The Dutch government has given entrepreneurs a way to do business in developing countries, without jumping through hoops to do so. The Dutch Good Growth Fund offers a source of financing for development-related businesses to improve the economies of developing countries, create jobs and increase production capacity locally.

The Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF) is seeking win-win situations: helping locally and fixing globally. The DGGF is divided into three subsections:

  1. Financing small to medium businesses looking to make development-related investments in low-income countries. These are companies located in the Netherlands, investing in business in other countries.
  2. Financing enterprises within low-income countries. These are small businesses in other countries that a Dutch company will support.
  3. Financing small to medium businesses wanting to export to low-income countries. These are Dutch companies exporting to other countries.

This Netherlands based loan fund is comprised of 700 million Euros from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Out of the total loans, 20 percent of the funding goes towards businesses in fragile states, and another 20 percent goes to women entrepreneurs.  The funding applies to 66 countries throughout the globe, all of which have emerging markets and low incomes.

The program was launched in 2014, and has yet to make any significant progress. The idea is promising—helping us while helping others—but it does not seem to be working as efficiently as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had hoped. By targeting small businesses, the waves of success are inherently smaller.

These small waves of success, however, could amount to something big. The Dutch Good Fun Program is still only in its second year and it has already reached out to over 66 countries, helping their own local economy and boosting the morale of small business entrepreneurs. This is a program to watch out for.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: Agripro Focus, Berenschot, Centre of Research on Multinational Corporations, Government of Netherlands
Photo: GNBCC

Soles for Souls
Soles4Souls was founded in 2006 and is based in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clothing and shoes for the poor. It works in collaboration with local and global partners in the distribution of clothing and shoes, and provides micro-enterprise programs by creating jobs in disadvantaged communities.

Soles4Souls collaborates with various community partners, supporting them through organizational resources. Community partners include homeless shelters receiving shoe donations, women’s shelters receiving business wear donations and inner city hospitals receiving clothing donations. Collection and circulation of wearable donations, as well as providing micro-enterprise programs, are the organization’s focus.

There are two methods of collection that Soles4Souls utilizes. It provides clothing and shoes that are discontinued, floor models, non-marketable overstocks and returns from retailers in the United States and other countries. It also provides clothing and shoes that are collected from individuals, educational centers, faith-based organizations and other corporate partners.

Upon being collected, the items are shipped to designated micro-enterprise businesses in different countries. The organization then contracts with private and nonprofit organizations to provide business resources as support. These methods introduce additional streams of income, and the overall objective is to create self-sustaining opportunities in poor communities.

This initiation of micro-enterprise activities adheres to the Millennium Development Goals in terms of eradicating poverty. On the United Nation’s website, the goal outlines the ability to “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.”

Creating micro-enterprise programs in poor communities is a main focus of Soles4Souls. It believes these programs are key components for the social movement to promote social change. It aims to assist communities by providing sustainable jobs to impoverished people through business start-up opportunities. Soles4Souls states, “The concept itself is simple, an embodiment of the old saying, ‘Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; give him a way to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.'”

Additional areas of interest include responding to natural disasters and orphanages by providing clothing and shoes. Soles4Souls has a “ready-inventory” in order to provide resources to disaster areas. In recent years, it has sent inventory to Hurricane Katrina victims. Orphanages in Central and South America, including Haiti, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Tanzania, receive recurring resources in order to help with school uniforms and other essentials.

Soles4Souls aims to impact the 1 billion children who lack basic necessities like shoes and running water.

Erika Wright

Sources: Soles4Souls, UN
Photo: Flickr

Creativity comes in many forms. For example, it can be when one combines fashion and justice to bring business to impoverished communities around the world — and that is exactly what Jessica Honegger did when she created Noonday Collection.

What started as a trunk show by a woman who wanted to raise money to adopt a son from Rwanda soon became more than a one-time fundraiser, It has become an innovative business model that allows women to use fashion to create jobs at living wages for artisans in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Since its launch in 2011, Noonday Collection has provided women in the U.S. the opportunity to earn an income through entrepreneurship while still alleviating global poverty, creating a mutual beneficiary relationship that strays from the charitable “handout.”

Using fashion and design to create economic opportunity for impoverished communities, women can become social entrepreneurs known as Noonday Collection Ambassadors.

As ambassadors, women use their fashion sense to change the world and collaborate with others to make an impact simply by shopping, styling, sharing and advocating.

