Why Grit Matters for Women Entrepreneurs
“I can do this.” “It will get better.” “I know I’ll make it through.” This type of confidence and perseverance in the face of life’s biggest challenges is what researchers refer to as grit — and it’s the secret to success for millions of women entrepreneurs around the world.
At Street Business School, we’re on a mission to empower 1 million women to lift themselves from poverty by becoming female entrepreneurs. Our six-month women’s entrepreneurship training and coaching program is an innovative solution that has helped thousands of women across 25 countries to start their own small businesses and build their family incomes.
Along with hard business skills, our women’s entrepreneurship programming aims to strengthen the traits like self-confidence, independence and grit that are key to sustaining successful women-owned businesses in volatile times.
So what is grit, and why does it matter for women entrepreneurs? Let’s take a closer look.
Why grit matters for women entrepreneurs
Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the nonprofit Character Lab, pioneered research on grit back in 2007 — characterizing it as a confluence of passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals.
Building on her findings, a growing body of research has identified grit as a key predictor in whether a person will pursue self-employment and entrepreneurship. A 2018 study of U.S. undergraduate students, for example, confirmed “a strong positive association between grit and entrepreneurial intentions.” A 2019 study of young adults across Europe came to similar conclusions. And, importantly, a 2016 sample of the general population from developing countries also tied grit to self-employment — particularly among women.
Although psychologists consider grit to be a personality trait, it can be strengthened and cultivated through confidence-building, goal-setting and skills development. In a randomized control trial of our programming, conducted from 2018 to 2021 in Uganda, women entrepreneurs who received SBS training had an average 3 to 4 percent higher score on the grit scale than those who did not — an increase that is in line with interventions that explicitly target grit.
“From my personal perspective, I feel the SBS women entrepreneurship training is needed now more than ever before,” says Margret Mugaba of our Uganda team. “Due to the pandemic, many people fell back into poverty and back into not knowing what to do or how to juggle their businesses. The training teaches resilience for someone to be able to get up even when things are hard or to identify opportunities in the community other than the ones they have known before.”
What grit means to us: Stories of grit and women entrepreneurs
When we think about grit, we think about Medius, an energetic 53-year-old who cares for her four grandchildren in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Medius opened, and was forced to close, two businesses before she found Street Business School’s livelihood training, which she said nurtured her confidence and changed her life.
Medius was forced to start over after being robbed of her life savings, only to see her new business shuttered by COVID-19, so she already had the grit and determination to push forward through difficult times. But in the face of new challenges, she needed encouragement and hope to try once more. Toward the end of her entrepreneurial training with SBS, Medius reopened her business selling ajon and bushera, two local drinks made from dried and malted millet, and she’s saving up to launch a second business selling food in the local market.
When we think about grit, we think about Faridah, a mother of three from the remote Eastern Ugandan town of Mt. Wanale. Determined to lift her family from poverty, Faridah saved up her earnings for a $17 workshop and learned to make liquid soap. But once she had the skill, she still lacked access to financial capital and entrepreneurial knowledge.
That’s when Faridah learned that Street Business School was sharing business skills training to women in the Mt. Wanale area. Soon after receiving SBS training, she sold her only chicken for $2.70 and bought bananas and avocados to sell at schools in her community. She is now a successful entrepreneur with three businesses, selling produce, soap and shampoo — and she’s working to buy 40 dairy cattle to beef up her income and support her husband by buying better fertilizers for his garden.
When we think about grit, we think about Odiira, a single mother of three who took on the role of breadwinner after her husband walked out. She first took a job as a waitress in a local restaurant where she earned $1.30 per day, but it was never enough to cover her bills.
Then Odiira met a community leader who told her about Street Business School’s entrepreneurial training that would teach her to identify business opportunities in the community and start with what she had. She was shocked to learn the $27 she’d managed to save was enough to open a little eatery of her own. She purchased a charcoal stove, a bucket and a wire mesh to roast meat by the roadside, and she’s now saving to expand her business further. “I am now very confident, and I understand that I can start any business even if I have no financial capital,” Odiira said. “My mind is now awake, and I see many women entrepreneurship opportunities in my community.”
Join us in igniting grit and potential in future women entrepreneurs
With the price of goods rising around the world and the fallout from COVID-19 still impacting communities, women entrepreneurs like Medius, Faridah and Odiira will undoubtedly face even more challenges ahead. But the grit, confidence and persistence they’ve developed leave them well positioned to cope with whatever the future holds.
We’re also committed to giving these new women business owners the support they need along the way. Among other interventions, we offer a support line for our graduates in Uganda. “If they have challenges, the program team is available,” says Irene Namaganda, who works as a communications manager in our Uganda office in Kampala. “They can call the program team and say, ‘This is happening to me. I need advice. What should I do?’ And the program team is available to help them through such situations and give advice on how best to move forward.”
With the support of our donors and partners, SBS is on a mission to help Medius, Faridah and Odiira — and millions of women like them — to realize how strong, capable and resilient they really are.
If you’d like to join us in igniting grit in women around the globe, we invite you to visit give.streetbusinessschool.org today.