Micro and small enterprises are important contributors to job creation and global economic development, representing approximately 90% of business and more than 50% of employment worldwide. However, the pandemic necessitated a rapid shift to digital platforms and processes that have created new opportunities but also pushed many to the brink of failure. To address the transition to digital, Mastercard – through the Center for Inclusive Growth – today launched Strive, a global initiative focused on strengthening the financial resilience of small businesses and supporting their recovery and growth.
With an initial philanthropic investment of $25 million from the Mastercard Impact Fund, Strive will help more than five million micro and small businesses around the world access the tools and resources they need to digitize.
“When small businesses thrive our local communities and economies thrive, but when they struggle, the impact is widespread,” said Michael Miebach, CEO of Mastercard. “What small business owners need right now are partners who will listen to them and develop innovative solutions that will help them grow in the wake of the pandemic. It comes down to an investment in making their success our success. That’s what makes programs like Strive so critical today and tomorrow.”
“This program builds on lessons learned and a body of work developed as part of Mastercard’s long-term focus on financial inclusion,” said Shamina Singh, President and Founder of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “By leading with an equity-intentional lens and partnership-driven approach, Strive will meet owners where they are and connect them to the resources they are telling us they need to succeed and grow over the long-term.”
A Data Insights Led Initiative
As part of the Strive initiative, global platforms will combine with localized programs to address and respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of the most vulnerable small business populations in regions across the world.
Strive Community – the first of these programs – will impact more than five million small businesses across Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. With the support of Caribou Digital, a research and advisory firm focused on aiding the development of inclusive and ethical digital economies, the program will help small businesses utilize technology resources that will digitize their operations, streamline financial and back-office services and improve market access to ensure they succeed in our modern economy. Grants will be allocated to organizations that are experienced in working with micro and small business owners.
“We are excited to partner with Mastercard to provide small businesses with the tools they need to reach their potential in a digital world,” said Chris Locke, founder of Caribou Digital. “By partnering with a wide range of interconnected organizations, the program will deliver valuable resources for digitization and foster further innovation, while enabling us to drive impact at scale.”
With a data insights first approach, Mastercard is responsibly working with regional fintechs, social impact firms and non-profit organizations to ensure the most vulnerable small businesses have access to secure tools and resources that will simplify their ability to manage cash flow, gain and retain customers and prosper digitally. In Europe, Strive Community will initially partner with fintechs to support small businesses in Spain and France.
Supporting the Most Vulnerable Businesses with a Local Market Focus
Strive UK, the second program launched as part of the Strive initiative, aims to bolster the financial resilience and unlock the growth of 650,000 U.K. micro and small enterprises through personalized advisory services, data science-driven tools, and insights and digitization support. Working together with local small business focused NGOs including Enterprise Nation, Digital Boost and Be the Business, while complementing UK government efforts such as Help to Grow, Strive UK will focus on providing dedicated resources to the most vulnerable small businesses including those that are women and minority owned.
The Urgency of Accelerating Small Business Growth
Even before the pandemic, small businesses were falling behind their larger competitors in integrating digital technologies in the way they do business. A European Union survey in 2019 found that roughly 80 percent of large businesses had implemented at least one digital technology versus only 30 percent of micro businesses.
Today’s announcement builds on Mastercard’s $250 million commitment to support small businesses’ financial security made last year. Strive extends Mastercard’s longstanding commitment to financial inclusion, with efforts underway to bring in a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses with a focus on 25 million female entrepreneurs into the digital economy by 2025.
John W.H. Denton, AO, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce: “Small businesses around the world continue to play a critical role in rebuilding a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Technology-driven, partner-led financial inclusion programs of the kind developed by Mastercard can help small businesses strengthen their operations and will propel them into this new digital-first era we now inhabit.”
Rebecca Marmot Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever: “Small businesses are key to Unilever’s growth and need more support than ever. As the world becomes increasingly digital, we have an opportunity to ensure that business owners are part of the transformation. This has shaped our collaboration with Mastercard in Kenya and will continue to fuel the impact-driven work that we do together. By helping small businesses digitize, Strive Community will put small businesses on a pathway to resilience and growth, and create a more sustainable and prosperous economy.”
Assel Zhanassova, Ministry of Trade and Integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan: “Micro and small businesses are a critical part of the economy in Kazakhstan and we must prioritize their resilience and growth. We welcome Mastercard’s efforts to support small businesses through the Strive Community program and other initiatives, and we look forward to exploring how we can continue to partner on these efforts.”
Timothy Ogden, Managing Director, Financial Access Initiative at NYU Wagner: “Ensuring those hit hardest by the pandemic have the right support to recover their work and income must be a global priority. Programs like Strive, which focus on helping small and micro businesses access evidence-based tools and know-how to build financial resilience and grow their businesses are essential.”
Matthew Gamser CEO, SME Finance Forum: “If we hadn’t seen clearly before that managing the transition from paper to digital money, from paper to digital contracts, and from physical to digital business is critical to the future of small businesses worldwide, COVID made sure this was right in front of our faces everywhere. That’s why I’m so excited to welcome the launch of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth’s Strive Community program, which will help small but dynamic businesses to navigate these changes. I expect Strive to find new, lower cost, more scalable ways to support SME digitalization and growth.”
Zahra Omar, Entrepreneur, Egypt: “When you’re running a small business there’s often no one to ask for advice. You’re the founder, the manager, the doer – all in one. But to grow a business and take the right decisions, advice and support from those that have done it before is essential. Since signing up to the MicroMentor digital mentorship platform, I can get support whenever I want from wherever I am. My mentor has helped me solve problems and grow my business in the face of the economic and political challenges here in my country – and the advice is worth thousands of dollars to me!”
Asia Tabassum, Entrepreneur, Pakistan: “The pandemic has provided new challenges not experienced before. But part of our DNA as entrepreneurs is to adapt. Finding support to transition our services online has opened us up to new customers and therefore new revenue streams. Without this, we may have struggled to survive. For any small business trying to work out a way forward my message is simple: ensure you have a digital footprint and your team knows how to work online.”