on the businesses run by women entrepreneurs, but beyond this on their lives, economic independence and agency. To better understand what was happening and how we could help we ran a short survey with women who have participated or were currently participating in our mentoring and entrepreneurship programmes.

How? The Methodology

We shared a survey link with the women business owners we had contact with online. We wanted to hear directly from the women we support at early stages of the global pandemic.

Participants were asked to fill in a brief, online survey with a mixture of quantitative and qualitative questions relating to their businesses. Topics covered included COVID-19’s impacts on their enterprises, what steps they had taken to mitigate these, what support they needed, and what business training areas and skills-building topics are their current priorities.

Who responded and what kind of businesses do they run?

This briefing has been drawn from data collected in April 2020 from 580 women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries currently participating in the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business and Road to Growth programmes or using the Foundation’s HerVenture mobile app.

These women run businesses in a wide variety of sectors including manufacturing, consulting, agriculture, retail and food and beverage manufacturing.

What they told us…

Severity of impact: The responses to our survey paint a challenging picture of the landscape and depth of need:

  • 93% of respondents had already been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and 4% haven’t yet been impacted but think they will be in the future
  • Of those already impacted, 44% have ceased operations temporarily and 3% have ceased operations permanently
  • Of those whose businesses have not yet been but will be impacted, 4% have already ceased operations temporarily in advance of impact
  • 76% of respondents have requested additional support from the Foundation
  • In addition to skills training, advice and networks, there is an overwhelming need from women entrepreneurs for direct financial support right now

Nature of impact: Of the respondents already impacted:

  • 43% report access to customers – either individuals or other businesses – having been reduced or stopped completely
  • 29% report production or services reduced
  • 21% report supply chain problems

The most-immediately-affected sectors are beauty, hospitality, travel and tourism, construction, logistics, energy, real estate, telecommunications, medical and pharmacy, and utilities – 100% of all respondents’ businesses in these sectors had already been affected at the time of the survey. When respondents whose businesses have either already been or will be affected are combined, food and beverage manufacturers and healthcare are also 100%.

Been operating at a wholesale level. With hotels and restaurants closed, we are thinking about how we can reorganize our operations to serve the retail market.

Woman entrepreneur who answered our survey