One of the challenges that the health pandemic has brought to the table is the need to promote innovation and new business that have a positive social and economic impact for their communities. But also enable support networks so that they can grow and be sustainable over time. Although there are many women who are encouraged to take the first step, historically female entrepreneurs have had greater difficulties in obtaining financing compared to their male counterparts. “Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is often perceived as a typically male domain, so we can do much more to raise awareness and highlight the role of women entrepreneursnot only of the “stars”, but of all of them”, comments Jan Brinckmanteacher in Esade Business Schoolspecialized in the matter.
Santander Bank has a firm commitment to women’s empowerment in all the markets where it operates, which translates into training programs and different financial solutions to help women advance. This strategy is framed, for example, Santander’s Cultivate Small Business Programan initiative aimed at help small businesses owned by women, minorities and immigrants. It is a free 12-week immersive learning experience, combining MBA-level education in industry-specific business management skills with capital grants and access to a local network of industry experts.
This autumn, Ana Botin, president of Banco Santander, met in New York with a group of businesswomen who have participated in this initiative. “I came to this program as a cook and left as a businesswoman. I have cooked all my life, since I was 12 years old. No one ever gave me a loan. The help from Santander has been the first I have received for my business”, comments Tresia Smith. Also Tania López, founder of the brand Coqui The ChefHe explains his experience. Tania had a special bond with the bank, where her aunt worked, something she is proud of. “When I found out about this program I felt very close to her and I wanted to impress her and say ‘I did it.’ For the first time, I felt that my whole family really supported me, because before they didn’t understand what I was doing. Now they recognize that I am an entrepreneur”.
For Botín, “each stage of a company requires different skills. When you are very young, you only work as a family. Then you start to have employees and be more formal. The really important thing is to understand what they need at each stage, and if we can help you with that we have to, because in the end you are the heart of the economy. What motivates me is having an impact on 157 million people and companies. Do things the right way to have a positive impact.”
This program promoted by Santander’s subsidiary in the United States was born in 2017 and has spread to Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Dallas and Miami, supporting small businesses in the food industry, many of them led by women and that are a vital part of the neighborhoods and communities where they develop. “By the end of the year, the total number of entrepreneurs who have gone through the program will rise to 360, while the planned capital aid will rise to 1.2 million dollars,” highlights the top executive of the Spanish group.
Microfinance in Latin America
Banco Santander has a clear proposal for empowerment and financial inclusion, which is specified in figures: reach 10 million in the period 2019-2025. So far, it is advancing steadily towards this goal and has already financially empowered more than nine million people through three lines of action: access to basic banking services, financing and training. Just since the beginning of this year, it has granted 677 million euros through its microcredit programs present in eight Latin American countries.
Small businesses are vital in the region’s communities, where many of the women who access financing are mothers who are heads of household. This is the case of the Mexican Mercedes Cruz, in the state of Hidalgo. After losing her job during the pandemic, she decided to start a door-to-door food business. tuiioone of Banco Santander’s main programs for drive financial inclusiongave him a loan and provided him with financial education so that his business, Angel Seasoning, materialize and could generate income to support the family. “Without this loan we would not have been able to take off. We started from scratch with that money”, says Mercedes.
Her story is that of thousands of women who belong to vulnerable communities in various parts of Latin America and who are generally excluded from formal financial institutions. tuiio offers financial products and services to the low-income population in Mexico: the program has served more than 259,000 clients since 2017, when it was launched, and with more than 264,000 microcredits granted. 92% of clients are women entrepreneurs.
Another of the bank’s star programs is prosper, which was born in Brazil to contribute to the growth of small businesses that do not have access to the traditional financial system. Santander Brazil has allocated more than 1,400 million euros —9,000 million Brazilian reais— in microcredits in 1,500 cities for almost two decades. Rita de Cássia dreamed of professionalizing her services as a beautician in the city of São Paulo. With the push of a small loan, she financed the creation of her beauty clinic and she was able to agree to a renewal to get a motorcycle with which to travel to the homes of her clients. “I started working very young. It has been a difficult road, but this is my true dream.
Programs to promote female entrepreneurship also extend to Spain. Companies like Balbisiana, founded by the young lawyer Paula Babiano, who changed her office for pastry; either We Are Knitters, created by Pepita Marín and Alberto Bravo to sell packages do it yourself —do it yourself— of wool, needles and a pattern so that everyone can weave their own garments, they have had the support of Banco Santander to gain momentum. While the first, which started as an online business, already has a store in Madrid and sells its products to individuals and companies, we are Knitters has an international vocation and invoices 95% outside of Spain.
they are already four million small and medium-sized companies that Banco Santander supports every dayoffering financial products and services, advice and support.