Necessity Entrepreneurship

By Shereef Zaki, KF9, Perú

On August 22nd the New York Times published the article On to Plan B: Starting a Business describing the unexpected spike of new entrepreneurs emerging from the wreckage of the crisis. They quote the Kauffman foundation and bring the term ‘necessity entrepreneurship’ into the mainstream. And in so doing they articulate one of the misperceptions that surrounds the incentives behind starting a business.

Sometimes I really get the feeling that the talking heads, professors, text-books and pols just don’t get it. And by ‘it’ I mean anything remotely human. To think that greed gets elevated as some sort of miraculously innovative force in the ‘opportunity entrepreneurship’ model, where interest rates adjustments can fix anything, still boggles my mind. As far as I am concerned, nearly all entrepreneurship is ‘necessity entrepreneurship,’ whether in the US, Egypt, Armenia or in Chiclayo, Peru.

Walking to Angelita's Shack

Walking to Angelita's Shack

The will to live and make a better life for one’s children are the driving economic forces in most places. People’s businesses are too small to fail — their families depend on them. The phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ contains a truth lost on contemporary economic thought. Luckily it is not lost on Kiva Lenders, whose generosity grows when ‘opportunities’ dry up.

In the end, I cannot help but laugh out of frustration when I read statements like this: “But research on what is known as post-traumatic growth has found that some people become more resilient when faced with adversity, says Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher. Creativity surges, he says, as they adapt to a new situation.” I read this during the evening, while during the same day I had been out to visit Angelita Loconi De Teque who is 47 and perseveres through ‘adversity’ to make a better life for the 4 children still in her care.

Angelita's Shack

Angelita's Showing Us Her World

Weaving in and out of the beachside tinderboxes used to prep and clean fresh catches of fish, thoughts of resilience and tenacity overwhelmed me. In spite of being so close to the ocean, the landscape felt somehow forbidding and desolate like all the odds were against Angelita and her fellow fish sellers. And yet, there she was working and smiling with determination. Out of her necessity, and with a couple of micro-credits to help, Angelita creates her opportunities.

I think Mr. Achor needs a historical reality check to realize that most of the world is in a state of post-traumatic (political, historical, or economic) adjustment. The process through which adversity begets creativity includes desperation, fear, anguish and defiance. I think America might finally be learning that lesson and the view from outside the bell-jar has never been clearer.

Angelita and her Grandaughter Against All Odds

Angelita and her Grandaughter Against All Odds


Shereef Zaki is serving as a Kiva Fellow working with the new field partner EDPYME Alternativa in Chiclayo, Perú

To view currently fundraising loans from EA click here

To become a member of the “Friends of EDPYME Alternativa” lending team click here


About the author