Since 2012, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship has partnered with social businesses to co-create products and services sold in IKEA stores around the world. This year, we celebrate over ten years of working with Rangsutra, a woman-owned social business that creates jobs for skilled artisans in India.
For women in the villages in Uttar Pradesh region, work outside of home is hard to find.
For over fifteen years, Rangsutra, founded by Sumita Ghose, has empowered people living in areas traditionally distanced from the labour market, securing livelihoods and nurturing Indian craftsmanship in embroidery, textile and grass weaving.
85% of Rangsutra artisans are women, the majority of whom are also shareholders in the company. With increased income, the artisans can send their children to school, improve their homes ,and build up savings.
“When women in marginalised communities are empowered, skilled and employed, they ignite transformation within themselves, their families and communities, resulting in change”, says Sumita Ghose, the founder of Rangsutra.
Women-run businesses, such as Rangustra, also tend to create more opportunities for women in their communities, providing jobs and supporting local economies.
Steady work allows for dignity and confidence and can change the outlook for future generations – especially girls. To help combat the rising poverty among youth in India, Rangsutra runs a special training programme for adolescent girls, teaching the handicraft profession to girls after their school hours, providing increased employment opportunities after graduation.
Since joining forces in 2012, our relationship with Rangsutra has grown. “Before we started working with IKEA, we were only selling to the domestic market in India”, explains Sumita. “So, when IKEA came along, Rangsutra was very much in the learning stages, figuring out how to supply to a global market.”
Together, we’ve created new products every year for over a decade, with four new products to launch April 2023. These products, such as SILOMAL, VEDMAL and ELSABET which you find today in IKEA stores today, provide ongoing work for over 1,000 craftswomen, and empowering Indian women through the rich tradition of handicraft.
Facing unique challenges
In addition to partnering with social businesses to create products, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship invests in social entrepreneurs by providing grants and loans, giving them access to new markets, and sharing our knowledge so they can reach more people and have a bigger impact.
Women-led businesses can face unique challenges such as accessing funding and networking opportunities. A report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that women-owned businesses receive only 1% of total venture capital funding globally. Given the lack of access to financing, gender bias in the workplace and other social barriers, the entrepreneurial landscape can be restrictive to women.
Regardless, women continue to create innovative business solutions that tackle social and environmental challenges.
Women empowering women
One example is Powered By People, a social enterprise participating in the Dela programme, a systems change accelerator co-created by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and Ashoka.
Powered By People was founded by Ella Peinovich, who believes that women are Africa’s greatest untapped resource. It’s a business-to-business wholesale platform that enables small-batch makers and artisans — most of whom are women — to access international markets, financing, and digital tools.
Powered By People started in Africa, where the arts and crafts industry is dominated by women — women account for more than 80 percent of entrepreneurs and produce most of its products. However, they take home only about 10 percent of the income generated from the crafts supply chain. By gaining access to reliable and fair international markets these small businesses can thrive.
Powered By People now hosts artisanal products from over 70 countries, from Ghana to India to Guatemala, with women artisans better able to provide for themselves, their employees, families and communities.
We look forward to supporting Ella and Powered By People during their one-year journey in the Dela IV programme, launched February 2023.
Educating the next generation
Another inspiring example is Hipocampus, an enterprise founded by Lourdes Garza and her business partner Germán Zubia. The certified B Corp works to increase access to high-quality early childhood care and education services in vulnerable areas in Mexico and was a participant in our first Mexico Accelerator Programme, in 2020 – a partnership between IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and New Ventures.
Although education is a right under Mexican law, around 60% of children don’t have access to preschool education, according to the Ministry of Public Education (SEP). This limits single mothers’ and working families’ employment opportunities as well as children’s performance in primary education (and therefore access to secondary education), perpetuating inequality.
Hipocampus partners with private companies to offer subsidised, on-site day-care centres, where employee’s children can access quality education and care. The enterprise works mainly to support employees on the minimum wage.
Hipocampus also supports marginalised women from the communities in which they operate, training them to become Hipocampus Educators and providing employment.
This approach creates jobs and supports mothers returning to the workforce, while providing an educational foundation for children in vulnerable areas in Mexico.
Equity in entrepreneurship and beyond
According to a 2022 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, women are still far less active in business than men with the biggest gender disparity found in lower income countries. At IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, we’re proud that half of the social enterprises in our various accelerator programmes are founded, co-founded or led by women.
Supporting women entrepreneurs is one way we’re contributing to a more equitable world.
Last year we strengthened our People and Sustainability strategies with commitments for an even more fair, equal, and inclusive IKEA across our value chain. Gender balance has improved across IKEA organisations and our latest Sustainability Report shows that at Inter IKEA core businesses we’re close to a 50/50 binary gender balance among co-workers.
By 2025, we aim for 50/50 binary gender balance at all levels and in all functions, including management teams and boards. We also aim for further inclusion of other gender identities across all IKEA businesses and gender equal pay for work of equal value.
We have taken some important steps forward in playing a role in accelerating change, but still have work to do. By continuing to support women and entrepreneurs, we can create a more fair, equal and inclusive world for all.