“What is an entrepreneur?” – introducing our series on entrepreneurship in the Developing World

Our entrepreneurs are at the heart of all the work we do here at Balloon, and we’re always looking for new insight on the people we work with, and are always looking to improve the impact we can have on their businesses. Our entrepreneurs are inspirational and aspirational – most of them already run businesses which are the heart of their community.

At Balloon, we’re trying to get people to think differently about entrepreneurship. When people think of an entrepreneur, we don’t want people just to think of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezons and Donald Trump (!). We want people to think about Bernard, who’s a street Hawker; Anita who’s a Dressmaker, Claudia who’s a fashion designer and Mildred, who owns a hair salon. Entrepreneurship is an attitude. It’s about being a starter, a driver and being responsible for your own business. It’s about being your own boss and taking control of your own future.

Which is why we’re really excited about a series of posts where we challenge the perception of entrepreneurship we perceive most people as having. We’re going to be showing you, through case studies, photos, films and statistics, exactly who our entrepreneurs are, and why we’re proud to be able to work with them. In this post, we asked Enrico, our Insight & Impact Officer based in our London office, to give us a little bit of an insight into exactly what we know about our entrepreneurs and their backgrounds. Over to you, Enrico…

Who are our entrepreneurs?

Our entrepreneurs are at the core of our work and as such we get a lot of questions about who they are and what they do. So, I’ve put together a bit of an overview to introduce this new series of posts[1]. In short, they are a diverse group of people, ranging from the 20-something year-old recent graduate who wants to open a shop offering computer services, to the 40-year-old parent that wants to expand their retail business. We’ve got some stats to help break things down.

[1] The statistics of this post refer to the 154 entrepreneurs that took part in our programs in Kenya and Uganda in the first quarter of 2017.

The typical entrepreneur we support is either starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, or using their business to support their family.

One of our main beliefs is gender equality and as such we strive to create a programme that is well balanced in this regard. In the first 7 programmes of 2017 the gender split was a perfect 50/50, with a slightly higher proportion of females recruited in Kenya and a slightly higher proportion of males in Uganda. Most entrepreneurs are young: 50% of them are in their 20s. Older entrepreneurs tend to have more dependants they are looking after. Under the age of 30, the average number of dependants is 1, however above the age of 30, average dependants increases to 3. This means that the typical entrepreneur we support is either setting out on their entrepreneurial journey or looking after a family!

Even though experience and education vary greatly, most entrepreneurs have an educational background. About 75% completed high school or above, getting a bachelor’s or a professional diploma. Moreover, 78% have more than one year’s experience working, either in their own business or as an employee.

25% of the businesses we work with are brand new start-ups with nothing more than an idea.

What are the businesses they have? Are they new? In what sector do they operate? We track all of this information (and more)! 25% of businesses are brand new start-ups. This means they join our programme with nothing more than an idea. An idea which is then tested and refined through the Balloon programme, hopefully leading to an established enterprise.

Another 20% have just started their venture, having made some sales already, but for no more than 6 months. These are people who have a proven idea and are excited about growing even further. Together with facilitators, they work on innovations such as improving their product or service, targeting a new customer segment, or implement systematic bookkeeping. Finally, 55% of our beneficiaries have existing businesses that have been out there for six months or more. The programme supports them to do things like bolster efficiency or stand out further from competition.

Most of our entrepreneurs operate in the retail sector. More specifically, they specialise in either the clothing or food & drink industries. Second most popular was the service sector, with businesses as varied as beauty salons, graphic design or research consultancies. Finally, the third most common sector is agriculture/farming, which are particularly prominent in the rural areas where we work.

We asked Enrico to show us what a “typical” Balloon entrepreneur looked like. But, as Enrico put it, ‘there’s no such thing as a typical entrepreneur!’ Each entrepreneur we work with has a different background, a different story and different skills to bring to the table. It’s why we’re so keen on keeping entrepreneurs in the driving seat throughout the Balloon intervention.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Balloon as a volunteer, and are an EU citizen resident in the UK, aged between 18 and 35, then click here to read all about Balloon ICS, our government-funded 12 week volunteering programme.

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