The impact of micro-enterprise training on SME development – A case study from rural Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republic (DR) the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas is of great importance because SMEs generate employment and increase local capacity in areas with the highest poverty rates in the country. Ultimately, SME development can contribute to poverty alleviation especially in rural areas. Micro-enterprise training as a form of capacity development initiatives aim at effective empowerment of entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs, which allow them to build capacities to develop their business. These capacities will enhance their ability to ensure sustainability of decisions that influence their quality of life. So far, very little research has been conducted on the precise effects and overall effectiveness of SME-related training in the Dominican Republic. Against this background, it is of great benefit to evaluate impacts of micro-enterprise training initiatives on the development of SMEs in rural DR, in order to find out which factors stimulate the creation and growth of enterprises and which factors hinder their development. This allows effective adjustments of future support initiatives in the development sector and it contributes to the existing empirical evidence base in this field. This study applies Human Capital Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour as theoretical frameworks to analyze impacts of micro-enterprise training on SME development. Secondary data for this study was drawn from the Dominican tourism-project La Ruta del Cacao, applying a mixed-method approach for the data collection. Quantitative research methods in the form of a semi-structured questionnaire helped to quantify the impacts of provided micro-enterprise training. Qualitative methods in the form of Focus Group Discussions allowed an in-depth analysis of training impacts on respondents, with the aim of identifying influencing factors, especially those which the theoretical framework may not have covered. The theoretical discussion of this study identified that entrepreneurial intentions are mediated by the attitude toward entrepreneurship, perceived subjective norms and perceived behavioural control. The empirical results show that the provided training is likely to have slightly improved the participants attitude towards enterprise creation. Perceived subjective norms have not decreased due to the training and appear not to have played a role in the participants decision to start or not start a business. The participants perceived behavioural control is not likely to have increased due to the training. On the other hand, results indicate that the training provided participants with useful entrepreneurship-related skills and knowledge. Overall, the participants entrepreneurial intentions slightly improved as a result of the training. However, the impact of these outputs on SME development was rather modest. Identified external factors which influenced the participants entrepreneurial behaviour were a lack of capital, job loss, having a family to take care of, being part of an entrepreneurial family and the existence of an entrepreneurial role model. Intrinsic characteristics were identified as the most influential in demonstrating successful entrepreneurial behaviour and SME creation. The findings of this research contribute firstly to the existing evidence base of micro-enterprise training impacts in rural Dominican Republic. In addition, the findings contribute to the literature base on applications of both Human Capital Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour in the field of entrepreneurship education.