Evaluation: Business Professionals Network (BPN)’s Business Development Services to Formalizing and Dynamic Enterprises
Business Professionals Network (BPN), celebrating its 20th year, has an established presence in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Rwanda. The organization provides business development services to livelihood-sustaining and dynamic enterprises, consisting of a four-year program, grounded in the values of running a professional business, and delivering the “Four Pillars” (business education, coaching, loans, and a business owners’ association) to help the entrepreneur and his or her business grow. Argidius has supported BPN in Nicaragua since 2012. In 2018 an evaluation was commissioned on Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda, where the program was perceived to be working most effectively, to understand what works well and what could be improved as BPN considers changes under its new leadership. The 22 interviewed entrepreneurs predominantly had revenues of $20k-$50k in the year prior to participation.
- Most of the interview entrepreneurs have hired more staff and have seen a doubling or tripling of revenues. Entrepreneurs identified key changes in their businesses of better financial management, more focused product and service offerings, flatter organizations, and a greater focus on understanding and servicing the customer.
- The business education has been consistently delivered, coaching is an underutilized offer that is being more actively pushed in Rwanda, the loan offer is market dependent and the business association has great potential to continue to build community that is supportive of BPN’s work.
- Entrepreneurs mentioned the value of learning from their peers, being connected to peers, and knowing that they are not alone in the challenges they face. They often form friendships and Whatsapp groups. However, there is no formalized BPN-facilitated interaction between peers.
- BPN, despite its nonprofit status, is a commercially-minded organization, charging entrepreneurs what is considered a fair price for participation in the program.