Millions of women have founded businesses, Visa is here to support them

Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition winners are part of a worldwide entrepreneurial movement

By Marianne Mwaniki, SVP and Head of Social Impact

June 21, 2019, 2:51 PM Eastern Time

More women around the world are becoming entrepreneurs, with 163 million starting businesses since 2014 alone. As the global rate of women entrepreneurship continues to rise, we want to ensure that women entrepreneurs have the right support and tools at their disposal to expand and succeed in business.

That was the motivation behind the first-ever Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition. This global competition spotlighted the underrepresented millions of women business founders and social impact leaders by tasking them to solve FinTech and Social Impact challenges for a chance to win $100,000 per challenge, along with mentorship, access to Visa products and programs and exposure to key networks in the commerce ecosystem.

The response was overwhelming: we received nearly 1,300 applications from 107 countries. Earlier this month, 12 finalists came together in Paris to compete for the grand prizes. They captivated the hearts and minds of our judges with their inspirational stories and their transformative ideas. Their creativity, passion and perseverance made them all winners. Two of our contestants captured the top prize in each challenge.

Meet Naureen Hyat, Co-Founder and Business Head of Tez Financial Services

Naureen Hyat (Pakistan) was the competition’s FinTech challenge winner. Her company, Tez Financial Services is the first fully digital financial institution in Pakistan providing frictionless financial access to the unbanked and underbanked via a smartphone application. Tez provides a complete suite of financial services including credit, savings, insurance and investments, with the goal to support the financial stability of lower-income populations.

Meet Monique Ntumngia of Green Girls Organization

Monique Ntumngia (Cameroon) from Green Girls won the competition’s Social Impact challenge. The Green Girls Organization trains women and girls in African rural communities to generate energy from the sun and waste, installing solar installations and reading lamps, creating biogas installations and packaging organic fertilizer.

While Monique was unable to attend the event in Paris in person, she presented via video and took questions from the judges via Skype. When she heard that she’d won, her emotional response moved the audience to join her in tears.

My colleague Chris Curtin, Visa Chief Brand and Innovation Marketing Officer, had this to say about the competition.

“The VEI finals event in Paris was incredible. Monique’s reaction demonstrated that an investment like ours has the potential to make a transformative impact on the lives of many. This potential is why we are committed to spotlighting and supporting companies like hers. Witnessing Monique’s joy was one of the best moments I have experienced at Visa.”

The growing impact of women in business

Naureen and Monique are two outstanding examples of the potential of female entrepreneurs to positively impact the livelihoods of their families, the fortunes of their communities and economic growth overall. Women invest up to 90% of their income in their family and their children’s success.[1]

However, 70% of women-founded businesses in emerging markets are underserved, lacking access to funding, savings, insurance and/or credit products.[2] According to the World Bank, there is a $300 billion annual credit deficit for formal, women-owned small and medium-sized businesses [3]. The gap is even larger considering the many more informal and quasi-formal women-led businesses around the world.

The great news is that we can and are changing this. There is no silver bullet. It requires persistent, hard work in three areas:

  1. Keeping women at the center of policy and product design.
  2. Updating laws and policies to include and protect women and equality.
  3. Leveraging technology to overcome barriers like physical access and bias, and even to help to shift social and cultural norms.
  4. Utilizing our sponsorship platforms to shed a light on women’s empowerment

We’re under no illusion that the road is easy for women entrepreneurs, but a little extra opportunity is sometimes all that’s needed. The Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition is a tangible example of how just one moment can change the game for female-founded businesses and the communities they serve. Visa will continue to do our part to help impact as many women entrepreneurs as we are able, to empower and enable them and their communities to thrive.

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[1] International Finance Corporation. 2013. IFC Jobs Study: Assessing Private Sector Contributions to Job Creation and Poverty Reduction. World Bank, Washington, DC.

[2] Data applies to emerging markets. International Finance Corporation, Women Entrepreneurs Are Essential for Private Sector Development in Emerging Markets, 2017.

[3] International Finance Corporation. 2013. IFC Jobs Study: Assessing Private Sector Contributions to Job Creation and Poverty Reduction. World Bank, Washington, DC.