Profile of Kenyan women entrepreneurs

A study by the African Development Bank (AfDB)on support for the growth of women entrepreneurship revealed that Kenyan women entrepreneurs fall into 3 different classes.

Kenyan women entrepreneurs are going from strength to strength. But we should recognize that the similarity of women entrepreneurs ends at gender. While it’s true that women in businesses face similar problems of stereotypes (here are some positive stereotypes) and lack of role models, there are differences regarding their scope of operation.

AfDB’s study says that these differences are in terms of, “extent of previous business experience, capacity, needs, access to resources and orientation towards growth.” So which are these different classes of Kenyan women entrepreneurs?

Micro-enterprise lady

They are, by far, the largest portion of women entrepreneurs in Kenya. They are probably the largest portion of entrepreneurs in Kenya. You know them, since we have covered about it to great extent. The businesses these women run, usually, have no employees and are not registered. The businesses either end up being another statistic of a high mortality sector or never experience growth.

According to AfDB, the two greatest challenges faced by the micro-enterprise lady is lack of business skills and very little capital. Chamas are their loan facilities since nobody reaches out to them; no, not even microfinance. They are also discouraged from attending the few training seminars focused on them.

Small enterprise lady

This is the middleclass of Kenyan entrepreneurship (it’s a great line, don’t fight it). They should be forming a greater portion of entrepreneurs. What are their characteristics? Their businesses have between 6-10 employees (1 woman supporting 10 fellow Kenyans). They have previous experience as employees themselves and some are even involved in the export businesses.

These women are financed by microfinance institutions or the spouses but do not receive a lot of support from commercial banks. Their challenge is dealing with growth. They need to be trained to manage increased capacity of business. As AfDB put is, they have a high potential for growth.

SMEs (and the big leagues) lady

Kenyan women entrepreneurs in this class are highly educated. They also have previous experience in management positions or they have an entrepreneurial family background. These women are sophisticated and pretty much know their way around in the business world.

Unlike the other two classes, these women are less likely to suffer from stereotypes. They are “allowed to stand on their own like men,” whereas the other women have more incentive to work in groups. SME ladies also enjoy the greatest support from their spouses and will not have too many problems in accessing resources or information. Their challenge is staying ahead; that means in terms of information, technology, opportunities and what not.

These classes of Kenyan women entrepreneurs do not stand on their own. They of course overlap and perhaps some women live in defiance of the characteristics.

Please share with us on the comments which class you belong in and your experience.