“Unnoty” is an initiative by LightCastle Partners, in association with ACDI/VOCA, to conduct business scale-up programs in order to provide business development support and assist female entrepreneurs to establish growing businesses through accelerator programs and investment readiness training. The program accomplishes this by motivating female entrepreneurs via increasing their exposure and social support. Moreover, they avail specific business consulting services including support in developing a structured and personalized business plan, expansion plans, financial services support, and other business consultancy. Finally, the program offers a refresher course and advanced training to onboard advanced skills along with building upon existing skills – including better financial and operational management practices, and digital training and literacy.
The aim of the Unnoty Gender Accelerator Program (GAP) is aligned with the goals of the USAID-Feed the Future Rice Diversified Crops Activity (RDC). This involves improving food security through systemic changes which can increase rural incomes, expand farm productivity, and give rise to participation in profitable market systems. To achieve this, GAP has held sessions and activities to attract, train and aid women entrepreneurs in various rural areas. They have conducted roadshows to attract female participants and potential entrepreneurs, arranged bootcamps to teach productivity, business expansion, division of capital, and financing, as well as established an accelerator program to provide intensive training and support to entrepreneurs selected through the bootcamp. Furthermore, a demo day is held for graduates of the accelerator program to share their experiences.
LightCastle Partners was assigned to conduct the study titled, “ACDI/VOCA GAP Learning Activity”, in order to create an impact study to gauge the degree of success of the Unnoty GAP program teachings provided to female entrepreneurs in FtF zones. The study aimed to follow up with program graduates and to understand how they and their businesses have fared since their graduation including financial management, business operation, social and household dynamics, and future learning. Moreover, the report provided recommendations to further address the entrepreneurs’ challenges and to improve the GAP curriculum accordingly.
LightCastle utilized Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) across Khulna and Jashore in order to analyze the data required for the overall gender analysis and aid in the development of gender strategy and action plan. The data collection methodology included developing a KII guideline based on the expected learnings and challenges faced by the graduate entrepreneurs.
These in-depth interviews were conducted with 26 female entrepreneurs who were the graduates of the Unnoty Gender Accelerator Program. The interviews spanned key areas as per the objectives of assessment of knowledge shared, gender specific barriers, new or emerging challenges, and intra-household dynamics. The team traveled to Jashore and Khulna to conduct 26 interviews of female entrepreneurs, where there were 13 participants from Jashore and 13 participants from Khulna, respectively. The findings of these interviews were synthesized in a report including observed opportunities, challenges, and recommendations.
The GAP activities provide the unique opportunity for developing access to credit facilities for SMEs. The program addresses reservations held by lenders in disseminating loans to SMEs, including- capital, collateral, character, and credit. This report will help guide future iterations of the Unnoty GAP program and help expand its curriculum to fit the needs of the female entrepreneurs. In the future, the program can cater to business expansion through access to finance.