Unlocking the potential of young entrepreneurs to navigate COVID-19

Helen Frost
Helen Frost Evidence and Learning Manager Youth Business International

YBI’s paper shares our learning to date and our actions for a continued response and recovery that meets the needs of young entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19.   

2020 has been an incredibly difficult and uncertain year for everyone, especially for young entrepreneurs across the world. As global and local economies have suffered as a result of COVID-19, many entrepreneurs have faced the prospect of failure. YBI’s response has been to help these entrepreneurs survive and thrive. 

COVID-19 will disproportionately impact young people, women, and other underserved groups in the same way that the 2008 global financial crisis did. Two out of five under 30s have already reported a reduction in their income since the start of the pandemic and for many this will be the second global economic crisis that they have experienced within the first fifteen years of their careers.

Millions of young entrepreneurs have been left asking themselves, “can my business survive?” Our work at YBI is to ensure that we do the utmost to have that answer be “Yes”.  

 Youth Business International (YBI) and our network of 70 members and delivery partners across 65 countries believe that supporting youth-led businesses is essential to drive the COVID-19 recovery and build back better.   

Rashida Akter Jannat, (27) Bangladesh.  Due to COVID-19 her business was closed for two months, but was helped due to support from our member B’YEAH. ‘I first joined a webinar and learned a lot about dealing with Covid-19. Then I took five days of training in online e-commerce and digital marketing. This training was a booster for me.’

Over the past 8 months, and thanks to our Rapid Response and Recovery Programme with Google.org along with support from Accenture, the YBI network has reached over 130,000 entrepreneurs with services that are supporting business adaption and increased resilience to shocks.  

During this time, we have listened to our network members, delivery partners and young entrepreneurs themselves to gather insights and evidence about what is working. From this we can share learnings and how we intend to support entrepreneurs during COVID-19 and beyond.  

We have identified four critical approaches that entrepreneurship support organisations (ESOs) are using to deliver vital services to entrepreneurs and their businesses:  

  • Stimulating and supporting business pivots that are essential for survival and growth. 
  • Enabling digital solutions that offer the promise of survival and new ways of working. 
  • Prioritising emotional resilience to ensure no one feels alone on their journey.   
  • Investing in and developing fully inclusive outreach and programmes for underserved groups.  

Without these types of services entrepreneurs will be left behind- lacking the technical insight and emotional support networks they need to adapt and respond.    

We hope by sharing our learning other ESOs and those organisations working with entrepreneurs can reflect on our experience and recommendations and critically review how they are supporting entrepreneurs. We are using our response programme to learn and reflect- are we providing the right support for entrepreneurs at the right time?  

We need to continue to work with partners to evolve programming for marginalised entrepreneurs- such as women and refugees or other migrant groups. We are not out of the response phase and won’t be for a while, but we will be thinking long-term to ensure that entrepreneurs have the technical and emotional support needed to adapt, strengthen, grow, and thrive.    

Read the Responding to the Needs of Young Entrepreneurs paper here. 

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