Entrepreneurs face many challenges expanding their businesses, from access to capital to knowing how to negotiate with vendors. For women entrepreneurs, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras, these challenges are augmented by societal expectations for their domestic roles and other cultural barriers. Despite this, entrepreneurship is an important opportunity for many women facing economic insecurity due to the lack of formal sector jobs in both countries. PriceSmart Foundation has partnered with the respected business school INCAE to address the specific challenges that female entrepreneurs face and empower them to expand their businesses to better support themselves, their families, and their wider communities.
Through the program “Women’s Business Growth Initiative” or locally, “Empresarias Progresando” (EMPRO), selected women leading small and medium size businesses are invited to attend training courses and receive mentorship to help them navigate and improve their businesses. The program has two focuses to cover a variety of business needs. First, participants are taught how to access capital from financial institutions in their countries. They also receive advice on fostering those relationships for the future of their businesses.
Equally important is the second focus on coaching women to negotiate fair business contracts with both local and international firms. The training even included how to meet the standards retailers may have for their merchandise, such as labelling, packaging, and health and safety requirements. More than just financial support, PriceSmart and its employees are donating their time and expertise to provide practical applications to the training sessions for participating business owners. Several managers at PriceSmart have participated in training sessions by teaching how PriceSmart approaches buying and sourcing for the clubs and to give insight into product safety standards.
Participants were also invited to visit a local PriceSmart club to learn more about what is necessary to be a supplier for PriceSmart, or similarly sized companies. The teams at the clubs in charge of purchasing and merchandising were on hand to answer questions and provide concrete information on requirements for small and medium size vendors of PriceSmart. The participating women also received a tour of the clubs with an emphasis on where and how other small local businesses are featured in clubs.
“At PriceSmart, we are committed to increasing the number of women-led businesses in our supply chain. Our company is proud to join INCAE and the PriceSmart Foundation to support the EMPRO initiative that seeks to strengthen companies run by women in Honduras so that they can access better market and financing opportunities,” said Jesus Von Chong, Executive Vice President of Regional Merchandising at PriceSmart.
The first phases of the EMPRO program kicked off in Honduras in October 2022 with 40 participants. The Guatemala program begins this February and will ultimately benefit 80 women-led small and medium size businesses.