Be! Fund is India’s first risk-capital fund for young people, ages 18-29, living in poverty to pioneer businesses that solve problems they face in their lives. From water to waste, energy to shelter, we believe that young people have enterprise solutions to the problems they face; they have just never been given the chance to solve them.
We believe that young women in particular have the potential to create jobs for other women and transform their communities. That’s why more than half our investments are in women’s businesses.
And that’s why we have partnered with NGOs that work specifically with women to arrange Be! Movie screenings and encourage women to become entrepreneurs. We are also running radio plays featuring stories of women entrepreneurs on several radio stations during their “women’s programming hour,” asking them to submit their ideas to the Be! Fund for investment.
Yet we also recognize that poor young women face many challenges in starting businesses. From limited education opportunities, to household and childcare responsibilities, to unsupported families and lack of confidence, the odds are stacked against them.
Matilda Pereira, Be! Fund Bangalore Manager, says “It is very difficult to find women entrepreneurs below the age of twenty-nine. Often young women will call with business ideas, but their parents or husbands will not allow them to attend the first round interview. If the woman is unmarried, their families say ‘she won’t be able to continue the business once she gets married.’ If she’s married, they say, ‘she won’t be able to continue the business once she has children.’”
Matilda adds, “But we have more success with women who are in their thirties. For example, Archana [Be! Fund entrepreneur] has been married for seven years so she has more power in her family, which would not have been the case if she were newly married.”
Archana is one woman entrepreneur we are funding. She is starting a business of recycling areca leaves into tableware that will replace harmful plastic and she plans to eventually employ six low-income women.
Sharada is another Be! entrepreneur. She is starting a sanitary napkin making unit that will provide low-cost napkins that will solve health problems and allow thousands of women to work and go to school. She will hire two other young women to help her.
It is women like Archana and Sharada, who are beating the odds, to create jobs and solve problems in their communities.
We are going to tell Archana’s story and Sharada’s story on TV and in books that go into schools to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs—so that young girls, sitting in classrooms in Bihar, who have never been asked, “What business will you start when you grow up?” will finally have real hero entrepreneurs they can look up to.