Noonday Collection states it best on its website: “Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans.”

Noonday Collection Ambassadors partner with artisans in developing countries by selling jewelry, winter scarves, headbands and other accessories through trunk shows and personalized e-commerce sites. Artisans earn a percentage of the sales commission.

By partnering with artisans in developing countries, ambassadors can empower others to create a marketplace for their goods in their own community while still being able to help those in poverty earn a sustainable business to support their families.

Noonday Collection pays for all its products up-front and even makes advanced payments to provide artisans the money flow they need to start a sustainable business.

The company also sends members of its team to train artisans on what practices are best to design for the U.S. market among other topics to help them understand their business.

In addition, Noonday Collection offers scholarship programs, emergency assistance and donate a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to help place orphans in a permanent home.

If you would like to take part in this growing movement that has supported more than 1,200 adoptive families through its entrepreneurial insight and fashionable taste, visit the Noonday Collection website to learn how to become a Noonday Collection Ambassador:

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Noonday Collection 1, Noonday Collection 2, Toms
Photo: Flickr

UNDP and Microsoft
The United Nations Development Programme in partnership with Microsoft East Africa Limited, has a launched an initiative to support the continued development of entrepreneurship activities in Ethiopia.

The initiative, which is a part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, will bring mentoring and support to around 200,000 young entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will also have access to Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which provides free software to start-up entrepreneurs, helping them to launch their products and gain global recognition.

To date, there are 625 start-ups supported through this program. In addition, specific assistance geared toward micro and small business entrepreneurs will be included through a ‘Build Your Own Business’ training program.

Ethiopia has a population of 96 million, the second largest of all African countries. With over 40 percent of those 96 million between the ages of 0-14 and 20 percent between 15-24, creating an entrepreneur program geared toward younger people interested in business can have a powerful long-term effect.

As UNDP is Ethiopia’s first private sector partnership, there are high expectations on all ends. However, UNDP and Microsoft have successfully worked together and built programs in the past which now promote sustainable development, work to eradicate poverty, advance women’s rights agendas and encourage good governance.

This newest program is focused on empowering citizens and preparing them to join both their local and the global workforce. Based on the belief that technology can and will have a big role to play in Africa, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative provides one step forward in empowering local people through practical skills.

Microsoft has been active in Africa since 1992 and currently has 22 offices in 14 countries. It has also been named one of the top employers in Africa in both 2012 and 2013 by Certified Top Employers.

Empowerment through skill training is a good way to provide Africans a way to enter the global marketplace, contribute their ideas and raise their level of income and that of those living around them. Eradicating poverty is a battle that can be fought on many different fronts and the new partnership in Ethiopia is one step toward making eradication in that country a reality.

 – Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Biztech Africa, BERNAMA, Microsoft 1, Microsoft 2, Microsoft 3, The Borgen Project, CIA
Photo: Africatime

In the fall of 2008, Kimberly Hartman decided to temporarily leave behind a 16-year-long career in fashion in pursuit of an opportunity to pause, reflect and gain some perspective: an extended solo trip to India and South East Asia. What she discovered on her journey inspired JADEtribe, the iconic handbag collection that has altered not only Hartman’s career path, but also her global impact.

The fashion and design guru landed in Laos, a far cry from the cosmopolitan cities she’d been theretofore residing in. Laos, one of the poorest countries in East Asia—and one of the few countries that remains communist—has made significant gains with poverty alleviation within the past two decades, bringing the poverty rates from 39 percent down to 26 percent with the help of foreign aid. The country is heavily mountainous and landlocked, and though less than 5 percent of the land is suitable for agricultural production, the economy remains agrarian.

While exploring a weaving market in a remote village in Laos, Hartman found what she was looking for: inspiration. She became at once enamored by the colors created with natural, organic dyes, and by the awe-inspiring textiles that were woven from them. Fabrics and prints that were unlike any others she had seen before caught Hartman’s well-trained eye. Here, in Laos, where women work more than men—taking on an average of 70 percent of the farming and household duties—and receive less education were beautiful creations that essentially went unnoticed. Hartman was inspired.

She has since employed the weaving village to create exclusive colors and patterns that laid the groundwork for her entirely unique collection of JADEtribe handbags.

And it was more than just a brave career move for Hartman, who had established a name for herself in New York City managing some of the industry’s top brands. It was the perfect marriage of two things about which Hartman has always been deeply passionate: fashion and humanitarianism.

