Partner Spotlight: Instituto Rede Mulher Empreendedora (IRME)

Visa Foundation provides funding to individuals who understand the needs of women-led businesses. Ana Fontes, founder of Brazil-based Instituto Rede Mulher Empreendedora (IRME), is one such partner. A former advertising executive, Ana embraced entrepreneurship, enrolling in business courses and applying for fellowships. What became apparent to Ana was a dissemination gap – how could she share what she was learning with other women with entrepreneurial aspirations but without the same level of access?

Entrepreneurship provides women the ability to uplift themselves, their families and their communities. However, only 35% of business owners in Brazil are women, and 80% of women entrepreneurs start without skills in business planning and management. Women entrepreneurs in Brazil also face additional challenges such as sparse networks, a lack of managerial experience and barriers that limit them to household responsibilities.

Today, that determination to change this reality and give women agency is at the core of IRME, an organization that offers women business owners from under-resourced communities the skills to achieve economic mobility. 

Driven by our commitment to advance impactful organizations, Visa Foundation awarded IRME $1 million in funding to accelerate support for women-led businesses across Brazil. Through this funding, IRME upskilled over 20,000 women entrepreneurs through financial and business education, access to one-on-one mentoring and the delivery of affordable seed capital to launch small businesses. IRME's holistic support has been transformational for these entrepreneurs, who have hired women from their local communities and grown their businesses while achieving an average revenue increase of 66% in just one year.

Portrait of Elizabete De Jesus Rocha, a microentrepreneur who designs and sells fashion accessories.
For Elizabete De Jesus Rocha, having access to training and skills made the necessary difference for the success of her business. Elizabete is a microentrepreneur dedicated to designing and selling fashion accessories such as handbags. After completing IRME’s program, Elizabete applied the practical tools she learned and revamped her business strategy. As a result, Elizabete’s business experienced a 60% revenue increase in less than one year, giving her an opportunity to launch two new bag collections and improve the well-being of her family.

Visa Foundation’s partnership changed the trajectory of IRME during a time when the number of vulnerable women was increasing, and we lacked resources to meet the demand for support. This funding enabled us to change the lives of thousands of women and their families, especially in remote and vulnerable regions in Brazil.

– Ana Fontes, Founder, IRME