Youth Business International (YBI), the only global network organisation dedicated to youth entrepreneurship, knows that the power of harnessing the potential of every young person into entrepreneurship is transformative. It provides diversity of business, opportunities for excluded communities to flourish and ensures young people, who have the greatest stake in our future, are empowered to shape their economies. Entrepreneurship support is crucial to providing young people the tools, support, guidance and networks to help their businesses thrive, but the support must be specialized to meet the needs of a wide range of young people or risk perpetuating existing inequalities in business. YBI is committed to making entrepreneurship accessible to all young people, regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, immigration status, educational or professional background, financial situation or rural place of residence. More diversity in entrepreneurship leads to greater diversity of businesses that provide solutions to a wide range of global challenges, benefiting us all.
This is why we are dedicating the month of October to driving inclusivity and diversity in entrepreneurship, highlighting the systemic barriers that different groups of young entrepreneurs face, and exploring support needs and solutions.
We are working with our network of members across the month through a series of workshops, seminars and learning sessions focusing on providing the best entrepreneurship support to meet the needs of young people from a variety of backgrounds.
Globally there are huge disparities for women and men looking to start their own businesses. Female founders receive significantly less funding for their businesses than their male counterparts, despite research showing that women-led businesses tend to perform better in the long run. Fewer women seek entrepreneurship as a livelihood too, as they are also often subjected to discrimination and bias forcing them into traditional gender roles that restrict their entrepreneurial aspirations and access to support.
Across our network, we’re providing specialised support to young women. To address the financial barriers and lack of access to support for women entrepreneurs in Kenya, YBI has launched our Revolving Loan Fund, implemented by our member Somo and supported by Standard Chartered Foundation. The fund provides business loans to female entrepreneurs to help them build their repayment history as well as business coaching and training to grow their businesses into commercially viable and investable models.
We are committed to empowering all of our members to improve the gender inclusivity and effectiveness of their programmes and to effect change we will launch our new Toolkit for Gender Inclusivity later this month. A big ‘thank you’ to Catalystas Consulting and our members Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre (BYEAH), MicroLab, Mebala Youth Studios, ETIC., and Habitat for contributing to the creation of the toolkit.
People with disabilities are often faced with prejudice about their abilities and skills. Additionally, traditional entrepreneurship support services often do not accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and are therefore inaccessible.
As part of our Futuremakers programme, supported by Standard Chartered Foundation, many of our members have adjusted their programmes to make them accessible. Our member in Nigeria, FATE Foundation, for example, is actively working to combat prejudice by bringing together young entrepreneurs with disabilities with funding and government institutions.
We are also currently working in partnership with Sightsavers and our members Development Solutions, FATE Foundation, Cordaid Uganda, MicroLab, and Inner City Enterprise to develop and test a comprehensive set of resources designed to remove barriers faced by entrepreneurs with disabilities – watch this space for more on this soon.
Refugees face a wide range of challenges when they arrive in a new country, including language barriers, lack of networks, racism and xenophobia, and legal restrictions tied to their migration status holding them back from starting a business.
In June 2022, we launched our BEST by Futuremakers project, implemented by Youth Business Poland and supported by Standard Chartered Foundation, to support displaced Ukrainians to gain employment or start or re-start their own business in Poland. To date, the support has reached 11,000 participants and we are delighted to extend the project until the end of June 2024 to support even more Ukrainian and other refugee communities in Poland to grow successful businesses.
We are delighted that on 9th October, TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network C.I.C.) will host a webinar for our global network providing a sneak peek of “above and beyond” types of refugee entrepreneurship support from around the world, where the support goes beyond traditional mentoring, business advice and incubation programmes. These will include access to finance solutions, route to market solutions, solutions to build social capital and participation, and inclusion initiatives and campaigns that put migrant and refugee entrepreneurs at the forefront.
Indigenous people around the world have been subjected to extreme adversity and discrimination that has restricted or erased their ability to participate in entrepreneurship for decades. The effects of this discrimination are still felt today in countries like Canada, Australia and many others.
This is why YBI, in collaboration with our member Futurpreneur, and supported by Accenture has launched Opkhiwin Series: Journey to financial empowerment for Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada.
Working with Indigenous community leaders and entrepreneurs, the programme fosters economic inclusion and resilience across Canada. It assists aspiring entrepreneurs in developing their businesses’ financial capacity and entrepreneurship skills through an Indigenous worldview to foster Indigenous economic empowerment and prosperity.
YBI is also running an Indigenous working group with our members Futurpreneur, Manq’a, Perspektiva, and Corporación Minuto de Dios and developing an Indigeous entrepreneurship playbook, which will be launched in April 2024.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X to learn more about how we drive inclusive youth entrepreneurship.