Through the creation of JADEtribe, Hartman has discovered a way to launch a brand that directly gives back to the people of a country in which 41 percent of the population is malnourished. By commissioning villagers, leather artisans and female sewers to create her handbags—and paying a fair price—Hartman has created immense opportunity for growth in jobs and an increased quality of life for a population of a least-developed country.

One hundred percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe bags truly represent fashion with a conscience. Seen on celebrities and in boutiques and trade shows across the globe, JADEtribe is a shining example of how one person’s passion and desire to make a difference truly can transform lives. Hartman’s JADEtribe bags are available on her website,

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: UNDP, JADEtribe, World Vision, UN, The Borgen Project
Photo: BoutiqueBlu

poverty in guatemala
In the rural areas of Guatemala, poverty is both widespread and deeply entrenched. A recent study by The World Bank found that 58 percent of the Guatemalan population live on incomes below the extreme poverty line, which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food.

A new solution to address poverty in Guatemala has emerged in the form of bracelets and necklaces. Entrepreneur Maria Pacheco is providing a sustained source of income to over 2,000 Guatemalans with these simple fashion accessories.

Growing up in Guatemala City, Pacheco was exposed to the poverty, devastation and desperation in her native country. Pacheco yearned to improve the quality of life in her homeland through organic and native farming, which “protects and gives life and is a sustainable way to produce food.” In Guatemala, agriculture accounts for a fifth of GDP and employs about 40 percent of the country’s total labor force.

But when Pacheco set out with her biological agriculture degree to help her native people, she found that the farmers’ parched and sloping hillsides were inarable and, more importantly, not profitable. This lack of income is not uncommon in rural areas of the country, as Guatemala’s income distribution is the most unequal in the world. While the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owns nearly 50 percent of the national wealth, the poorest 10 percent owns less than 1 percent.

“Poverty is a cycle that starts with an unequal distribution of income generated between the rural and urban areas of underdeveloped countries,” said Pacheco. In these weak rural economies, education is unattainable and people cannot provide even the basic necessities for their families.

Pacheco realized that the only way to break this poverty cycle was to bring commerce to the remote Guatemalans. With this in mind, Pacheco pioneered a commerce-driven program that primarily focuses on economically empowering the women residing in rural areas of Guatemala.

“Women are a very powerful force of change, if given the opportunities,” Pacheco said, adding that “most women will typically invest 80 to 90 percent of their income in improving their children’s nutrition, health and education.” Guatemala has one of the biggest gender gaps in the world and women have limited access to jobs and schooling.

The road to prosperity begins with training through Pacheco’s sister organization, Communities of the Earth, a business incubator that targets women throughout Guatemala and teaches them how to make bracelets and necklaces. These women collaborate in small groups called “value chains” which are comprised of more than 300 individuals to craft products. The products are then sent to Kiej de Los Bosques, Pacheco’s social company which bridges the gap between local weavers and artisans in rural communities and urban markets. The women receive a monthly stipend based upon the amount they produce per order, which provides a sustained income.

“With Queta Rodriquez, my business partner, we realized it was hard to sell products to just Guatemalan communities. So we decided to start an umbrella brand that would sell an assortment of handicraft products in international markets,” said Pacheco.

This “lifestyle” brand is known as Wakami and it is currently exporting to 20 countries, being produced in 17 villages, and generating income for 450 people. According to Pacheco, the fashion accessories of the Wakami brand are meant to inspire people to “be their dream,” enjoy life and share positivity with those around them.

Wakami also partners with other social businesses or NGOs that allow women to invest in services and products that will improve the lives of themselves and their families. These include water filters, improved stoves, latrines and organic gardens.

Pacheco has observed positive changes in the rural villages thus far. “Women are now valued in their families and contribute more to decisions and investments. Also, the average weight of children has improved from eight to 30 percent and high school attendance is more than double the national rate at 92 percent,” said Pacheco.

While much progress has been made, Pacheco feels as though “this is just the beginning.” She plans to begin selling other products through the Wakami brand such as bags and scarves, and also wants to include people in rural villages from other areas of the world in the value chains.

When asked what she would ultimately like to achieve through her efforts to generate economic change, Pacheco simply said “transformation.” And, in many rural villages of Guatemala, the first steps toward transformation have already been taken.

