Digital entrepreneurship tools and support for women entrepreneurs

Bulgaria

 

Back | Home | Forward

Digital entrepreneurship tools and support for women entrepreneurs | Tools für digitales Unternehmertum und Unterstützung für Unternehmerinnen | Инструменти за цифрово предприемачество и подкрепа за жени предприемачи | Alati za digitalno poduzetništvo i podrška poduzetnicama | Ψηφιακά εργαλεία επιχειρηματικότητας και υποστήριξη για γυναίκες επιχειρηματίες | Strumenti di imprenditorialità digitale e sostegno alle donne imprenditrici | Digitālās uzņēmējdarbības rīki un atbalsts sievietēm uzņēmējām | Інструменти цифрового підприємництва та підтримка жінок-підприємців

 Home
Partners
Project Meetings
Intellectual Outputs
Train-the-trainer week
Events
Multiplier Events
Contact

 

 

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

 

 

 

| AT | BG | HR | GR | IT | LV | UA |

Bulgaria

National Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and Women Entrepreneurs

Impact Measurement – Results of the online survey with digitalization experts

Conclusions from the Local Roundtables with Stakeholders


National Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and Women Entrepreneurs

The percentage of female entrepreneurs in Bulgaria is higher that the EU average. Women in high managerial positions have also a significant share. They are younger and better educated than men holding similar positions.

As of 2018, Bulgaria ranks 26th in the world in terms of conditions for entrepreneurship among women with a total index of 93.8 (with a maximum of 100). Among the EU countries, Bulgaria ranks 17th.[1] A decrease in this ranking was observed for the subsequent years of 2020 and 2021, where Bulgaria scored 90.6 as per the index women, business and the law 2021[2],[3].

Regarding digitalization, the adopted strategy ‘Digital Transformation of Bulgaria for the period 2020-2030’ outlines the vision for the digital transition of the national economy. Despite initiatives in a number of pioneering technologies, integration of digital technologies is uneven across regions and company’s sizes, with small enterprises demonstrating a significant delay in their uptake.[4]

A Kantar Agency survey of SMEs from 2020 shows that the majority of women entrepreneurs are over the age of 40, and 57% of their businesses were established after 2001. [5]

According to the same survey:

·         most women entrepreneurs have a university degree (90%), and they are usually the owners / co-owners of the company (59%) or its managers (13%);

·         Similar to the structure of SMEs in our country, small and medium enterprises run by women are also most often micro companies (62%), followed by small enterprises (28%);

·         Typically, women entrepreneurs are active in trade (35%), but it is noteworthy that in second and third place are sectors that are high or medium technological and knowledge-intensive - manufacturing (13%) and professional activities and research (11%).

The data show that in general women entrepreneurs work on the Bulgarian market and less often export their products/services to foreign markets. This shows that women could possibly be supported in internationalization in order to develop their business and show sustainable results.[6]

The main problem facing women entrepreneurs before the Covid-19 crisis was labor shortages, as well as a lack of skilled workers. The efficiency of administrative services also creates some obstacles for 35% of them, and every third woman entrepreneur shares that one of the obstacles to developing her business is the lack of protection against unfair competition and the existence of a grey economy.[7]

A survey among 176 female entrepreneurs in Bulgaria shows that the top three barriers to starting and developing a business are: achieving a balance between family and business, underestimating their qualities as business women and managers, limited information about successful female entrepreneurs. At the same time, the incentives for women to be entrepreneurs despite the difficulties are as follows:  the pursuit of independence and the desire to generate higher income.[8]

In general, the analysis of women's entrepreneurship reveals that companies run by women have a similar profile to that of men in Bulgaria and that they face similar challenges for their business development as men. The main areas in which they could receive support are mainly related to human resources - in improving their skills.[9]

According to the OECD Report The Missing Entrepreneurs 2021, overall entrepreneurship conditions remain challenging. New start-ups face the above average levels of administrative burden due to lengthy processes and the access to finance is challenging for entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurship support mainly consists of general financing and training schemes, a small number of tailored entrepreneurship support schemes are in place. European Structural and Investment Funds remain a critical support for policies and programmes in this area. There is a fairly comprehensive support system for young entrepreneurs. Tailored training and mentoring are also available for women entrepreneurs; however, the Strategy for Promoting Women Entrepreneurship is still under development.[10]

Another study shows that the desired forms of support from women entrepreneurs include the provision of financial resources, the promotion of the stories of successful women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship training to provide certain knowledge and skills for business creation and development[11].

