YBI adapts services and support for young entrepreneurs in response to the COVID-19 crisis

Youth Business International (YBI) provides young entrepreneurs with a holistic package of financial and non-financial support to start and grow thriving micro, small and medium businesses in over 50 countries. In response to the current crisis, we have shifted to focus firmly on business survival.

From Belgium to Trinidad and Tobago, our members are rapidly reassessing needs and adapting their services to provide young entrepreneurs with the support they need. We share highlights below and will continue to provide updates over the coming weeks.

Building knowledge and skills to navigate the crisis 

Across our network, members have moved their training services online. Many are designing new or refocusing existing curricula on topics most relevant to navigating the current crisis, such as scenario planning and negotiating flexible terms with suppliers.

  • In Italy, MicroLab is now offering an online version of their Business Model Canvas training to support young entrepreneurs to adapt their business models to new and fast-changing market opportunities.
  • In Kenya, SOMO Africa has digitised their training programme, blending pre-recorded video lessons with live webinars, and created an SMS-based platform to reach out to young entrepreneurs in the most remote areas of the country.
  • Manq’a Bolivia, which supports low-income youth to become chefs and culinary entrepreneurs, is piloting an online version of its cooking classes with over 70% uptake from current students so far.

A key challenge for members is the reality that many of the most vulnerable young entrepreneurs they support have limited or no access to the internet. While some members are addressing this by, for example, offering direct support through airtime or data credit, others are exploring alternative approaches to sharing training resources.

Personalised support for struggling businesses

Members are seeing demand for mentoring, counselling and advisory services skyrocket as young entrepreneurs struggle to manage high levels of uncertainty and stress. To respond to this, many members have introduced new, rapid response services such as crisis hotlines.

  • Youth Business Spain has set up an extensive, online network of mentors and experts offering tailored guidance to young entrepreneurs with a focus on crisis management.
  • In Nigeria, FATE Foundation has developed a COVID-19 survival guide for small businesses and has compiled a range of online crisis management resources.
  • Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago recently launched a COVID-19 webinar series focusing on a range of topics, including how to develop a resilient mindset.

Our members report that despite the mentors, counsellors and advisors they work with being experts in business, not all feel fully equipped to best support young entrepreneurs in the current, challenging situation. To tackle this, many members are developing advanced training in key topics such as risk management and managing stress and uncertainty.

Addressing immediate financial pressures

With typically limited savings, many young entrepreneurs running small businesses need immediate financial support to survive. In response, members across our network are introducing emergency measures and/or signposting other available support.

  • In Canada, Futurpreneur is offering a comprehensive package of grants, has stopped loan repayments and reduced interest rates to ease the burden on struggling businesses.
  • In France, Adie has launched a major outreach campaign to provide information on government aid and advice on how to access it.
  • In Belgium, microStart has launched new products for the current situation, including small loans with a fast approval process.

Many members are raising concerns that the financial support available for the smaller businesses they support is just not enough. As Corporación Minuto de Dios in Colombia reports, in the face of this, young entrepreneurs from very low-income communities are considering selling the equipment their businesses depend on to meet basic needs.

Collaborating across the entrepreneurship ecosystem to drive change at scale

The pandemic is a new challenge for small businesses and cannot be addressed by a single organisation alone. Across our network, members are building partnerships with governments, the private sector, funders and other implementing organisations.

  • Habitat Association in Turkey recently coordinated Coronathon Turkey, bringing together over 1,500 entrepreneurs with key players from the private and public sectors to identify innovative solutions to the crisis.
  • Smart Kolektiv in Serbia is conducting a national survey to determine the impact of the pandemic on small businesses. The results will inform their work with the government and private sector to promote the support and resources small businesses need.
  • In Brazil, Aliança Empreendedora has stepped up its advocacy work to raise awareness of the needs of young entrepreneurs during the crisis and promote more effective policies.

Our members report that the current crisis is quickly opening up new and unexpected opportunities for collaboration. Coordinated action through these cross-sector partnerships will be critical to ensuring that young entrepreneurs get the support they need – not just to survive the immediate crisis but for the long road to recovery that lies ahead.

 Read more about the different initiatives we have launched to support entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis.

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