Abby Bauer

Sources: Wakami, Kiej de Los Bosques, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank
Photo: ComeTogetherTrading


While Ireland has been in the headlines for its work towards financial recovery, it has also made a significant contribution to the growth of social entrepreneurship.

Ireland is currently home to 1,400 social enterprises, which employ about 25,000 people, with an expected increase of 65,000 jobs in the next few years. The number of social entrepreneurs in the country has continued to increase as well, with much of the rise attributed to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI).

The organization SEI was established in 2005 to support the growth of social enterprises. SEI believes that when a social entrepreneur is working on an innovative project, they should get the funding needed for the project to grow. By supporting these new solutions, SEI hopes that these entrepreneurs will be able to help as many people as possible.

Since 2005, it has invested a total of €5.4 million in the projects of 169 social entrepreneurs. SEI supports each project for up to 2 years. The projects SEI has supported have directly affected over 250,000 people across the country and have also created 850 jobs.

In regard to Ireland’s opportunity to become a leader in social entrepreneurship, SEI’s Head of Engagement Darren Ryan said, “There is so much potential and a conducive environment for social innovation; why couldn’t Ireland be the global leader in the development of social entrepreneurship?”

In order to support these social entrepreneurs, SEI has its annual Awards Programme, which awards funding to 9 social entrepreneurs out of about 200 applications. A number of the projects are centered on reducing unemployment and rural isolation and improving mental health.

In addition to its Awards Programme, SEI also has a Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and its Elevator Programme. The Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp was created to help give support to rising social entrepreneurs.

The Elevator Programme entails 12 months of support and helps about 4 to 6 social entrepreneurs every year, in hopes of helping them to choose exactly what issue they want to focus on and figure out their solutions.

SEI expects that for any project it supports, the success rate will be between 50% and 75% or the failure rate will be between 25% and 50%, depending on when SEI chooses to invest.

In light of SEI’s predictions, Ryan said, “Anything higher than that and we will know we’re not taking enough risk. We want to ensure that we are always thinking big and looking for the ideas that have the potential to change Ireland.”

Along with the SEI, the global organization the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) recently expanded to Ireland. The SSE offers courses to mentor and support social entrepreneurs.

The school holds study sessions that include witnesses, experts, and social enterprise visits. The school also offers Action Learning Sets, in which people have small-group discussions to talk about their ideas.

Another important feature of the SSE is its mentoring services, where the school chooses mentors for all of its social entrepreneurs. The mentors offer the budding entrepreneurs advice and guidance as well as additional information and support to help them in their projects.

With growing resources for social entrepreneurs, Ireland is likely to be a strong leader in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Forbes, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, School for Social Entrepreneurs
Photo: Meath Chronicle

During the past three decades, more than 500 million people in China were lifted out of extreme poverty. And now, those people are buying the same goods that Americans have been purchasing for decades.

The Birth of Entrepreneurship in China

Peasants wanted ownership over the land they farmed and they did not achieve this under Mao Zedong’s rule. Deng Xiao Ping dismantled the farm communes set up by Mao and established a household responsibility system that led towards a more stable society, thus allowing for the establishment of a civil society with growth in the non-government sector. In about 40 years, the number of Chinese NGOs went from 6,100 to 354,000.

Emerging Market Consumer

The number of Chinese people earning $1,000 or more is equal to the number of people earning the same amount in Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey combined. China has been catching up to western markets and it has been catching up faster than other markets.

Youth in China Earning More and Spending More

The new generation in China has more education and therefore, more opportunities to work outside of factories. The young Chinese people have the highest incomes and they are willing to spend it. Specifically, they are spending more to be connected; they are buying smartphones. As incomes rise, consumers spend money on food, personal care products and smartphones.


China is the first developing country to half the number of people living in poverty. During the past 34 years, the number of people suffering from hunger was reduced from one-third to one-tenth. China is not only lifting its own people out of poverty, it is also lending aid to Asia and Africa. These efforts have made the China Development Bank the world’s largest lender.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Skoll World Forum, The Atlantic, CNN
Photo: Flickr

Tech Hub for Rwanda Startups
To make positive change in the world, we don’t just need tons of money, popularity or political influence, we need the right tools.

By getting the right people together in one place, specifically one that fosters intellectual development and creativity, we can make great things happen.