The early-stage entrepreneurship rate was slightly below the EU average for the period 2016-2020. This gap was greatest among the youth (5% in Bulgaria vs. 7% in the EU). Moreover, a high proportion of these early-stage entrepreneurship activities were driven by a lack of other opportunities in the labour market, notably among seniors (36%) and women (33%). Eliminating all of the gaps in entrepreneurship activity rates across population groups (i.e. applying the early-stage entrepreneurship rate of men who are 30-49 years old to the whole population) would result in an additional 106,000 entrepreneurs. About 60% of these “missing” entrepreneurs are female, nearly 60% are over 50 years old and another 15% are youth (20-29 years old).[12]

Self-employment levels were below the EU average over the past decade. Women (7%) and seniors (12%) were less likely to be self-employed than the respective EU average (10% for women and 17% for seniors). However, the self-employed were more likely to employ others (35% vs. 30%), including a higher proportion of self-employed women relative to the EU average (30% vs. 24%).[13]

Regarding skills development, a number of tailored measures for the development of entrepreneurship skills can be observed. However, most of these are small-scale initiatives. A notable challenge is that an appropriate budget for implementation is not always set aside. Another issue is that existing measures do not make use of the experience of long-standing institutions in the field of entrepreneurship. These organisations have learned from past experiences and typically co-operate internationally.[14]

According to the National Strategy for the Promotion of Equality between Women and Men 2021-2030, it is still mostly women who have less free time than men because they are burdened with childcare, care for the elderly and dependent family members. Women spend on average twice as much time a day caring for the household and family as men and spend half of their time on leisure, sports and physical activities, hobbies and games on such activities (according to NSI data).[15]

According to interviewed female entrepreneurs (176) in Bulgaria, the main prerequisites for success in business are as follows: personal qualities, a favorable business environment and participation in networks[16]. Networks are often created today by using new technologies and digitalization.

Regarding the potential of women entrepreneurs in Bulgaria in terms of the adoption of digital technologies, it can be assessed as high, given the following facts:

According to the 2019 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission, some 26.5% of information and communication technology specialists in Bulgaria are women (compared to 17.2% in the EU). The share of women graduating in ICT majors in Bulgaria is nearly 30%, compared to the EU average of 16%. Among scientists and engineers in our country, 53% are women, compared to the European average of 40.5%. In Bulgaria, the share of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is the highest (11%) in the EU (compared to 28% for men). Equality between women and men in this area is the second best result in the EU.[17]

According to a PwC Bulgaria report, Bulgarian SMEs and start-ups enjoy good access to alternative sources of finance. Indeed, availability of equity funding and business angel funding for new and growing firms scores above the EU average. Bulgarian SMEs also generally have access to traditional banking finance. Only 7% of SME loan applications are rejected, which is below the EU average – although the average interest rates for small loans are higher than the EU average.[18]

The key strengths with regard to SMEs ecosystem reported in Bulgaria – SME Fact Sheet 2021 are:[19]

·         Despite the fact that SMEs enjoy relatively good access to finance, company size is a difficult factor to overcome. According to the above-mentioned PwC Bulgaria report, less than 20% of microenterprises have accessed bank loans, relying instead on self-financing (61.3%) and loans from family and friends (24.7%). This barrier is also observed with EU funding opportunities. Only 8.2% of microenterprises have benefited from EU funding – against 26.4% for medium-sized enterprises.

·         The regulatory and administrative burden has shown a slight downward trend in recent years. Some indicators have seen moderate progress – such as the cost to start a business, which has steadily decreased in the last decade and now stands at 1% of income per capita, below the EU average. However, according to a survey from the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, around 40% of SMEs still find the business environment highly unfavourable.

·         The process of restructuring the Bulgarian economy is continuing with an increasing employment and value added generated by SMEs in high-technology sectors and knowledge-intensive services.[20]

At the same time the SME Fact Sheet 2021 – Bulgaria and SME Performance Review 2021/2022 - Bulgaria country sheet identifies some of the following key challenges[21],[22]:

·         According to the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, the shortage of highly qualified labour, a consequence of the demographic crisis affecting the country, remains one of the biggest challenges for SMEs.

·         Only 33% of SMEs have at least a basic level of digital intensity (while 60% do so in the EU on average).

·         With the outbreak of COVID-19, Bulgarian SMEs experienced a decline in 2020, employment fell by 4.0% and value added by 2.6%. While most ecosystems followed a pattern of negative growth rates in 2020 and recovery in 2021, the retail ecosystem was particularly hard hit.

