When we think about what achievement looks like for Miller Center in the year 2025, we picture our center as one of the most successful accelerators in the world for scalable social enterprises. In order to achieve this, Miller Center has made the intentional decision to focus on social enterprises who incorporate these two key areas — Climate Resilience and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Focusing on social entrepreneurs within these areas will enable Miller Center to produce more scalable and replicable models with the capacity to more effectively fight poverty and transform markets. With our upcoming accelerator, Miller Center is supporting social enterprises that are taking a robust and holistic approach to supporting women in all aspects of business. We are very excited to announce the launch of our first Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) cohort. In addition to including women-led businesses, this cohort also encompasses organizations that incorporate other important WEE dimensions: women as employees, value chain participants, and customers.
Miller Center’s Learning Journey to Better Support WEE
An overwhelming number of studies and research prove that empowering women economically goes beyond the success of the individual woman or business; it is a global good. If women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global GDP would rise by approximately 3% to 6%, adding $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion to the global economy. This strengthens Miller Center’s decision to take a 360 degree approach in supporting women in all facets of business. By valuing the needs and perspectives of the social enterprises we accompany and by paying attention to gender lens research released by ecosystem partners, our center continues to be on a learning journey so that we are best equipped to be part of the solution in creating systems that are inclusive and rid of long standing biases.
With the release of the 2016 white paper, Turning on the Lights, Miller Center first recognized the power of women entrepreneurs. But it wasn’t until 2019 that we really prioritized women in business and acknowledged the unique needs of women leaders by introducing a women-led affinity group within a cohort. Learning from the needs of the women in this affinity group prompted Miller Center to focus an entire cohort the following year on women leaders. One of the learnings applied to this particular cohort included greater emphasis on leadership coaching as a means to increase confidence and level the playing field.
Building New Ecosystems and Partnerships to Achieve WEE
As Miller Center’s Executive Director Brigit Helms recently wrote in this “Times of Entrepreneurship” Op-Ed piece, in order for women entrepreneurs to succeed, new networks and ecosystems need to be cultivated, especially when it comes to fundraising. In addition to providing executive mentorship combined with a structured curriculum to help them become stronger fundraisers, the WEE program will also offer one-on-one leadership coaching, gender inclusion trainings hosted by Value For Women, and an invitation from Santa Clara University’s Silicon Valley Executive Center to access its online leadership and management certificate course, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. As part of Miller Center’s own journey in helping make WEE the norm and not the exception, building partnerships across Santa Clara University with centers like the Silicon Valley Executive Center and externally with thought leaders such as Value For Women will continue to play an important role in our learning journey narrative.
Welcome Miller Center’s Largest Cohort to Date
Of the 250 applicants, 31 selected enterprises were invited to participate in this year’s WEE cohort. These enterprises were selected based on their stage of development and the fact that they are addressing one or more of the four dimensions of our WEE strategy. Their collective impact spans multiple countries including South Africa, Angola, Botswana,Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Vietnam, Spain, Malawi, USA, Uganda, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and the Philippines.
The cohort officially launched on February 23, 2021 and will culminate in August 2021 with intensive feedback panel presentations. Miller Center is excited to announce its latest and largest cohort to date of social enterprises who are creating models of success and addressing women’s economic empowerment in their mission to provide a pathway out of poverty for the communities they support. Read more about each enterprise below.
- African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF)
- Center for Women and Food Security-Ghana
- Cinco Azul
- Development Knowledge Link Africa (DEVLINK)
- Fundación Quiero Trabajo
- Greenleaf Investments
- Heavenly Treats
- Kidogo Innovations Ltd
- Kimuli Fashionability
- Krishi Janani PBC
- Lakefarms & Fishing Lodge Limited
- Mikono The Refugee Craft Shop / Jesuit Refugee Service
- Perisha Agro and Packaging Enterprise
- Pollinate Group
- Polly & Other Stories
- Powwater Corp
- Savhera Wellness Private Limited
- Serigrafía de la Gringa, Sociedad Anonima
- Smarter Good
- Social Lender
- Street Business School
- Talia Women’s Network
- The Harvest Fund
- Tierra & Lava: Conscious Care with Mayan Wisdom
- Tiny Totos Kenya
- Xpreme Solar Solutions Ltd
- Women’s DNA Fund Ltd
In May of this year, Miller Center launched it’s first 100% women-led cohort to help advance women leaders and women’s economic growth. Of the 227 applicants, 17 women entrepreneurs were selected to participate in our 6-month GSBI® Online program. Today I am also very excited to announce that another 15 were selected to participate in our 4-month GSBI JumpStart program, which officially launched on June 30.
Originally piloted in 2017, the JumpStart program was initiated as a way to support early-stage but high potential social entrepreneurs, in particular, women-led and locally-led organizations. The format of JumpStart differs from other GSBI accelerator programs in that it is delivered in a shorter period of time and with a less structured format. The goal is to help give these enterprises a “jumpstart” to be prepared to apply for future stage-specific accelerators like GSBI online as well as to develop strategies to grow their enterprises in a financially sustainable manner.
Since JumpStart is geared toward supporting early-stage enterprises, the organizations in this cohort on average have been in operation 1-4 years and are a mix of for-profit, non-profit, and hybrid businesses. They are creating impact across 7 countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, India, and the US, and working across 7 impact sectors — Education, Energy, Agriculture, Health, Artisanal, Environment, and Housing/Community Development.
Discover the 15 social enterprises selected for our 2020 GSBI JumpStart Women-Led Cohort:
More than three-quarters of Ugandans depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but only 31% of the arable land in Uganda is in use. Smallholder farmers make up over 80% of the farming community in Uganda, but it’s nearly impossible for them to get loans: only 1% of commercial lending in Uganda goes to farmers. In addition to lacking credit, these farmers face a number of issues that threaten their survival.
In Pakistan, 80% of the population lives in rural areas and does not have access to health care. In India, pregnancy is commonly life-threatening instead of life-giving. In Mexico, low-income children are at risk of delayed development due to poor childcare services.
“When I heard, “And the winner is Wendo Dorcas” that evening I took the trophy to my room, sat on my hotel bed and cried until my ribs hurt. I cried for the woman who did not have confidence in herself, who considered herself inferior, who was fearlessly afraid, who was so proud of herself for doing something she had never done before. She had pitched and won. Yes! The villager as I commonly, proudly, refer to [as] myself, had won $10,000 plus a trophy.”