Our Common Goal: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Creating Jobs

This week, politicians, writers, activists, and non-profit leaders are gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the 43rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. While the issues to be addressed range from health care to regulation to the environment, the two of us share a common interest in one particular topic -- economic growth and job creation. While many European countries are struggling with double-digit unemployment, and America's recovery continues to limp along at best, many of us gathered in Davos will draw important lessons, not just from one another -- amidst the well-intentioned talk and catchy phrases -- but from the individuals around the world who are building growth and creating opportunity every day, often overcoming extraordinary obstacles.

To this end, we want to put the spotlight on those who are starting up small businesses, creating jobs, and improving their lives and the lives of their communities.

People like Kabeh Sumbo, the owner of Passama Agriculture Trading Company in Monrovia, Liberia. Kabeh survived her country's civil war as a refugee in Guinea. Upon returning to Monrovia, she started a palm oil business with a single gallon of oil, bought off of the back of a truck. Today, she provides employment for 65 Liberians and exports 1,200 gallons of palm oil to the United States.

Kabeh is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program. She is just one example of the millions of untold stories of entrepreneurs around the globe who, every day, are driving economic growth. This kind of grassroots growth must be recognized, encouraged, replicated, and multiplied manyfold if we are to build a resilient and dynamic global economy.

And real economic growth is essential if we are to create opportunities for all and healthier, safer, better educated communities. But prosperity and the broader benefits of growth are not always distributed equitably by the markets. The public and private sectors must therefore offer support to help build growth that is both sustainable and widely shared.

And around the world, one of the best investments we can make to spur growth is in women entrepreneurs.

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it earlier this year, "to achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come... women."

Research by Goldman Sachs, the World Bank, and others has shown how investing in women can have a real impact on GDP growth -- specifically, how narrowing the gender gap in employment could push income per capita as much as 14 percent higher than baseline projections by 2020, and as much as 20 percent higher by 2030. This same research also suggests that educating and empowering women positively affects the health, education, and productivity of future generations.

The Huffington Post and Goldman Sachs come at this issue with different perspectives, but a common goal.

In 2008, Goldman Sachs made a $100 million investment through its 10,000 Women program. This initiative provides women-owned small-to-medium businesses in more than 20 countries with a business and management education, access to mentors, and links to capital. This year, the program will reach its initial goal by serving its 10,000th woman.

This past summer, The Huffington Post broke new ground in the way the media commonly report economic news. Frustrated by the relentless coverage of disaster, tragedy and scandal in traditional media sources, The Huffington Post launched "What is Working," dedicated to covering stories of progress and success, particularly when it comes to creating jobs in the United States, and brought 100 startup entrepreneurs together at both political conventions to showcase all the different ways they're creating jobs.

Today, our two organizations are joining forces. Together we will examine what entrepreneurs are doing to drive growth around the world and apply the lessons we have learned.

Based on the experience of 10,000 Women, there are three lessons we will discuss today at an event where we are appearing in Davos:

  • Demand for entrepreneurial opportunity is nearly limitless: Around the world, entrepreneurs are hungry for educational opportunities that can fuel their growth. We have seen this in 10,000 Women, where classes are frequently more than 10 times oversubscribed. Harnessing the collective power of the world's entrepreneurial talent starts with expanding the access to the practical training and education entrepreneurs need to run a successful, sustainable business.
  • Capital must be unlocked: As entrepreneurs build their businesses, many reach a point where capital becomes essential for growth. However, many barriers stand in the way of the efficient flow of existing capital to entrepreneurs, particularly in emerging markets. These barriers disproportionately affect women. 10,000 Women entered Liberia at the request of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which had funds to loan but too few qualified loan recipients due to years of civil war. Kabeh is a direct beneficiary of this partnership.
  • Public-private partnerships must deepen and expand: Bringing together public, private, and social sector partners is the only way to sufficiently scale the work of individual entrepreneurs. 10,000 Women operates with a network of nearly 90 academic and non-profit partners. But collaboration must always evolve and improve. Moving forward, we welcome the opportunity to form additional partnerships that will multiply the impact of our efforts to support entrepreneurs more deeply.

Over the course of the coming year, we will continue to examine and tell the stories of entrepreneurs who are effectively creating jobs and driving growth, featuring them on The Huffington Post and generating awareness and support through events and new partnerships.

Thanks to Kabeh's commercial success, she is now able to support not only her own two children, but also seven nieces, nephews and foster children. But, too often, potential like hers is overlooked and underreported. By giving voice to those efforts that are making a real difference, we increase our collective chance for success at strengthening the global economy. And by watching, listening, and learning from people like her, we can all take lessons in building a global economy that not only grows but also provides much greater opportunities and prosperity to women and men alike.