·         One of the major challenges for Bulgarian SMEs is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial intentions and early-stage entrepreneurial activities are low. The lack of entrepreneurial skills is linked to the insufficient quality of the education.

·         Regional disparities persist, with SMEs being concentrated in the capital and few regions.

According to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2020, Bulgaria is considered a ‘modest innovator’, as the country performs below 50% of the EU average. This performance extends to SMEs; which have one of the lowest rates of in-house innovation in the EU at 13.8%. Bulgaria also performs poorly in digitalisation, according to the Digital Economy and Society Index 2020.

According to the most recent report European Innovation Scoreboard 2022, the country’s performance gap compared to the EU is becoming larger. Bulgaria is an Emerging Innovator with performance at 45.2% of the EU average. Performance is also below the average of the Emerging Innovators (50.0%)[23]. Bulgaria has a much higher share of non-innovators that have no interest to innovate. In addition, it is more difficult to start a new business.[24]

While the Emerging Innovators are not catching up, the lowest performing Emerging Innovators (as Bulgaria) even see their gap compared to most of the other Member States increasing. For Bulgaria performance decreased in 2017, 2019 and 2020 respectively and increased in all other years. The performance increase in 2022 (3.0%) is due to improved performance for SMEs with business process innovations and Innovative SMEs collaborating with others.[25]

Training in business digitalization in Bulgaria

After an extensive review and analysis of training and education programs for experts and specialists in digitalization of business in the Republic of Bulgaria, several organizations providing knowledge and skills in this field can be singled out.

The most detailed digital marketing program in Bulgaria is provided by Softuni Digital (digital.softuni.bg), which upgrades the knowledge and skills of the trainees for starting and developing businesses in the comprehensive digital marketing program in Bulgaria. It includes several modules such as: an introductory course in digital marketing; fundamentals of marketing, including all fundamental topics in digital marketing such as: Content Marketing, SEO, Email Marketing, Google Ads, Google Analytics and Facebook Marketing, as well as professional modules for specialization in the following professions: Social Media Marketing Expert; performance marketing expert; Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) experts. This Softuni Digital program is targeted at anyone who wants to build a career in digital marketing and for those who intend to start their own business or develop existing business projects and upgrade their digital skills.

Another training organization providing knowledge and skills in business digitalization is Net It (marketingacademy.bg). It offers a complete program in digital marketing, including innovative online training accompanied by consultations with experts and a ready-made marketing strategy. Some of Net’s popular training modules are: "Start Your Own Business Online", introducing each student to how they can start their own corporate website, blog, online store or business card site, with training focusing on acquiring real, practical skills, backed up with solid knowledge in the field of digital business and digital marketing. In the Specialized Marketing Training module, students gain in-depth knowledge and real practical skills in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Network Marketing, Email Marketing, Content Marketing, Google Advertising and Facebook Advertising.

The consulting company Explora Academy (https://xplora.academy/) also provides specialized training in digital marketing. The training modules include knowledge and skills for conducting successful marketing in the digital age, content marketing, social media marketing, Google advertising, email marketing and search engine marketing, planning, managing and analyzing campaign results, etc.

Startup Factory (startupfactory.bg) is a training organization that provides knowledge and skills related to digital business, digital advertising, digital skills, green economy and entrepreneurship.

 
[5] BSMEPA, 2020. Research and Analysis “Situation of small and medium-sized business in Bulgaria and prospects for its development”, https://www.sme.government.bg/uploads/2020/07/SME_desk-research_report_May-2020-BG-2-converted-1.pdf, p. 45.
[6] Ibid. pp 48-51.
[7] Ibid. p. 52.

[8] Georgieva, S., & Ivanova, Y. (2019). Gender, Age, Support and Performance of SMEs in a Transition Economy – Evidence from Bulgaria, Todorov, K. & Degadt, J.  (eds.), Youth and Women Entrepreneurship in Challenging International (Global) Business Environment. Sofia: BAMDE, pp. 95-115; Igniting the Spirit of Youth and Female Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria – Mission Possible? International Conference 'Youth and Women Entrepreneurship in Challenging International (Global) Business Environment', 11 - 14 June 2018, Lighthouse Golf and SPA Resort, Black Sea, Bulgaria)

[9] Ibid. p. 53.

