Beyond the Threshold: Investing in Women-led Small and Growing Businesses

Published: October 2013

This collaborative research project was designed to address the need for greater depth, insight, and clarity on the problems of underinvestment in Women-led Small and Growing Businesses (WSGBs), including those led by younger women (18-35 years old). It is an intentionally exploratory process intended to foster collaboration among ANDE members while also contributing to the existing body of knowledge and identifying areas for further exploration, study, and action. The research recognizes that women entrepreneurs are not a homogenous group, and attempts where possible to make distinctions based on other socioeconomic and demographic factors, as well as to acknowledge the variance in preferences even among those narrower groups.

Key Findings

  • Women's entrepreneurship is good for women, families, and communities.
  • While Women led Small and Growing Businesses (WSGBs) are not a homogenous group, in general they are more likely to be service oriented and prefer organic growth, largely financed by their own or family funds.
  • There's a gap in financing available for SGBs in general, and the finance that does exist is especially difficult for women to access.
  • Women entrepreneurs need support beyond -- but linked to -- finance.
  • The business case for prioritizing investment in womenled enterprise has yet to be fully made.
  • While these findings largely apply across contexts, some country-specific issues also emerged with particular relevance for Kenya and India. In Kenya, our sample of focus group and workshop participants reflected many of the characteristics of the global findings listed above, such as preferences for organicgrowth, limitations on access to finance, and formal and informal discrimination faced. Some specific themes also emerged as particularly salient for the Kenyan context: 1) emphasis on the lack of relatable role models and storytelling as a barrier to the growth of women-led enterprise; 2) discrimination among financial institutions; and 3) active youth entrepreneurship scene, with particular focus on social enterprise. It should be noted that the sample we drew from was not representative of Kenya as whole; most of the women we talked to were from urban areas and had a relatively high degree of education.

Populations Urban, Women

Publishers Value for Women

Geographic Focus Africa (Eastern)-Uganda, Asia (Southeastern)-India, Africa (Eastern)-Kenya

Funded by Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, BiD Network, ING Bank Sustainability