Catching on with the recent spotlight on the women in technology, SHE (Support Her Enterprise) Investments is a new social enterprise dedicated towards Cambodian women. As the group’s main mission is to develop profitable and sustainable small or medium businesses in mind of the gender, they will be providing support through a business incubator program with regular training workshops, and one-on-one support systems.
Other than investing resources to help the women, the bigger objectives involve alleviating poverty through income generation and employment; improving local economies; and bridging the gender gap in business and entrepreneurship. In a bold statement, this organization is here to change the way people think about women, business, and poverty; and as they echoed on their profile, redefine the concept of investing in women in developing countries as an opportunity — not charity. They recognize that most of the primary issues derive from gender inequality, and perhaps targeting the specific gender group can prove to create significant and last change for everyone collectively.
As of date, they are involved in business capital linkage (for example, turning businesses into investments, and going further to link the opportunities for capital investment with other agencies), education with their training sessions, and support through their mentoring and peer-support structures to encourage shared learning. This will be one of their primary approach after spending the last 12 months doing research and planning for their pilot. Since mid 2013, the team behind SHE Investments have been conducting research into the economic environment in which women entrepreneurs in Cambodia are currently working in, and the key barriers they face in scaling their enterprises, and this includes connecting with individuals in Australia, Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia to discover what gaps currently exist, what’s working and what needs improvement, and where things are headed.
Some of the key takeaways worth noting are:
Cambodia’s economy, government and key international supportive agencies are set to invest in women & SMEs.
This pertains to the growing focus from the Cambodian government and other major international development agencies directed towards improving women’s employment opportunities and structures for female entrepreneurs. As gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are fundamental to economic growth, it shows a big area of growth potential for the nation.
Paying back a micro loan is not a sole indicator of success.
The common “borrowing cycle” is one of the adverse results from the many Micro-finance programs that currently exist in Cambodia, and the team recognizes that while women are able to access loans to start micro-businesses and receive some training; they often lack the ability to grow their business into an enterprise that no longer needs to rely on annual loans. The key to getting out of this cycle is really investing in the entrepreneurial skills needed to scale that enterprise, instead of just running the enterprise on a year-to-year basis.
The key barriers facing women entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily monetary.
Adding on to the previous point, one of the major key barriers is the ability to scale businesses beyond national grounds. Economic, educational, social and cultural barriers often cause women to lack the self-confidence, knowledge, or support to become business owners of profitable and sustainable companies; and SHE Investments is here to turn the table around on this matter.
As of date, the organization will be hoping for a soft launch in November 2014, and will start their pilot program in February 2015. The program will be operated in two sectors with 5 women each, one in an urban area (Phnom Penh) and the other in a rural part. You can find out more information about them through their website or their Facebook page. We will be hearing more from them in the upcoming months, so keep checking this space for more updates!