[11] Georgieva (2021). Female Entrepreneurship: Basic Characteristics, Equality, Support, Economic and social alternatives, Vol. 4/ 2021, рр.16-29, DOI: https://doi.org/10.37075/ISA.2021.4.02, https://www.unwe.bg/alternativi/bg/journalissues/article/21900

[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Inclusive Entrepreneurship Policies: Country Assessment Notes Bulgaria, 2018. OECD / European Union.
[15] Националната стратегия за насърчаване на равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете 2021-2030 г.
[16] Georgieva (2021). Competitiveness of female entrepreneurs in Bulgaria, Socio-Economic Analyses, Vol. 2/2021 (20), DOI: 10.54664/QYGJ6233
[17] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] SME Country Fact Sheet Bulgaria 2022, available https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/50679
[23] European innovation scoreboard 2022 - Country Profile Bulgaria
[24] Ibid.
[25] European Commission, European Innovation Scoreboard 2022, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, ec_rtd_eis-2022-main-report.pdf (europa.eu).
Back to Top

Impact Measurement – Results of the online survey with digitalization experts

No.

Name

Position

Email

1.

Denis Topov

Founder and CEO

office@creativedigitaltower.com

2.

Elitza Stoilova

CEO

e.stoilova@umni.bg

3.

Maya Mihaylova

BizDev

maya.mihaylova@fintrade.bg

4.

Maria Vassileva

Brand Manager

Vassileva_marketing@abv.bg

5.

Gena Mihailova Sabeva

Entrepreneur / Owner

g.mikova@matraci.info

6.

Zoya Mavrova

Manager

Zoya.mavrova@afcbulgaria.org

7.

Dimitar Dimitrov

Director Administration

dimitar_dimitrov@ccbank.bg

8.

 Hristiyan Stoilkov

Founder and CEO

Hristiyan.Stoilkov@gmail.com

 

Without exception, all interviewed experts on business digitalization confirmed the effectiveness of the proposed training in their work as trainers or consultants for women entrepreneurs.

As for the question of the importance of such training, designed specifically for women entrepreneurs, the answers varied. Two of the eight experts surveyed described it as extremely important, three - as very important and three – as important.

Only three of the eight experts participated in a training on support for women entrepreneurs, and only once. Two of the participants in such training have offered once by their side training specifically aimed at women entrepreneurs. Interestingly, three who have never been trained to work with women entrepreneurs have offered training to women entrepreneurs more than once. The focus of their courses was determined by their involvement with associations of women entrepreneurs or due to the predominance of women entrepreneurs in their training.

In the assessment of the reduction of time (at annual base) related to business tasks, the prevailing opinion is that it would be reduced within the range of 51 to 75% (five of the experts point to this answer). The other three have lower expectations – for them the time would be reduced by 26 to 50%.

Respondents share different assessments of the extent to which costs can be cut on an annual basis through the use of digital technologies and digital tools. Half (four) believe that the reduction would be in the range of 51% to 75%, two – between 26 and 50%, and one indicates the two extremes - 1 - 25% and 76 - 100%.

Finally, experts also differ on the expected annual increase in revenue as a result of the implementation of digital tools. Three of them consider it realistic to increase revenues from 51 to 75%, two – from 26 to 50%, two - from 1 to 25%, and only one predicts an increase of over 75%.

The answers received by the experts to the last question regarding the return on investment in digital training and the purchase of equipment needed for the use of digital tools are marked by some evasiveness:

·         They will definitely benefit from such training in the long run. The digital tools help organise your tasks, the monitoring of each task, save you time, provide higher quality of the final product/service. By saving time they can afford more clients that can result in higher profits.

·         The answers to questions would heavily depend on the type of business/industry and the size of the business - if micro, SME, or enterprise. Some businesses can be heavily digitized, and others much less so. Digitization brings direct benefits related to profit like being able to sell to more customers some product or catching missed opportunities due to automation, but also indirect to profit benefits such as optimization of teamwork, savings on cost and resources, employee motivations, etc. Therefore the questions above should be stated more precisely to get a more accurate answer.

·         I believe that any type of automation and digitization in a long run will benefit the company, the team, and the customers in both time and money.

·         In any case, they will have to invest a lot and it is worth it.

·         Yes, I think it is profitable. The degree depends on the industry and the degree of digitalization of the company.

·         It is very important for small and medium-sized businesses to have different channels of communication with customers. Due to the limited resources and budget for me, this is the optimal way to spend according to results.

·         Depends on the process that will be addressed. Very hard to make estimate.

·        Every dollar invested in such a course, will bring more than one dollar back, of course, if the trainers are good and can provide really helpful and valuable expertise.

 

Back to Top

Conclusions from the Local Roundtables with Stakeholders

The round table was organized online on 16 February 2022.

Participants in the round table were:

·         Martina Mihneva, Business Development Manager, Slavov Studio Software Company

·         Hristian Stoilkov, Manager, Presentation Leader Ltd.

