The ‘Enhancing Opportunities for Women Enterprises’ (FLOW/EOWE) programme focuses on supporting rural women in entrepreneurship by addressing the systemic barriers that many rural women face when launching their businesses. One of the key challenges for rural women to launch start-up initiatives is access to capital to promote their start-up initiatives and turn their ideas into a viable business. In mid-August 2018, SNV together with the Provincial Women’s Union organised the Women Business Start-up 2018 event in Binh Thuan, a South Central Coast province in Vietnam, where 16 women had the opportunity to present their innovative start-up ideas and to connect to relevant stakeholders to take their start-up to the next level.

The event was a follow-up of the National Platform “Women Business Start-up: Innovation and Connection” that was organised by SNV and the Vietnam Women’s Union in December 2017. The aim of the Platform was to discuss challenges and opportunities for women-led businesses, develop solutions, and provide policy recommendations for the Vietnamese government to boost women entrepreneurship and promote gender equality. The National Platform also marked the official kick-off of the National Women-led Business Start-up Programme (NWBSP). Under the NWBSP, which is being implemented by the Vietnam Women’s Union, women can submit an innovative start-up idea and receive support to accelerate their own business.

In Binh Thuan province, after five months of due diligence assessments, more than 400 women business start-up initiatives have been approached in rural, island and peri-urban areas. Out of the more than 400 start-up ideas, 16 were selected by a selection committee consisting of SNV, the Binh Thuan Department of Agriculture & Rural development, the Department of Industry & Trade, the Center for supporting enterprises, and the Binh Thuan branch of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). At the Women Business Start-up 2018 event, the 16 selected applicants presented their innovative business ideas to the Appraisal Board and other investors, including the Provincial Bank for Social Policies, the Bank for Agriculture & Rural development, and other commercial banks.

Women entrepreneurs showing their products at the event

Women entrepreneurs who presented their start-up idea during the event

The Women Business Start-up 2018 event drew the attention of more than 100 delegates of many local districts and communes in Binh Thuan province. The presented start-up initiatives were highly appreciated and some of the start-up ideas directly received funding from the Binh Thuan Women Entrepreneur Club and other stakeholders. Most of the start-up ideas came from agricultural businesses, including Lingzhi mushroom production, chicken breeds with biological padding, eel farming, organic vegetables farming, and greenhouse strawberry production models. All the start-up initiatives focused on innovation, from the application of new and advanced technologies to ecotourism models. Furthermore, many women entrepreneurs presented their plan to broaden their market access and expand their customer base via online and social media channels such as Facebook, Zalo, and a business website.

The event is an initial step to connect women entrepreneurs, enterprises and relevant stakeholders to bring their start-up ideas to a next level. “I highly appreciate the Women Business Start-up event in Binh Thuan as it encourages women to start their own businesses, says Mr. Duong Van An, Vice Chairman of the Provincial People Committee of Binh Thuan province. “It also contributes to economic development and fits the business environment in the province.” The local authority in Binh Thuan is currently reviewing the new programme on Women's Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship 2018-2025 with the aim to create more favourable conditions to efficiently support women in starting their own business. According to Ms. Le Thi Hai Yen, Chairwoman of Binh Thuan Women’s Union, the FLOW/EOWE programme plays a significant role in supporting the design and implementation of policies to support women business start-up, promoting agricultural development, and eradicating poverty moving towards sustainable development in the province.