This Summer

by tuftsigl
Jul 29
Joseph Bateman is pursuing a Master of International Business from the Fletcher School.  He is an empower fellow.
This summer, as an Empower Fellow, I have been working with Agora Partnerships, an NGO based in Washington, DC, that works with entrepreneurs in Latin America who are using their businesses to solve social and environmental challenges. Entrepreneurs throughout Latin America are building innovative businesses to solve the region’s most pressing issues, but there is a persistent bottleneck that prevents entrepreneurial talent from connecting with the investment capital needed for growth. Enter Agora Partnerships.
Agora’s Accelerator gives top-notch business consulting and mentorship to promising entrepreneurs throughout Latin America who have great, marketable ideas for solving social and environmental problems but need help scaling. It also provides a peer network so that these entrepreneurs can collaborate and exchange best practices to increase the likelihood of success. Lastly, the program provides the necessary link to investors who understand that these companies’ business models seek social impact along with financial returns.
Until recently, Agora’s Accelerator has included 30-40 entrepreneurs from all over Latin America seeking to address a wide variety of problems with their business models, ranging from access to water, education, sanitation, and employment. However, they realized that they could have much more efficient impact if they grouped the entrepreneurs into cohorts of around 10 businesses that shared a common geography, industry, or impact area. This summer, I have helped Agora identify some of the most promising areas based on research on a needs assessment, Agora’s institutional capacity, and funding opportunities.
One area that had already been identified was the need to focus more on women entrepreneurs. According to several studies, women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenues with 50% less money invested (Harvard Business Review 2013), companies with gender-balanced executive committees bring in 56% more revenues (Real Leaders 2013), and women invest in their families at the staggering rate of 80%, compared with 40% for men (VanderBrug, SSRI, 2012). However, despite all of these realities, women perform 66% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of the income and own 1-2% of the world’s property (Real Leaders 2013). 
As Melanne Verveer, former Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues at the US Department of State, so eloquently put it, “No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. And there is no way that our collective quest for security, prosperity, and stability can be realized if we don’t invest in women, one of the most effective and powerful forces for re-shaping the globe.” In response, Agora has committed to 50/50 gender participation in each of its accelerators and to make sure that all women entrepreneurs participating in the program are fully funded. There are many challenges unique to women entrepreneurs in Latin America, and Agora is now working to tailor its curriculum to address these gender-specific challenges by incorporating more mentorship from successful women entrepreneurs, among many other elements.

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