·         Iva Vladimirova, Founder, Network for Women's Entrepreneurship "Business in high heels"

·         Katina Stoycheva, coordinator in the Association of Interior Designers in Bulgaria,

·         Dr. Ana Nikolova, Small Business Owner, Mirai Consult EOOD

·         Vyara Todeva, Deputy Regional Governor of Sofia Region, Employment and Business Development

·         Miroslava Ivanova, Marketing and Consulting of SMEs, Education, Center for Vocational Education and Training, Miracle Works Ltd.

·         Justin Thoms, digital marketing expert, trainer, mentor to young entrepreneurs

Members of the UNWE team also took an active part in the round table: Assoc. Prof. Kostadin Kolarov, Dr. Maria Vasilska, Dr. Silvia Georgieva, and Dr. Daniela Tsvetkova.

After the presentation of the main ideas of the curriculum, its structure and content, the key issues related to the practical implementation of the program were discussed. During the discussion, the individual participants shared their views, among which the following should be taken into account:

·         Digitalization can certainly help business development and growth. Universities often lag behind in technology development and are not always able to attract sufficient digital technology teachers in order to offer practically-oriented training in this field. That is why the current curriculum is really needed.

·         Women are more inclined to study than men. Women want to be better prepared, and this would make it easier to attract them as trainees.

·         There is a lot of training options for women entrepreneurs, but it is crucial to have special encouragement for women entrepreneurs because they lack self-confidence and awareness of the concrete steps in digitalization. Many entrepreneurs do not understand why they need to invest in digitalization. Even already created websites are not maintained and do not help to facilitate customers.

·         The first step should be to realize the needs for specific knowledge and skills – what specific competencies are women entrepreneurs interested in, what they need and what knowledge and skills should be accumulated, created and developed, and then decide what to learn. That is, one should not start from the existence of one program or another and its proposed contents and list of topics, but from the specific needs of the individual woman entrepreneur. Here a potential issue may occur with the applicability of an individually tailored program to training of other women entrepreneurs with similar profile.

·         The training should start with an analysis of the state of the business, to find all the important things that need to be improved. Regarding the organization of training, there are different options – for example through mentoring, such as the program of some women entrepreneurs clubs.

·         The program is considered as quite interesting, especially for people outside Sofia, as such a program can encourage them to be effective entrepreneurs. Many small businesses in the countryside are afraid of digitalization and building digital competencies remain neglected in their everyday operations because they do not always understand the benefits. Therefore, they remain largely isolated from the opportunities it offers for marketing the business, networking and improving general business performance.

·         It would be useful to promote such a program outside the capital city of Sofia. For example, through regional labor offices. Even for the unemployed to be encouraged to start a business. This will also solve regional problems such as migration to large cities.

·         The initiative the curriculum to reach remote small settlements, e.g., in rural desolate areas, regions with high unemployment and migration, should be undertaken by partnership between local authorities, research and educational institutions – universities and the government.

·         In order for the curriculum to reach a wider audience, it is necessary to subsidize the training of target groups from appropriate available financing sources, as European programs targeted at entrepreneurship and digitalization.

·         Even already created websites are not supported and do not help to facilitate customers. Many entrepreneurs do not understand why they need to invest in digitalization.

·         The curriculum must be provided for a fee. The goal of the curriculum should be the benefits of digital tools to be understood by women entrepreneurs, but not to turn them into digital technology professionals which is not as realistic and effective except for a limited number of cases (e.g., those already having digital knowledge and skills, due to technical education and background, attending courses for building digital competencies and etc.). Instead, the program should help them decide what tasks, digital processes and tools, and ultimately, what digital professionals to use.

·         People who do business should not divert their attention from business to digital technologies, but they should know which professionals can help to introduce them.

·         The curriculum is very good, according the participants in the round table, but the question is which women entrepreneurs it is aimed at. Many businesses find it difficult to digitize. The offer of the curriculum must be in accordance with the phases of business development. For example, it will be useful for young entrepreneurs to include modules on the financial and legal aspects of business. That is, modules with basic knowledge of the management of a new business need to be included.

·         There are entrepreneurs in varying degrees of readiness to use digital tools and therefore modules should be offered according to the degree of readiness.

·         The curriculum can be aimed not only at entrepreneurs, but also at individual employees in enterprises.

 

Back to Top

 

 

 


Home | Partners | Project Meetings | Intellectual Outputs | Train-the-trainer week | Events | Multiplier Events | Contact

 
Last change: 12/29/22.