Refocus, Retool, Reset

Insights from Youth Business International’s
COVID-19 Rapid Response & Recovery Programme

YBI’s new report ‘Refocus, Retool, Reset: Insights from Youth Business International’s COVID-19 Rapid Response & Recovery Programme’, shares the learnings and insights from YBI’s Rapid Response and Recovery Programme, in partnership with Google.org and 34 of our network members and delivery partners.

Medium, small and micro-enterprises (MSMEs), especially those led by women, young people, ethnic minorities, and migrants, were significantly impacted by COVID-19 with 70-80% facing major financial difficulties1. To support entrepreneurs to survive, and even thrive in a pandemic context, YBI provided in-depth services to 145,738 entrepreneurs - with 77% reporting improved skills to manage the challenges and 40% successfully improving the resilience of their business. 

103,796 businesses supported by YBI survived the initial impacts of the pandemic meaning they were able to ensure 92,803 jobs were not lost.. During this time, YBI identified six key areas of future support that will ensure entrepreneurs have the emotional resilience, agility, and resources to allow them to build back stronger, harness new opportunities and cope with other future shocks.

“What we’re trying to do is to give young entrepreneurs a map and a torch, so they can at least figure out where they are going.
Dirk Bischof, CEO of Hatch, United Kingdom

1. ILO, World Employment and Social Outlook Trends (2021). 

Reimo Peters, Owner of Reimos Brauwerk Supported by KIZ SINNOVA (KIZ)Germany

Reimo Peters, Owner of Reimos Brauwerk Supported by KIZ SINNOVA (KIZ)Germany

Renny Aghfany, Supported by YCAB Foundation, Indonesia

Renny Aghfany, Supported by YCAB Foundation, Indonesia

FlexiBeesSupported by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)Singapore

FlexiBeesSupported by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)Singapore

Anas Ragheb, Owner Mpowerment EUSupported by Qredits Microfinanciering (Qredits)

Anas Ragheb, Owner Mpowerment EUSupported by Qredits Microfinanciering (Qredits)

Item 1 of 4

Reimo Peters, Owner of Reimos Brauwerk Supported by KIZ SINNOVA (KIZ)Germany

Reimo Peters, Owner of Reimos Brauwerk Supported by KIZ SINNOVA (KIZ)Germany

Renny Aghfany, Supported by YCAB Foundation, Indonesia

Renny Aghfany, Supported by YCAB Foundation, Indonesia

FlexiBeesSupported by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)Singapore

FlexiBeesSupported by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)Singapore

Anas Ragheb, Owner Mpowerment EUSupported by Qredits Microfinanciering (Qredits)

Anas Ragheb, Owner Mpowerment EUSupported by Qredits Microfinanciering (Qredits)

Abdoulaye Diogo Barry, Owner of W’antSupported by Positive Planet, France

Abdoulaye Diogo Barry, Owner of W’antSupported by Positive Planet, France

Khurshida Jahan, Owner of Retro Colors, Supported by B’YEAH, Bangladesh

Khurshida Jahan, Owner of Retro Colors, Supported by B’YEAH, Bangladesh

Manuel Gil, Owner of Tierra Inquieta, Supported by Youth Business Spain, Spain

Manuel Gil, Owner of Tierra Inquieta, Supported by Youth Business Spain, Spain

Build emotional resilience to address the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic and other shocks

Entrepreneurs faced volatile and uncertain contexts over the last year. Mentoring, peer connections, and tailored life skills and soft skills training strengthened entrepreneurs’ emotional resilience and supported them to make difficult decisions for themselves and their businesses.  

Entrepreneurs’ emotional needs must continue to be nurtured and their skills built so that they can manage shocks- in whatever form they may come in and whenever they may happen. 


Stimulate and support business pivots that are essential for survival and growth

Effective and timely business pivots allowed many entrepreneurs to continue trading. Whilst early pivots focused solely on keeping the business viable, later adaptions demonstrated entrepreneurs’ growth mindsets as they focused on strategy, improving operations, and building new opportunities for growth.  

Growth in the recovery stage will be dependent on entrepreneurs’ ability to pivot- to continue this, entrepreneurs need high-quality intensive capacity building in key technical areas of financial management, strategy, business planning, legal support, and branding.  


    Enable digital solutions that offer the promise of a sustainable future

    Digitalisation has been one of the most crucial pivots made by businesses over the past year. Digital support services worked best when they were intensive, iterative, and provided entrepreneurs with the space to learn a skill, practice, and return to develop their understanding. 

