Factors influencing the performance of businesses owned by women in Kiambu Town, Kenya
The challenges facing women entrepreneurs in Kenya have really affected entrepreneurship growth rate among the females. Many women have different business ideas, but putting the ideas into practice and running a competitive enterprise is another difficult thing to them. The objectives of the study were to determine the extent to which business management skills affect the performance of businesses run by women, to establish the influence of socio-cultural factors on performance of businesses run by women, to assess the impact of economic factors on the performance of businesses run by women, and to find out whether Information and Communication Technology (ICT) affected the performance of businesses run by women. The greatest barrier facing women entrepreneurs in Kenya is access to finance is an issue because of requirements of collateral. In Kenya only 1% of women own property and that makes it very difficult for women to provide collateral for banks. Most women who venture into businesses in the rural areas and need financing lack the needed collateral to enable them secure bank loans.Formal financial support is seen to be too expensive for many women entrepreneurs and hence they treat this as a last resort. Even when women entrepreneurs do approach banks for financing, they tend to face discrimination .Women report that bank officials tend to ignore them in meetings and prefer speaking to their husbands or male business partners. For women in the rural areas, gender stereotyped perception of self, lack of confidence and assertiveness appear to be major barriers. The fear to risk is a big hindrance. The status of women in a patriarchal social structure makes women dependent on males in their lives –husbands or fathers –and family resistance is a major disincentive to business start-up. Other close male family members often make decisions for women hence going against the independent spirit of entrepreneurship. In addition, women are usually less educated than men, making them less well equipped to manage a business.The research designs that were used were both qualitative and quantitative research designs. The target population was the women running businesses in Kiambu town with a sample size of 100 women. The sampling procedure that was employed was stratified sampling.The study found that majority of the respondents had been engaged in active business for 1-5 years. The respondents indicated that religious beliefs did not affect/determine how they conduct business. The access to adequate loans and reasonable interest rates from financial institutions had effect on the performance of the business. They experience problem with the type of the interest rate charged and the loan repayment terms and conditions. The study established that they had no computer skills. Women entrepreneurs had limited but informal public relations skills, business management skills and computer skills.The study concludes that women entrepreneurs face financial challenges especially in raising capital, a difficulty in combining family and work life, obstacle in accessing information/advice on management of successful businesses and a question of self-confidence (believing in their abilities)religious beliefs did not affect/determine how they conduct business. The women businesses targeted both middle and low class customers. The differences in risk perception could be linked to women’s lack of access to power and influence. Women are underrepresented in all ICT decision-making structures, including policy and regulatory institutions, ministries responsible for ICTs, and boards and senior management of private ICT companies. The government should formulate policies that encourage the training of women entrepreneurs on business management skills. Financial institutions should encourage women to take loans and charge reasonable and manageable interest rates. Women should be trained on how to participate in the market place for them to be able to market goods and services strategically. Women should be encouraged to learn computer skills and implement ICT.