Entrepreneurs Strengthening Local Economies

In just five years, Thierry Sanders has built one of the largest Web platforms for preparing emerging-market entrepreneurs for investment. As director and founder of the BiD Network Foundation, Sanders is implementing a strategy to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty in developing countries by educating, supporting and connecting founders of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with potential investors. Sanders talked to Ashoka Changemakers about the BiD Network, financing SMEs, and to offer some advice to social entrepreneurs.

Q&A with Thierry Sanders, Founder and Director of BiD Network

Finance is often talked about as a must-have for entrepreneurs. How important are new, outside funding sources?

It is very important for capital-intensive businesses. But for services it is over-rated. A lot of entrepreneurs think they need finance for everything, but, in most cases, that’s not the main issue. For example, consultants don’t really need finance. They need to have a client; they need to have a good business card, a laptop, a pen, a good education, a suit, maybe—and that’s it. With a bit of borrowing, you can get most of those things organized. Four out of the five businesses that we work with we call “self-starters,” because they manage to finance themselves. Simply by helping them put together a business plan template, they’re able to go to a bank, to an uncle or a sugar daddy to help them finance their businesses. Or, they realize, “Hey, now I know which steps I need to take in order to start my business.”

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