Finance and Investment
Tackling Unemployment in Turkey: Ozyegin University Nurtures Women EntrepreneursPublished: June 07, 2011
Ozyegin University Center for Entrepreneurship in Istanbul, Turkey launched its first Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program in 2010. According to program manager Imge Kaya, 72% of the first group of graduates achieved growth in their businesses. After evaluating 1,344 candidates, Kaya and her colleagues launched the latest training for 135 women in May. K@W 10,000 Women spoke with Kaya and Utku Tuncay, monitoring and evaluation liaison for the program, about 10,000 Women's success in Turkey and why promoting women entrepreneurship is critical for Turkey's economic growth.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: Set the stage for entrepreneurship in Turkey. Does the country have a strong entrepreneurship culture, particularly for women? Do women often work outside the home?
Imge Kaya: In the past few years, there have been big campaigns for entrepreneurship and for SMEs [Small and Medium Enterprises]. People are being supported to be entrepreneurs, and the university is starting to offer courses on entrepreneurship. Women used to sit at home and take care of their babies and manage their husbands. In the 1970s and 1980s, they started to be business driven. Nowadays, they are getting into entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses, but it still needs to be supported a lot.
Utku Tuncay: Turkey does not have a deep entrepreneurial culture. It's a new republic, and after the 1980s it has tried to come up with a new industrialization. After that era, we had a rapid industrialization and tried to have more entrepreneurs. Women participation in the labor force is really low in Turkey, around 28%. We are trying to increase the percentages. Culturally, women don't work outside the home.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: Why is nurturing entrepreneurship among women important to Turkey's economy?
Kaya: Turkey has a high unemployment rate, around 11%. Supporting entrepreneurship will really make a difference in Turkey's future. Entrepreneurship is one of the best solutions for unemployment. Those companies will hire more people and it will have a multiplier effect.
Tuncay: Turkey has a young population, and entrepreneurship is more popular among young people. Entrepreneurship will increase the employment rate, decrease unemployment and further [stimulate] growth. [The concept] has become more popular with public authorities and the private sector.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: How has the certificate program been doing?
Kaya: Last year, we had 73 graduates over three cohorts. We have now selected women for cohorts four, five and six. The first three cohorts were really successful. In Turkey, for the first cohort the women had 72% growth in revenues and 72% growth in employee numbers. The graduates of the first cohort hired 87 new people. This is proof that supporting women will be a solution for Turkey's problems, like unemployment.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: What types of businesses are the women running?
Tuncay: In the first year, we accepted 27 women who were aspiring entrepreneurs. We have three from the first cohort and three from the second cohort who started up their businesses after the program. In the second year, we decided to accept women who already have established businesses. The businesses are from very different sectors, such as PR, health care, manufacturing and aluminum molding. I think accounting, finance and marketing are most [effective] for the women scholars because they have been producing their products or services, but in so many circumstances we see that they cannot sell them. They don't know how to promote their products, make cost calculations for their businesses or keep track of their revenues and expenditures. Some of them have accountants, but they don't know how to speak with them. After the program, some of the women have changed their accountants because they realize that they have given them wrong data or misled them.
Kaya: Especially in Turkey, finance and accounting are taboo for women. They always feel they don't understand accounting, but they never tried to understand it. It's something they have in their minds. Through the classes, they gained confidence with finance and accounting, and 50% changed their accountants because they didn't work properly. Also, most of the women perceived marketing as a big cost item. Now they realize that they don't always have to be on radio or TV to [have effective marketing].
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: Have any businesses emerged as top achievers among the group?
Kaya: One of the businesses, Ethic, does medical research and has grown [by more than 1,000%].
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: How do you feel your program is unique in terms of bringing in guest speakers and other training aspects?
Kaya: We have six modules created just for this program and for the needs of Turkey. We don't use the curriculum of another university. We [teach] the principles of Entrepreneurshie, marketing and sales, organizational planning and process management, accounting and finance, access to capital and business plan development. In our access to capital module, for example, we bring in speakers from the most important funding resources in Turkey. One of them is KOSGEB, the government organization for supporting SMEs. They come to the class and talk about their laws and grants for entrepreneurs. We also have KGF, the credit guarantee fund of Turkey. The women do not generally know anything about KGF, which they can use as collateral for bank [loans]. Now they know about this opportunity. We also have bank managers who tell women what criteria they are looking for on the credit applications. We are supporting women [in the program] with real-world guest speakers from the country.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: How will you carry the program forward?
Kaya: The university wants to keep it going. Many banks are coming to us to start a relationship. We will start working with those banks after the Goldman Sachs program is over. We also have a close relationship with KOSGEB, which will help our university support entrepreneurship and these types of programs in the future. Also, we meet with the [women graduates] every month to check on their progress.
Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: What does it mean for Ozyegin University to participate in the 10,000 Women program?
Kaya: Actually, it means a lot. Ozyegin is the only university in Turkey that positions itself as an entrepreneurial university. The owner of our university [Husnu Ozyegin] is the most successful entrepreneur in Turkey. He started out as an employee and now has more than $3.5 billion.