How SHE Investments empowers women in business

How SHE Investments empowers women in business

Starting a business can be a challenge. Growing, or even sustaining, a business is even harder.

For a woman running a business in Cambodia, the hurdles become like mountains and the possibility of growing a sustainable and long-term business is low.

But SHE Investments is here to change that.

SHE Investments is a social enterprise in Cambodia that supports female entrepreneurs to scale their businesses to create social and economic impact.

The organisation aims to bridge the gender gap in small and medium businesses in Cambodia, and to create ongoing impact through job creation and women’s economic empowerment.

This is an incredible program which will not only change the way women do business, it will also change their lives.

How SHE Investments empowers women in business

Maneth Pol of SHE Investments.

Who are the women behind SHE Investments?

Maneth Pol is a project manager and facilitator at SHE Investments, and is responsible for designing, delivering and developing the business training and mentoring program for women-led enterprises.

She also manages a wide range of projects to build strong collaborations with potential partners and clients to further develop the organisation.

“I strongly believe that female entrepreneurs play a crucial role in bringing financial security to their families. They can create significant impact for their wider communities through increased income and job creation,” Ms Pol said.

Why focus on micro business?

SHE Investments focuses on the “missing middle” between the micro-enterprise and small to medium enterprise (SME) sector.

Women own 61 per cent of micro businesses in Cambodia, whereas only 18 per cent own small businesses and 28 per cent own medium sized businesses.

The organisation recognised that men were more likely to have access to business training, mentoring and financing than women.

SHE Investments wants women to have those same opportunities, said Ms Pol.

“We support women with micro businesses to scale to sustainable and impactful SMEs because we believe that this is where the long-term social and economic impact can be made,” she said.

How SHE Investments empowers women in business

Why is an organisation like this needed?

SHE Investments runs the only gender-focused and culturally tailored business development programs in Cambodia.

But before gaining access to SHE Investments, how were women starting and attempting to grow their businesses?

Ms Pol said that women face many economic, educational, social and cultural barriers, preventing them from establishing competitive and sustainable SMEs.

Although micro-loans are relatively accessible in Cambodia, women face severe barriers in scaling their businesses.

This is typically due to lack of access to larger capital financing; insufficient ongoing business support; lack of self-confidence, skills development or training; and gender inequality and cultural barriers.

Ms Pol said women are important to an economy, especially in developing countries.

This is because it is more often the women who invest the majority of their income back into their families and communities.

“For us, investing in women makes sense, both socially and economically. The issue isn’t a lack of female entrepreneurs in Cambodia. It’s a severe lack of support available for them to take the step up from micro business, to scale and to create significant impact,” she said.

“We are proving that both women and men can be a leader in their family and society if they are given equal access to resources and opportunities,” Ms Pol said.

How does it work?

SHE Investment’s core focus is their incubator and accelerator programs, which provide scholarships for women with existing micro businesses to participate in a six-month training, mentoring and support program.

The program provides them with the tools and skills they need to scale their micro enterprises into SMEs.

Ms Pol shared the story of Thida, a Cambodian woman who co-founded a business called Solar Green Energy Cambodia.

Her business develops affordable solar power for the agriculture sector through locally assembled solar products.

Since graduating from SHE Investment’s 2016 accelerator program, Thida has experienced significant changes in both her business and her personal life.

She was able to purchase new land to establish an office and warehouse located close to each other.

She has developed improved decision-making skills and staff management skills, including delegating to her team, which she grew from 16 to 21 staff.

She has also acquired marketing and strategy development skills and is achieving work-life balance.

As a result of these positive changes, Thida is now more confident when applying for loans and making important decisions, and she is more self-assured when networking with people across her region, further growing her business.

How SHE Investments empowers women in business

What does this mean for women in Cambodia?

After surveying women who had participated in SHE Investment’s program, Ms Pol identified that the majority had achieved significant improvements in managing their household and business finances.

Women reported that they had gained self-confidence and more of the decision-making power within the family and work environments.

They were also more comfortable with networking and attracting finance.

“We are proving that both women and men can be a leader in their family and society if they are given equal access to resources and opportunities,” Ms Pol said.

SHE Investments recognises that supporting female entrepreneurs to scale their businesses into more formal sectors will create a bigger impact and contribute to economic growth through income generation and employment.

“I share SHE Investment’s vision for a world where investment in women in developing countries is seen as an opportunity, not a charity,” Ms Pol said.

Want to get involved?

You can support SHE Investments in a number of ways including through a donation, volunteering, and as a supporter or advocate.

To find out more about getting involved, visit the SHE Investments website.


All images thanks to SHE Investments.

Emma Lovell, She Defined author

Emma Lovell

Emma Lovell is a writer with a passion for travel, social media and adventure.

When she’s not travelling, she’s documenting her stories and planning the itinerary for her next journey.

Based on the Gold Coast, she loves getting to the beach and soaking up the best her local area has to offer.