Exploring end to end inclusive support for entrepreneurs

The YBI network is always working to create a sustainable and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, equipping underserved young people with the skills, confidence, and connections they need to beat the odds and become successful, responsible business owners. This year, we’re running our first Member Learning Exchange Scheme, providing our members with an opportunity for short study visits to exchange knowledge and a deep understanding of how to best support young entrepreneurs globally.

Last month, two YBI members visited FATE Foundation in Nigeria to learn from their core support services as well as the FATE Institute, their research and advocacy arm.

Rose Namutebi and her colleagues from Cordaid Uganda met with FATE Foundation’s programme experts, while Rita da Silva from ideiaLab in Mozambique spoke to the FATE Institute. They’ve shared their learnings on creating an inclusive environment for young entrepreneurs, starting with the workspace and following through with mentoring, networking, and open policy discussion.

Tell us about your learning goal(s) and what you hoped to achieve. 

Rose: My learning goals were centred around two areas; 1) explore learnings and experiences around designing an effective business mentoring program for persons with disabilities, and 2) develop practical knowledge and skills for enhancing entrepreneurs’ financial health.

Having partnered with Sight Savers and NUDIPU on disability inclusion programming, quite a lot changed in Cordaid including a rise in the number of supported entrepreneurs with disabilities. Previously, these entrepreneurs missed out on the key component of mentoring due to inadequate skills in mentoring for persons with disabilities.

Rita: My primary learning goals were to refine my research skills in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and gain insights for supporting young entrepreneurs in Mozambique. I hoped to learn how to identify strengths, weaknesses, and key stakeholders to empower young entrepreneurs through research-driven initiatives at ideiaLab.

Why did you choose to visit FATE? What about them and their work interested you and aligned with your goals? 

Rita: I chose to visit FATE Institute due to their extensive experience in entrepreneurial research and their alignment with ideiaLab’s goals of supporting young entrepreneurs.

Their research approach and focus on stakeholder engagement within the Nigerian ecosystem aligned with my goal of learning best practices to understand the Mozambican context better.

Rose: FATE Foundation’s unique approaches to business inclusivity and their strong grounded mentoring program, particularly for persons with disabilities, made it the best choice for the learning exchange program.

Each presentation FATE gave would point to something new, exciting, and innovative worth exploring. The strong mentoring program headed by a designated officer who coordinates the end-to-end process for mentoring across all accelerator and incubator programs struck my mind.

How have you found the experience of visiting another member’s work environment?

Rose: FATE Foundation is such an amazing organization full of innovation and surprises. The office set up, the business messaging in the form of wall paintings and art that welcomes you to their office truly confirms what FATE believes and stands for.

The office plan also considered an open space for entrepreneurs to freely visit and work. Specific rooms, well furnished with internet were designated for different categories of entrepreneurs. For example, there was a “business growth room” for startups and other spaces for other categories. This provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet, network and be part of the organization.

Rita: Observing FATE’s work environment helped me appreciate the unique challenges and opportunities faced by young Mozambican entrepreneurs and provided valuable insights into their research methods and stakeholder engagement strategies, which I can adapt for ideiaLab.

While observing their internal team dynamics wasn’t a major focus of the visit, I was also impressed by their structured approach to supporting young entrepreneurs at different stages of their journey.

What did you learn from each other related to your learning goal?  Did anything surprise you? 

Rita: We shared best practices in research and gained insights from each other’s perspectives on the differences and similarities of our respective ecosystems. 

Rose: It was very exciting to learn about the entrepreneur’s categorization based on their business growth levels and the tailored business support tailored to each category. For instance, the “START” programs target aspiring entrepreneurs, the “GROW” program looks at the emerging entrepreneurs and the “SCALE” program deals with advanced businesses.

Rita: An aspect that stood out was FATE Institute’s commitment to creating space for policy debates. By bringing stakeholders together and advocating for supportive policies, they contribute significantly to establishing an environment conducive to the success of young entrepreneurs. The national relevance of their annual “The State of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria” report truly impressed me.

Rose: The distinctive approach to mentors’ identification and recruitment was something to learn from. All mentors merge from the FATE volunteer program before they become business mentors. This helps them to appreciate and embrace the organization’s culture before embarking on the mentoring journey. Group mentoring for persons with similar impairment fosters shared learning and networking among entrepreneurs with disabilities.

I was also moved by the story of FATE’s alumni program. Keeping track of supported entrepreneurs over the years is something unique worth adopting. Alumni conferences are organized for alumni members to learn from entrepreneurial leaders and influencers, re-strategize their business models, share insightful knowledge and ideas of how to grow and thrive as entrepreneurs. Most of FATE Foundation’s suppliers are members of the Alumni program.

Rita: Finally, I was particularly impressed by the FATE Institute’s fellowship program. It’s unique to see a program focused on supporting academics in their research related to entrepreneurship. By providing them with resources and the right environment to conduct their studies, FATE Institute fosters a strong foundation for innovation within the ecosystem.

Are there any challenges that you were able to explore together? 

Rose: Considering Cordaid Uganda’s experience, it was realized that issues of high youth unemployment and underemployment (despite strong entrepreneurship culture), an unpredictable business environment, and inadequate inclusive financing are some of the similar challenges faced by our organizations.

Rita: While discussing support for young entrepreneurs, we identified a crucial challenge in Mozambique: the scarcity of data and research on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Recognizing the importance of data, we explored ways to initiate research studies.

Will you be collaborating with FATE any further? 

Rita: I am enthusiastic about collaborating with FATE Institute to develop joint research projects and potentially continuing the exchange program.

Rose: Plans for collaboration, networking and joint learning are under way. For instance, Cordaid participated in the YBI/FATE policy workshop on access to finance for persons with disabilities organized by FATE Foundation on 22nd February 2024.

So far, YBI has facilitated 11 Member Learning Exchange visits involving half of the members in our network across four continents. We’ll be sharing more stories and the results of these knowledge exchanges in the coming months.

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