Africa has more female entrepreneurs than any other continent in the world. This should mean that women are the engine of the economy, but in reality they are not. For the most part, women-run businesses remain at the level of petty trading and self-employment, barely growing to the point of either hiring enough labor or having a significant impact on the economy.
One of the reasons for this is that they rarely have access to funding. Sheclused Founder and CEO Ifeoma Udoh was a guest at Nairametrics Business Half Hour, where she pointed out that in four years of working with a company that provided start-up funding to businesses, she had barely seen any women come in search of funding. for their businesses and it piqued his interest.
“It was confusing to see that I have hardly ever seen women come to seek funding for companies, especially since we know that Africa has the largest number of women entrepreneurs. If they are not given the money to start or grow their business then this is something to be concerned about. It just means that the people who run the companies that should stimulate the economy do not have access to finance ”, Udoh explained.
Sheclused was founded in 2019 to provide women with financing opportunities, access to capital and business training to run their businesses. Shecluded started out with a focus on stay-at-home moms, and later on low-income people who wanted to go into business. So far, the company has been able to better define its target market to accommodate more women and intends to do more in the future.
“I started Sheclusd with the main goal of ensuring that women entrepreneurs who can do more have the resources to do more. I learned that capital and access to capital and finance can change people’s lives, so when we started I didn’t want to give 50,000 naira loans to women because I didn’t see it. would have a great impact on them or on the economy. A person cannot evolve with a loan of 50,000 naira and he cannot employ others. I wanted to give them the type of loan that would change their lives, help them engage others and have a visible impact on the economy around them ”, Udoh explained.
Is Shecluded discriminatory? NO!
Shecluded set out to focus on a demographic that had been largely unexplored in terms of financial initiatives and services for entrepreneurial businesses.
It took a lot of funding to do this, but Udoh explained that she refrained from getting funding in the first year because she wanted to firmly set the tone of the business and get everything in place. For the first year of operation (2019) she started with her savings and in the second year (2020) secured $ 100,000 in funding to grow.
The company is already moving towards a kind of digital bank for women, since it now has a savings product based on demand. Sheclused is also currently raising more funds and intends to roll out more products before the end of 2021, and to become the number one resource and financial service for women in Nigeria and Africa in the years to come.
Why women are excluded from funding opportunities
The question of why women entrepreneurs were excluded from funding opportunities in the first place, despite being more numerous, is what Shecluded first set out to answer before proposing any solutions. Some of the reasons Udoh cited were literacy, socio-cultural biases, and the way financial services were communicated to women.
“If you just give a woman a loan, she might turn you down. But when it comes to an asset-based loan, something that would clearly improve one’s business, then you might get a better answer. So I discovered that there had been problems in the way financial services were communicated to women in the past ”, Udoh said.
To address literacy and financial lifestyle issues, Sheluded also launched counseling sessions in 2020 to teach women how to have financial plans, emergency funds, an investment culture, and cut spending. when it comes to lifestyle. There were also trainings on digital skills, self-development, self-promotion and marketing.
“Another thing we found is that female entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by survival. They want to be able to support themselves and take care of their families. I encourage women to look beyond the family and think about how their businesses can help build the nation, especially as they begin to employ others.
Any woman who decides to do something will and will do it well, so we need to broaden her mind to think beyond entrepreneurship to survive and start thinking about how she can do more and be more. This is what I want to see in the next level of entrepreneurship ”, Udoh said.