Reaching More Women-Owned-SMEs: An Update

Written by Lynn Hamerlinck on 8 August 2022

In September 2021, Lendahand received a US$1.2 million grant through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) CATALYZE Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) program to help close the global financing gap between women and men business owners. 

The goal of the grant? To raise $120 million in financing for small businesses in the next three years, of which at least $7.2 million will go to women-led businesses.


How it started 

Using our existing crowdfunding platform, Lendahand aims to make it easier for women-led small businesses in emerging markets to attract funding. We identified two opportunities to do so. 

The first one tackles one of the major challenges we are trying to address. Since many women-owned-SMEs are still small, they need smaller amounts of funding for their companies. This reality creates a gap between the time and money we can spend to publish them on Lendahand and the amount they will raise. On top of that, smaller companies carry considerably more risk. To still be able to offer financing to those particular profiles, we want to develop and implement an automatic screening tool to better assess the creditworthiness of women-led enterprises and onboard them on the platform faster.  

The second opportunity for Lendahand is to make the investment process easier for crowd investors. With an auto-investment tool for the website, we want to allow investors to automatically invest their money in companies that match their selected criteria. 

By simultaneously making it easier to invest, and to find and process investments, we aim to contribute 55% of the total expected investments from the platform going to women's projects in three years' time (compared to 35% in 2021).


How it’s going

With the grant received from CATALYZE we were able to work on a number of initiatives already to upgrade our technology and make the onboarding process easier for both companies and our Investment team. 

  • We selected Ondato as an external Know-Your-Business platform to automate and improve the validation process of companies. They will use techniques like biometric verification and (bad) news analysis to detect whether companies are eligible to work with us. 


  • We have also started a partnership with Atlas, a data platform managed by the rating agency MFR. By using their data monitoring and collection tools, we will  make our investee journey easier and our portfolio management process faster.


  • So far, two companies have received the Women-Owned-SME status on Lendahand. Both MiCrédito in Nicaragua and Bailyk in Kyrgyzstan have been offered $5 million to raise in financing on our crowdfunding platform. For a company to receive this status, it must provide evidence of financing and evidence of women ownership, management, and leadership. 


  • Many crowd investors shared their thoughts and interest in an auto-investments tool through our survey. The effort allowed us to create a roadmap for the auto-investment tool. We are currently designing all the functionalities and learning from experiences of others on similar tools. The tool allows an investor a pre-selection of variables, such as interest rate, impact, and sector, for which funds can be automatically invested.


Have questions? We are happy to answer them via email at [email protected]


Visit the Lendahand Impact Report for the impact created on Gender Equality, thanks to your investments so far.

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