Running Digital Transformation for Inclusive Business Development

Author: Poliana Muñoz, Social Innovation@IE

Nearly a year ago, we launched the project “Digital Transformation for Inclusive Business Development” aimed at covering a specific gap in the nowadays-technological society. Thanks to IE we are working hard to connect 10 Small Business Owners to online market, giving visibility to their shops. The objective is to rise their sales and strengthen the quality of their jobs. The long-term goal is to bring more stability to their businesses and help them generate new jobs in the near future, thus leading to a positive social impact.

But, how are we running this initiative?

The project has three phases. During the first phase, potential beneficiaries that met the requirements of the project were identified. Among them, we assigned to 10 the treatment group and 7 to control group. Treatment and control groups are comparable in gender, number of entrepreneurs older than 45 years old, percentage of third country nationals, average income from their venture, industry and highest educational attainment.

Secondly, in phase II, we matched the 10 beneficiaries to the student advisors from the IE Master in Visual and Digital Media (MVDM). The two professors from the MVDM supervised students as they planned online shops and marketing strategies with beneficiaries. The professors became so involved in the project that they personally accompanied each of the student teams to visit the beneficiaries’ shops during the initial meetings in order to ensure the quality of the work done by the students. An online shop development firm also worked with the students to build and deliver online shops in collaboration with business owners.

At the end of April, we finally launched the 10 online shops. Each one has its special specifications and all of them are unique.   Trendy and Green, sells ecological clothes; DH Joyas, Taller Cruz or La Piedra de Monet that sell jewellery; La Griega, who sell drawings; or Dondelpulpo, El Astronauta del Rastro, Angela Escribano or Sonia Trenado that sell home decoration and personal use objects. Each of them have their special seal of quality and handmade. Two adjectives that represent the artisans and add value to any of their creations.

At present, we are running phase III where specialized mentors and business owners are reviewing and adapting the online marketing and the strategies developed by students. The Small Business Owners are beginning to run their online shops autonomously with great effort on their side, since most of them did not have specific training prior to their participation in the project. In order to support them in the most effectively way, we organized two workshops: One four-hour workshop to teach them how to manage their online shops and a second four-hour workshop to teach them basics tools for online marketing. Once they finished their group training, they started the one-on-one meetings with mentors to settle the acquired knowledge and to guide them in the first steps of running their online shops by themselves.

In addition, we are organizing two workshops for 40 Small Business Owners where we will convey the main lessons learned in this project and critical tools and tips to run an online shop. The first workshop was already due in July and the second one will be in October.

To conclude the project, we will present a report with our research findings and project evaluation at the end of November in a final event where we hope to count on the presence of many national and international organizations supporting Small Business Owners from Spain and South America. We will also create an online resource space to enable open access to learning materials from this project. We would love to continue to help artisans and Small Business Owners venturing in the digital space in the future.

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