Afterpay pairs up with Global Sisters to raise $50,000 and break down barriers to women in business

Gobal Sisters founder Mandy Richards (second from right) with program participants (L-R) Tegan Murdock, founder of Ngumpie Weaving; Florence Olugbemiro, founder of Designed By Florence; and Karin Lee, founder of Florapeutic. Source: supplied.

Aussie buy-now-pay-later behemoth Afterpay has partnered with not-for-profit Global Sisters, in a bid to raise at least $50,000 per year to help open the door to entrepreneurship to more women.

An initial campaign, running throughout March in a nod to International Women’s Day on March 8, will give consumers the option to donate $1 at the checkout.

The goal is to raise a minimum of $50,000 annually.

Global Sisters founder Mandy Richards describes the not-for-profit as a “one-stop-shop” for supporting women in starting up micro-businesses — that is, businesses with four employees or fewer.

These businesses are “the backbone of the economy,” Richards tells SmartCompany.

“And yet, no one talks about them.”

The women involved in the program include single mums, women over 50, migrants, refugees, Indigenous women, and more.

The one thing they have in common, Richards says, is that they’re facing “some sort of barrier to mainstream employment”.

Typically, those barriers “are external and often systemic”.

Either jobs are not available, or they’re not accessible to women — perhaps because they have carer responsibilities, or because of age or racial prejudices.

Global Sisters is all about economic empowerment and financial independence, offering a genuine alternative of income generation for women who are shut out from mainstream employment.

Support is provided through business education, incubation and acceleration, plus coaching programs. Women also gain access to a suite of tools to help out with things like microfinance, sales and marketing.

It’s designed to help women turn their existing skills, passions and experience into a viable income stream, Richards explains.

“Entrepreneurship can be quite elitist, and really hard … if you don’t have the right networks and resources,” she explains.

“This is about democratising entrepreneurship.”

Cash and connections

A partnership with Afterpay is first and foremost a savvy way to secure funding for the program.

Global Sisters can put a women-led business through its program for about $1,000. So, the IWD campaign alone should be able to support 50 women.

The sheer reach of the campaign means it may well generate more.

At last count, the BNPL giant had some 13 million active users around the world. At least 3.3 million of them are in Australia and New Zealand.

“They have a huge customer base,” Richard notes.

“Asking someone to donate a dollar — who’s going to say no to that?

“If you’ve got a lot of those, that can end up being a lot of money.”

But it’s not only about the cash. Money is one thing the Global Sisters team is seeking — the other is people.

This is just the latest partnership connecting a big business with emerging women-led enterprises.

Businesses can get involved to help support women entrepreneurs, whether that’s through coaching, pro-bono services or procurement or collaboration opportunities.

Partners include the likes of Unilever, Visa and AMP, Richards explains. Each brings specific expertise that can be valuable to various types of small businesses.

For their part, the corporates get opportunities for staff engagement and meaningful collaborations.

“It makes for this amazing two-way value transfer,” Richards says.

Good for everyone

Global Sisters was not built as the kind of not-for-profit that raises funds by bucket-shaking in the streets. Richards set the organisation up to act as a business, and has never used the word ‘charity’ to describe it.

“That’s why I think we’ve been really fortunate and successful in attracting funding and partnerships,” she suggests.

In the post-cash world that businesses such as Afterpay have benefitted so much from, the days ‘traditional’ fundraising are long gone, she says.

People just don’t have spare change in their pockets anymore. So, any charity that relies on that for their community fundraising “would need to be making some changes”.

If you’re looking for donations at a community level, the key is to make it as frictionless as possible, and tech-enabled.

If a checkout gives the consumer an easy option to round up their spend to the nearest dollar, many won’t think twice about agreeing.

It’s about targeting people where they already spend money, and going for small amounts in high volume.

Equally, however, she notes that even for a not-for-profit, it helps to have a clear value add, with ‘doing good’ almost being an added bonus.

“With our work, even if you’re not emotionally attached to the concept, you should care about this, because this is impacting the economy,” Richards says.

The goal is to support women who are not contributing to the economy as much as they would want to become active participants in it.

“That’s good for everyone.”

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