    For many entrepreneurs, there is no future without digital. Tech partners are needed to identify the most relevant solutions for SMEs and greater investment is needed in growth areas, such as marketing, data acquisition and management, and legal aspects of online business.  

    "Before I joined the program, I thought that anything related to digital technology was way too complicated, especially for women so I thought we shouldn’t even bother looking into it.”

    Female entrepreneur 

    Supported by SHE Investments

    Oktavia Ika Rahman, Supported by YCAB Foundation in Indonesia

    Oktavia Ika Rahman, Supported by YCAB Foundation in Indonesia

    Create linkages between entrepreneurs and private sector actors to leverage expertise, innovation, and technology

    At a time when entrepreneurs’ networks were shrinking rapidly, Google.org facilitated links between entrepreneurs and their expert workforce to provide expert global advice on how to expand visibility, think innovatively, and leverage technology more effectively.  

    Entrepreneurs will continue to need the cutting-edge, innovative solutions offered by the private sector, especially technology companies, to remain market-relevant today and future proof their businesses for tomorrow.  


    Enable entrepreneurs’ access to finance

    Access to finance is challenging and the pandemic exacerbated barriers, especially for underserved entrepreneurs. The YBI network demystified the complexity of finance and aid requirements, adapted their own loan funds to reflect the challenges of repayment, and providing greater access to investors.   

    The recovery phase must prioritise the dismantling of barriers to finance for SMEs, build greater mutual awareness, understanding, and linkages between entrepreneurs and investors, and provide space for underserved entrepreneurs to access investment opportunities.  


    Invest in and develop fully inclusive outreach and programmes

    Underserved and diverse entrepreneurs, such as women, young people, and those from migrant and refugee groups, were impacted by the pandemic first and are more likely to suffer longer-term repercussions2

    YBI made significant context specific adaptions to programmes to improve the engagement with and experience of underserved entrepreneurs.     

    The inclusion of underserved entrepreneurs must be a priority in the post-pandemic context. To do this, there needs to be greater investment in understanding specific needs and co-creating appropriate solutions. Visibility of diverse entrepreneurs must increase through storytelling to correct standard rhetoric about who can be an entrepreneur.    

    2. Facing theJob Crisis

      Rebecca Page, Owner of Rebecca Page Ltd., Supported by Hatch, United Kingdom

      Rebecca Page, Owner of Rebecca Page Ltd., Supported by Hatch, United Kingdom

      Atacha Mumputu, Owner of Face Clinic Belgium, Supported by microStart, Belgium

      Atacha Mumputu, Owner of Face Clinic Belgium, Supported by microStart, Belgium

      Anna Tsakyroglou, Owner of BabyWorks, Supported by Action Finance Initiative (AFI), Greece

      Anna Tsakyroglou, Owner of BabyWorks, Supported by Action Finance Initiative (AFI), Greece

      Global Reach and Local Expertise of YBI’s Rapid Response and Recovery Programme (supported by Google.org) 0

      Entrepreneurs reached

      70-80%

      Of micro and small enterprises faced significant financial difficulties during the pandemic.

      0

      Entrepreneurs reached in 32 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

      0

      Partner organisations delivered support packages.

      0

      Entrepreneurs accessed mentoring, coaching and advisory services, business clinics, and webinars & trainings to develop skills.

      0

      Entrepreneurs reported improved business knowledge and skills to manage the risk and uncertainty.

      0

      Entrepreneurs adapted and strengthened their business models.

      0

      Jobs maintained.

      0

      Businesses still trading.

      “As startups across the globe continue to grapple with the adverse effects of COVID-19, Google staff played a key role in advising our startups on how to digitize and adapt operations under pandemic conditions.”

      Katrina Rausa Chan

      Executive Director of QBO Innovation Hub
      Philippines

      This support has all been built upon YBI’s three foundations for success- established through 20 years’ worth of entrepreneurial support to young entrepreneurs.

      Personal development

      Entrepreneurs have the emotional resilience and support networks to embrace change and cope with challenges.

      Business development

      Entrepreneurs have the relevant skills, confidence, and technical expertise to adapt and improve their business.

      Enabling environment

      Entrepreneurs have access to technical advice from the private sector and finance and investment.

        Chan Kai Ho, Youth Business Hong Kong

        Chan Kai Ho, Youth Business Hong Kong

        Read the full report

        This report was made possible through YBI’s partnership with Google.org.

        Google.org supports YBI’s Rapid Response and Recovery Programme, enabling 34 YBI members and delivery partners in 32 countries to provide a package of support to underserved micro, small and medium businesses to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.