Starting a new business or developing new products and services is not a straightforward process. There are iterative steps to take and you learn and improve during the progression. Every phase has different challenges and every entrepreneur has a different need for support. That is why Development Connect offers a suite of services along the process, from scoping business opportunities, assessing organizational strengths, to developing a program venture and reach scale based on a broad range of applied experiences from (rural) areas in Asia, West and Eastern Africa, Latin America and European countries.

In a globalised world, as people become more integrated into markets, it is essential not just to produce, but to sell, and to do this, it is increasingly necessary to market products. Markets are widely recognized as a key component of development. Many governments and international donors now embrace the need to enable producers to take advantage of, even create, business opportunities, but in a responsible and sustainable way. For example, the concept of “making markets work for the poor” is a way of bringing the benefits of economic growth to poorer parts of society.

Firstly, when you operate in non-traditional markets, you need a sound strategy and specific market insights. You need the right partners with the right capabilities. Development Connect has the experience and network on the ground to support its clients and partners in developing such a strategy from concept to commercial launch. To get to an initial strategy, Development Connect offers a mix of inspirational workshops, quick scans and trend analysis to create a blueprint for a business strategy.

Secondly, when you have your initial business strategy in place, you will need to validate the assumptions on which it is based. You need to proof of principle of the business idea. We offer tools to validate your ideas and opportunities, enabling you to create a proof of principle and define a pilot plan.

Thirdly, with a proof of principle and a plan to pilot ready, the next step is to establish a formal venture. Creating the final prototype and the venture at the base of the pyramid (i.e. concept of serving the world’s poorest approximately four billion people) requires a set of nontraditional activities. To establish a venture on the ground Development Connect helps to develop prototypes, develop customer awareness through marketing, recruit local staff and find adequate partners or channels for distribution.

Fourthly, to operate in BoP (bottom or base of the pyramid) markets, you need a set of nontraditional business skills: to understand low-income population demands and behaviour, to build public-private partnerships, to design in a mean and lean way, and to access hybrid financial means. Development Connect offers several packages to create inclusive business capabilities, through a combination of assessment, knowledge transfer, trainings and public private dialogue mechanisms.

Lastly, stepping into new markets means financial investment. Because of the risks that come with doing something new in an unusual way, companies or entrepreneurs often struggle to find investors. You need access to patient, innovative financial means that balance economic and social return and understand the risk. Development Connect offers support to create a bridge between impact investors and entrepreneurs, by sharpening the business case and make it investment-ready, creating an efficient deal flow towards impact investors.

There is a business case for the private sector to actively engage women as producers, employees, distributors or consumers. Women as inclusive business partners can be profitable and contribute to a company’s overall objectives, and at the same time help to meet the needs and serve the interests of women in the base of the pyramid. Most enterprises are not aware of or have not fully explored this potential for their business. Multi-stakeholder initiatives seek the strengths of the private sector, from SMEs to multinational companies, to drive change that recognizes the, often hidden, potential of women across the value chain. It raises awareness around the topic by sharing inspiring examples of good practices and supports companies in taking concrete action. Good practices range from producing and selling female hygiene products to two wheel tractors for women farmers or to employ women as quality experts in water filter production or actively engaging women in outsourcing schemes.

In spite of the potential benefits of developing business models that engage women as inclusive business partners, relatively few companies are actually doing it. There are a number of reasons why this isn’t happening.  Many companies are unaware of the benefits, while others recognize the benefits, but are unsure where to start and lack the right interface with other parties like NGOs, knowledge institutions or (local) governments.

Development Connect will assist and work with businesses through the funnel that will help them to develop and implement a strategy for engaging women in their new market development or becoming more competitive. We developed numerous capacity assessment methodologies across service delivery sectors and value chains which mainstream topics like gender. These assessments establish a capacity baseline, identify key entry points where functional and technical capacities need to be developed, helping spur (local) enterprise development. These assessments also provide (evidence based) data to convince resource organizations, investors, incubator funds and the likes to expand financial investment for the development of local enterprises.