Pure Perseverance: A Study of Women's Small Businesses in Colombia: Understanding Success Factors of Women's and Men's Small Businesses in Bucaramanga, Colombia

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Jan 2013
Supporting women's businesses has become a topic of growing interest to governments and mainstream development institutions in recent years. Declarations to address women's unequal access to economic opportunity at the G-20 Summit, the development of UN Women, and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative reflect that mainstream institutions are adopting a role in improving women's economic opportunities throughout the developed and developing world. This study aims to inform thinking around these initiatives, using a detailed case study in Colombia as a basis. We begin by posing the question, why support women's businesses as opposed to all small businesses in a developing country, arguing that there are multiple potential reasons including economic development, investment in families and promoting gender equality. We then discuss some of the success and failure factors that our case study identifies in women's and men's businesses and link these to potential interventions that can best serve women entrepreneurs. This understanding feeds into a parallel objective, to evaluate a business training and business strengthening program for women with small businesses in several cities in Colombia: Mujeres ECCO . Our study combines primary data analysis from the databases of the Chambers of Commerce of Bucaramanga and Cartagena with interviews with 120 small business owners as well as participants in the Mujeres ECCO program to gain further insight into the differences between men's and women's and successful and unsuccessful businesses and the factors influencing those differences, and to better understand how one program worked to specifically address women's business needs. These were complemented by a literature review and focus group discussions and interviews with business owners and stakeholders in Mujeres ECCO and other programs.