According to a report, only 37% of women-owned small and medium enterprises (SME) have been eligible for, and had access to, bank loans. This compares to 47% of male business owners and comes in spite of the fact women-owned SMEs show consistently better loan repayment rates.
This is mainly due to factors such as the small size and unclear profitability of the women-owned SME segment, existing banking mandates and requirements, and the lack of resources to navigate and access funding.
UPS data also shows one of the biggest challenges small businesses faced in the aftermath of the pandemic was access to financial resources, in particular when it comes to setting up and implementing an e-commerce strategy.
“E-commerce was already growing quickly before the pandemic, but post-Covid it’s quite likely a lot of people’s shopping habits have changed forever, and this presents a huge opportunity for the country’s small business owners,” said Ms. Do Thi Dan Thanh, finance director of UPS Vietnam.
“The pandemic has also showed businesses how important it is to have a plan B. Not only does e-commerce open up new customer bases all over the world, it also provides an alternative revenue stream for businesses who currently rely more on offline sales. We’re delighted to team up with ITC SheTrades and Vietrade again to help advise more women SMEs on how to access the global marketplace.”
Supported by the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, the International Trade Center (ITC) began the SheTrades program in 2015 with the goal of helping over 3 million women entrepreneurs export their products globally. As a program partner, The UPS Foundation – the philanthropic arm of global logistics leader UPS – aims to help women entrepreneurs overcome barriers to entry by sharing cross-border e-commerce trends, helping businesses build strategies and sharing knowledge on complex logistical concepts such as customs regulations and setting up supply chains.
In addition to its collaboration with SheTrades, the company has also established the UPS Women Exporters Program which gives women-owned businesses access to exclusive UPS reports, information and partnerships, and connects them with UPS consultants to help find export opportunities and optimize their global reach.
Both SheTrades and the UPS Women Exporters Program were designed to enhance the technical competitiveness of women-owned SMEs and their integration in trade. The project works at a global level through the design and delivery of online training modules, and at a national level with in-country activities.
Positive results were recorded during the 2021 program in Vietnam, with 478 women receiving technical assistance, $2.45 million generated in business and investment opportunities, and 91% of participants reporting improved business resilience. In addition, 40 women entrepreneurs received one-to-one coaching on accessing finance, building sectoral strategy and competitiveness and leveraging free trade agreements.
This year’s session on financial management attracted about 70 women small business leaders who, in addition to receiving guidance from UPS, were also introduced to financial institutions SeABank, VPBank and Chailease, who offered insights on topics such as financial literacy, accessing capital, maintaining production and procurement.
“Both SheTrades and the UPS Women Exporters Program have empowered many women to grow their businesses through international trade,” added Ms. Do. “At this event, we focused on several aspects of how to help SME entrepreneurs understand the lending landscape in Vietnam, digitalization of the industry and financial connectivity to ensure women-owned SMEs in Vietnam have the tools they need to grow their business globally,” said Ms. Do.
Two more training sessions are planned for 2022 – a “Get Ready To Do Business” workshop in Hanoi and an online Digital Transformation Bootcamp – so small business owners have more opportunities to gain knowledge and access resources by connecting with UPS experts. Beyond that, SheTrades and The UPS Foundation will continue to accompany women-owned businesses on their journeys into global trade.