This Nigerian shopkeeper’s advice to female entrepreneurs: Start

March 14, 2022 | By Vicki Hyman

Getting access to finance is a major stumbling block for many microentrepreneurs. Modupeola Lucy Asuku, 47, knew this better than most – she worked at a bank in Lagos but lost her job in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. With four young children at home, she decided she needed more flexible work, and started selling baby items shipped to her from her sister in the U.S. – toys, clothing, diapers.

Eventually she found a storefront not too far from her house and her children’s school and opened DV’s Baby World, but struggled to keep the store stocked when her suppliers were unwilling to extend her even short-term credit. “What I need is the working capital so when I finish selling, I can restock immediately,” she says.

So in 2013, she turned to Accion Microfinance Bank, which helps microentrepreneurs, many of whom lack tangible collateral or a formal credit history, access financing for their businesses. Accion MfB not only bridged the gap for Asuku, securing more than 20 loans over the years ranging USD $120 to $480, but also helped her turn a subsistence operation into a thriving small business in other ways. The store, which now stocks everyday provisions like soap and shampoo as well as baby goods, runs on solar power, purchased via an Accion MfB solar loan.

Modupeola Lucy Asuku in her Lagos store. (Photo courtesy Accion MfB)

Modupeola Lucy Asuku in her Lagos store. (Photo courtesy Accion MfB)

Since 2018, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth has been partnering with Accion International to enable Accion MfB and other inclusive financial service providers in nine developing economies to better serve microentrepreneurs like Asuku with tools and products to help them thrive in an increasingly digital economy. This work includes encouraging partnerships between financial service providers and other players within the digital financial ecosystem, including mobile network operators and e-commerce platforms, to support microentrepreneurs.

Under the program, Accion MfB has formed a partnership with Jumia, a leading e-commerce platform in Africa to help their loan clients, including Asuku, sell online. Accion MfB’s support team walked Asuku through Jumia’s onboarding process and taught her how to upload photos of her goods, for example, and participate in promotions.

Nigeria is a bright spot in terms of female entrepreneurship, according to the 2021 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women worldwide, but of the 65 economies surveyed, Nigeria is one of 21 in which entrepreneurship among women stayed the same or grew, and it’s one of 10 in which women’s entrepreneurship surpassed that of men. 

Asuku’s advice for women thinking of opening their own business: Start. “From whatever they have, they should start with it. Sometimes when you are trying to wait until you have more money, you might end up not doing something. I believe in little beginnings … I knew what I had in mind when I opened the store. I knew one day I would get there.”


When women work, economies grow

The 2021 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs underscores the resilience shown by women in challenging times and points the way toward changes governments, policymakers, businesses and people can make to foster progress.

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Vicki Hyman, Director, Global Communications