Meet ANDE Champions Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in SEA Region

“Women are not the beneficiaries, but opportunities to generate impact within the ecosystem”, said Fai Wechayachai, ANDE East and Southeast Asia Regional Chapter Manager, during the UNDP Youth Co:Lab’s Hotseat Session on “Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs”.

How can small and growing businesses (SGBs) contribute to gender equality? ANDE believes SGBs can play a critical role in addressing systemic gender challenges and develop best practices to make the ecosystem more welcoming for women.

Starting in October 2020,  ANDE Gender Equality Initiative (AGEI)’s Action Lab launched across ANDE’s eight regional chapters with the hope that it becomes the powerhouse to lead the SGB sector closer to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By the end of 2021, we hope to identify a promising solution that ANDE members and their collaborators can engage in by incorporating design-thinking methods and engaging those with their past experiences.

We envision a more gender-focused SGB ecosystem — where women-led businesses are effectively supported, gender-inclusive employment practices are adopted, and products and services are designed to improve the lives of women customers.

In this blog, meet four ANDE Members — Athena Global, Pact, Manila Angel Investors Network (MAIN), and Villgro — and two ANDE AGEI Action Lab Participants — xchange and CEED — and explore how these organizations support the entrepreneurial journeys for women entrepreneurs.

Photo credit: Athena Global

BIDUK in Indonesia by Athena Global
Athena Global is a decade-old, woman-owned consulting firm focusing on access to finance for underserved or under-represented populations, with a focus on emerging markets. One of their key projects is BIDUK Indonesia. BIDUK stands for BerInvestasi Dalam Usaha untuk Kemajuan or Investing in Business for Progress. BIDUK is a financial lender focused on small and growing businesses (SGBs) in Indonesia to narrow the access to finance gap.

BIDUK offers loans sized between USD$10k-100k with a tenor of up to 12 months. BIDUK’s financial products are built with flexibility and aim to remove gender bias from the lending process to demonstrate two concepts: 1) women are not riskier investments than men, and 2) by offering the right tailored financial products and services to SGBs, it will help them grow into healthy and sustainable businesses.

Photo credit: Athena Global

WE Act: Empowering Young Women Entrepreneurs in Cambodia by Pact
WE Act is a five-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that supports young women in Cambodia’s urban centers to realize their path toward empowerment and succeed as entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities.

Photo credit: Pact Cambodia

The project develops women-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) through capacity development, network expansion, information sharing, access to finance and markets, and more. By targeting system-level challenges, Pact hopes to reduce economic gender barriers and stimulate women’s participation in decision-making processes.

Photo credit: Pact Cambodia

Gender Lens Investing in the Philippines by Manila Angel Investors Network (MAIN)
MAIN recently embarked on Gender Lens Investing through the four-year partnership with Investing in Women,  an Australian Aid program. The project aims to provide catalytic investment capital for women-owned and women-led SMEs in the Philippines, diversify the angel membership to include more women investors, and expand their member services and activities.

Photo credit: MAIN Philippines

MAIN also runs an acceleration program to leverage investment readiness for women entrepreneurs and provides post-investment support to scale their businesses.

Photo credit: MAIN Philippines

WE Rise Accelerator Program in the Philippines by Villgro
In 2020, Villgro Philippines launched its flagship accelerator program, WE Rise, exclusively designed for Women Entrepreneurs in the Philippines. The accelerator focuses on access to capital and reducing the gender finance gap in the country. Twenty diverse women entrepreneurs in the cohort have focused on rebuilding from the pandemic, strengthening their business models, and supporting their communities. The success of the accelerator highlighted the need for a larger ecosystem of support for women entrepreneurs, leading to the launch of the WE Rise Community, an access-to-finance platform and community of women entrepreneurs in the Philippines.

Photo credit: Villgro Philippines

Villgro Philippines launched the WE Rise Community, in collaboration with the UN Women WeEmpowerAsia, in March 2021 to bring an ecosystem of support for women entrepreneurs. At its core, the community is built around improving access to finance. The WE Rise Community currently hosts more than 80 women entrepreneurs, investors, entrepreneur support organizations, and technical assistance providers. The WE Rise Community also hosts a range of activities and resources for its members. This includes finance and investment readiness learning modules, community building activities, and monthly pitch practices.

Incubation program for women entrepreneurs in the Philippines by xchange
In the last ten years, xchange has been running a multi-year incubation program for scalable impact enterprises focused on the Philippines where a number of the enterprises are women-led. Impact Pioneers is a program in partnership with Villgro Philippines and with the generous support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia. It’s the first-of-its-kind angel investing network to catalyze local capital and back high-potential Philippine enterprises through customized incubation, technical assistance, and investment readiness program. 

xchange also provides mentorship and related advisory services for women entrepreneurs and programs that directly support them, such as the Advancing Women Social Entrepreneurs (WSEs) in ASEAN, a partnership between S&P Global Foundation and Ashoka.

Women Entrepreneurs Program in Thailand by CEED

Photo credit: CEED Thailand

Amid the pandemic challenges in 2020, the Center of Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) successfully took its first step to strengthen women-led SGBs in Thailand. Partnering with Vitol Foundation and TVA Community, the Women Entrepreneurs Program aims to analyze, coach, and support women founders and CEOs of growing companies to be able to develop, transform, and sustain their businesses. By participating in the program, the cohorts learn best practices and develop tools for improving the efficiency of their organizations.

Photo credit: CEED Thailand

Funding Opportunities for Gender Champions
Whilst many organizations are collaboratively working to support women entrepreneurs, there is a huge gap investors and SGBs often face in prioritizing gender considerations in investment processes and business models. ANDE values the importance of collaborations and partnerships, thus we would like to share a new funding opportunity available through ANDE’s Gender-Smart Capacity Building Facility. This facility aims to help investors build the technical know-how to incorporate gender into their investment thesis and process and help priority pipeline SGBs make gender-smart business decisions to lower risks and heighten profits.

In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the ANDE Gender-Smart Capacity Building Facility will award five grants of up to USD $30,000 for pre-investment, gender-smart capacity building services to joint teams of one investor and 1-3 SGBs operating in qualified geographies (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam). Find more information on requirements, timeline, application resources, and apply by August 18, 2021.

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