When you walk into Claudia’s family pizzeria in Bogotá, Colombia, the first thing you notice is the dessert case full of ice cream, cakes, and obleas. If you can tear your eyes away from the colorful sweets, you’ll see Claudia smiling over the counter, ready to pour you a coffee, scoop some ice cream, and help you decide which treat to pick. “It’s a beautiful business. Customers love our products,” she says. “When they walk by and see our display case, they look at the desserts and say, ‘Oh, I want that.’”
Claudia and her husband have been in the restaurant business for many years, but entrepreneurship hasn’t always been a smooth journey. After their last restaurant failed, they ended up in bankruptcy and had to move in with extended family. For small businesses like Claudia’s, sales and expenses can be inconsistent, and cash flow is difficult to manage. “Sometimes you sell, sometimes you don’t. It’s up and down, up and down,” says Claudia. Access to reliable, affordable financial services can help businesses endure lean times and allows them to invest in themselves and their business. Six years ago, Claudia’s family decided to start over with a new business idea and converted the first floor of the family home into a pizza restaurant, using a loan to purchase restaurant equipment.
One year later, they expanded their business further and opened their dessert counter, called Sweet Arcades, a name and theme inspired by their nephew’s love of arcades and board games. Claudia started baking cakes, waffles, and other desserts using her family’s recipes.
Edtech equips small business owners with digital and financial skills
While Claudia knows how to make delicious food and enticing sweets, she’s not always certain how to turn her passion for pastries into a more successful business. Claudia uses Ovante, Accion’s online business education platform, to learn new skills like marketing and bookkeeping by taking courses on her phone. With support from FedEx, Accion launched Ovante to enable small business owners to develop managerial, financial, and digital skills and better understand the financial services that can help them grow.
In a survey of 400 Ovante users in Colombia and Ecuador, the majority noted positive improvement in their business’s financial situation after completing Ovante’s interactive learning modules. Nearly 70 percent reported gaining a better understanding of their business by separating their business and personal finances. With a clearer understanding of their business performance, small business owners can make informed decisions about which financial products and services can help them grow — like credit to purchase new equipment, platforms to accept digital payments from customers, savings accounts to build their financial health, or insurance to protect their assets.
Many surveyed Ovante users also reported increasing their use of social media for their businesses, mainly using Facebook and Instagram to promote products and services and find new customers. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Claudia’s family had to close their storefront but were able to continue selling online and delivering food using Facebook and Instagram. With Ovante, she’s continuing to hone her marketing skills to build an effective online presence and attract new customers.
Responsible financial tools lead to new opportunities
Colombia is home to many women entrepreneurs like Claudia, with 30 percent of working-age women pursuing entrepreneurial activities. Despite running a large portion of Colombia’s small businesses, many women entrepreneurs can’t get the funding they need to keep their businesses running. According to the World Bank’s Global Findex, just 14 percent of women in Colombia have borrowed from a formal financial institution.
By empowering business owners with knowledge, skills, and information about financial tools, Ovante can help users build a more secure future. Claudia’s success means a brighter future for herself, her daughter and son, and the rest of her extended family. She dreams of expanding her business into a second location so that more people in Bogotá can enjoy their food. On building the confidence and skills to succeed, Claudia says, “Sometimes you don’t need to go to university to find success. Being successful is a state of mind.”
Read more about how we’re using edtech to build women entrepreneurs’ capacities they need to thrive.