The service was created based on groundbreaking research supported in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Booz & Company, on the challenges women entrepreneurs face and how mobile technology can be used to address them. The research concluded that the extensive and ever-increasing penetration of mobile phones in developing and emerging markets presented a significant opportunity to women entrepreneurs who were looking to grow their businesses.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, the ExxonMobil Foundation worked with Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to translate this study into action, launching Business Women application in Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania. The mobile service, which received the 2013 Global Telecoms Business Award, reached more than 100,000 women, providing them with 250+ targeted tips and practical advice for starting and running successful businesses. To augment the Business Women messages, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, with support from the ExxonMobil Foundation, worked with local NGO partners in all three countries to provide business skills training to more than 4,000 women entrepreneurs.
An evaluation of the Business Women program conducted by Michigan State University, Evaluating Business Women, a Mobile Value Added Service for Women Entrepreneurs , showed that:
- 90 percent of subscribers said that the service offered an inexpensive way to become a better-informed businesswoman;
- 80 percent said that the service showed them how to find new customers; and
- More than 67 percent said the service gave them pointers on how to find affordable and easily accessible credit options.
Subscribers also reported that reading the Business Women content left them with more self-confidence and entrepreneurial optimism.
Twenty-four year old Nur Khayati was working in a restaurant when she downloaded the Business Women app. She wasn't planning to go into business then, but the stories and advice inspired her so much that she decided to invest her savings in setting up a juice stall. Her fruit is purchased daily and the juices are freshly prepared in front of the customer. Her business is just four months old, but is already thriving. She has been able to give her parents 6 million rupiah, which they are investing in land to increase the size of their fruit farm. She is also planning on opening a new booth in another part of town.