This is the belief of kLab, a tech hub in Rwanda where young people can bring their startup ideas and receive free Wi-Fi, workspace and mentorship from professors, business owners, and community leaders.

kLab – which stands for “knowledge lab” – has been operating for over a year and was officially launched in October 2013. The center is funded by the Rwanda private Sector Federation, the Rwanda Development Board and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“The knowledge lab is an innovation center where fresh and young graduates come to work on their projects, especially in the tech industry,” said Jovani Ntabgoba, kLab’s general manager, at the launch.

kLab currently offers the services of 21 different mentors to its over 80 tenants. The startups at the center range from online shopping websites to improved medical technology. The mentors offer these young people the ability to truly flesh out their ideas and turn them into much more.

“The culture is collaboration, but it’s not just collaboration; it’s positioning oneself at an age where you receive the best mentorship that you cannot find anywhere else in Rwanda,” Ntabgoba said. “At kLab we have all of the knowledge that is required for a tenant to develop their business.”

The power of this collaboration has led to the beginning of many bright futures for startups that focus on the vision of the country of Rwanda: to turn the nation into a knowledge-based economy. However, young Rwandans are challenged daily by a lack of skills due to the fact that the educational curriculum is not yet “innovation-oriented.”

One of the more recent kLab successes is GIRA ICT – a startup that combats a large roadblock to widespread internet usage in Africa: hardware prices. By partnering with big name manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, HP and Lenovo, GIRA ICT allows consumers to pay for their devices in monthly installments in order to increase hardware ownership across the country.

“We started as a group of five entrepreneurs, so we came into kLab and they gave us a free space to work in. We could enjoy internet… they provided us with mentors,” said project supervisor Alphonse Ruhigira.

GIRA ICT has also been collaborating with the government to supplement the One Laptop per Child program. Founded by Nadia Uwamahoro, this effort provides teachers with laptops that they can pay off over a span of four years. So far, this has helped about 100 teachers to attain laptops and the number is steadily increasing.

“It’s a brilliant innovation and she is doing brilliant business,” says Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwandan Minister for Youth and ICT of Uwamahoro. “She’s taken computers to places where they were seeing and touching them for the first time by lowering the affordability challenge.”

Through efforts such as GIRA ICT, kLab is pushing Rwanda towards its goal of becoming a middle-income country by the year 2020.

“I want you to understand the uniqueness of this kLab compared to many other iHubs in the region. The uniqueness of this one is that you are in this building and you are not alone in this building,” said Michael Bezy, associate director of Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, who works with kLab in order to provide mentorship to its tenants.

“You look at that and you say ‘I have entrepreneurs here, I have a world-class university, I have IT businesses and I have IT infrastructure.’ That looks to me like a mini Silicon Valley,” said Bezy.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Wired, kLab, Wired
Photo: Wired

Women Entrepreneurs: The Answer to Poverty?Last week, President Barack Obama highlighted the charge to the American public to assist in the eradication of extreme global poverty. When the world’s poor rise out of poverty and live better, the world is positively affected and inequality is decreased. The United States benefits both economically and in terms of security when more people escape poverty.

Where then should the US apply its funds to attain this ultimate goal of eliminating poverty?

One area is entrepreneurship. There has been widespread micro-success in small-scale businesses in Liberia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The access and pursuit of consistent incomes for families allow for poverty alleviation. The increase in incomes allows for greater economic opportunity via safer and healthier living conditions, as well as better access to education.

Funding the endeavors of entrepreneurship in developing countries is a critical part of this answer. The large scale US corporations of Coca Cola, Dell, Exxon Mobil, and Goldman Sachs are alongside governmental leaders in the push for small-scale entrepreneur funding. Furthermore, the growing focus on women’s entrepreneurial capabilities and access to self-improvement are crucial for development. These large corporations aid in the training of more women entrepreneurs.

The Cherie Blair Foundation is a non-governmental organization that focuses on providing personal aid to women. They encourage the participation of more women in local markets and technology processes.

The largest challenges to women entering the entrepreneur field are the “access to finances, markets, and skills-building and networks.” Therefore, the fight to involve women and create a more fluid environment for women participation is crucial to fighting such a large part of global poverty.

Nigeria and Ghana are good examples, where recently more women than men are starting businesses. Sub-Saharan Africa is not far behind.

The strides being taken to put women in pertinent roles of small businesses and markets are helping combat global poverty. Yet, there is much to be done and the US is fully capable of helping women, men, and children across the globe to attain greater access to resources.

Evan Walker

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: CSMonitor