Say “ Entrepreneur” and words like “innovative”, “risk-taker”, “future-minded” will come to mind. Say “Entrepreneur” and an image of independent, innovative and positive-minded person ready to take charge of her/his future and relentlessly taking risk to turn ideas into incomes will come to mind. But most micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries don’t really fit in that picture: they have not chosen to be entrepreneurs; they do it by default or necessity, not by choice. They would rather be employed and get a regular salary. Starting and running a small business is very difficult: it requires spending first before selling anything, and this initial investment is often paid with debts which come at a cost; the income is irregular and never certain. The level of financial risk is even harder to bear in the absence of any safety net or emergency savings. Managing a business implies having a long term vision and planning – which turns out very challenging when your brain is 100% busy with very short goals: feeding your children tonight.
Livelihood and micro-business training programmes need to address this specificity and only focus on basic but vital takeaways: does the business make money: at least, the micro-entrepreneur needs to make sure (s)he doesn’t lose money and get poorer and poorer. Tracking business and personal expenses and incomes separately and reconciling cash daily are key skills. Cash management too is vital: basic cash forecast, keeping a credit book and ensuring customers pay. Managing relationships with extended family members who are often customers, co-workers and suppliers is another challenge to include in a training workshop. Then, as these survival skills are consolidated, your programme can go further and empower micro-entrepreneurs to market their experience to get a job, envision a future beyond tomorrow and plan accordingly. And for the few real entrepreneurs, offer a more extensive programme to help them turn their self-employed activity into a business that will create jobs.