Supporting Female Entrepreneurs through COVID-19
This post originally appeared on the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation medium page.
In recent weeks, the government of Uganda instituted a nationwide curfew, required non-essential businesses to close, and restricted the movement of people. While food producers like Farm Reap are still permitted to operate, these restrictions are still significantly affecting her company’s ability to produce, distribute, and market its yogurts. For example, she has noted a reduction in demand and sales as some supermarkets close and others shift inventory toward less perishable items that are higher in demand. That’s a dramatic change for her business, as she typically sells her yogurts in a variety of sizes at nearly 100 locations across the city. Movement restrictions have also had financial impacts — it is harder to collect payments from retailers who purchased yogurt on credit and more difficult to access financial services due to bank closures.
In response to the restrictions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sylvia decided to scale back her business and operate at half its normal capacity. Currently, Farm Reap is only producing yogurt based on orders received from select pre-existing supermarket clients. As the shutdown continues, she expects there will be significant impacts on revenue, and is proactively testing new business models to counteract this. For instance, instead of selling only to supermarkets, Sylvia plans to sell directly to individual consumers and has started leveraging social media and other online platforms to promote her products.
Partnering for Innovation and Challenges Uganda are working closely to support Farm Reap in navigating these unexpected challenges by integrating a resilience component into the acceleration services provided. Challenges Uganda will conduct a resilience diagnostic to evaluate Farm Reap’s current strengths, weaknesses, and risks in responding to economic shocks such as COVID-19. The firm will also help Farm Reap evaluate its revenue streams and costs, while providing strategic guidance on the best business models to pursue.
Small businesses like Farm Reap are disproportionately impacted by economic shocks, including those already caused by COVID-19. This impact is compounded for female entrepreneurs who often face less favorable terms for financing and limited access to markets, market information, and digital technology. Development practitioners and accelerators play a pivotal role in ensuring that small and growing businesses are able to successfully adapt and respond to shocks and stressors so their products can continue serving customers and markets for years to come.