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  • Sophia Nguyen

Celebrating IBI During Women-Owned Small Business Month

October marks National Women’s Small Business Month, and there is no better time to celebrate and recognize IBI’s outstanding achievements since its creation in 1996.

Dr. Lucie Phillips

“First, is that my greatest pleasure to have founded and grown IBI as a woman-owned small business is the energy that diversity brings to our teams in the field and the home office. When we started in 1996 with two, then three, and up to five employees, we were all women. I repeatedly offered jobs to male applicants, but they rarely accepted.” said founder Dr. Lucie Phillips.


“Early on, we had a contract in South Africa to build women's leadership. We worked with South African business schools and consulting firms to develop diverse teams. We studied the South African literature on leadership and teamwork and were unsurprised that the consensus was that mixed teams outperform single-gender and single-ethnicity/race teams.” Dr. Phillips noted.


Dr. Phillips, now Chair of IBI, found inspiration for creating IBI through her 30 years of experience in the international development field. After researching and consulting in Africa for 20 years, she saw that development aid programs sometimes failed to consider realities, including traditional law and authorities, property rights, and institutional histories. Additionally, Dr. Phillips noted that local economies faced constraints due to a lack of access to information and technologies that were more common in other developed nations. She created IBI to combine modern business skills and best international practices to find viable, local solutions in developing countries, hence IBI’s tagline “Global Insights – Local Solutions”. With her work, IBI has grown into one of USAID’s leading small business partners and, in 2015, was named USAID Small Business of the Year.


IBI continues to promote women entrepreneurs globally. Notably, the USAID/Bangladesh Trade Facilitation Activity (BTFA) supported women entrepreneurs eager to expand their businesses through trade. IBI also helped establish a region-wide West African Businesswomen’s Network (WABNET) that provided training and workshops to 195 women entrepreneurs so that they could overcome trade and investment barriers across the region. IBI provided manuals called “RUN MY OWN BUSINESS? YES, I CAN!” to guide women entrepreneurs to register and operate businesses in six countries. Currently, IBI is providing support to women-owned businesses in Laos under the USAID/Laos Business Environment Activity. These projects offer just a small glimpse of IBI’s initiatives that strive to uplift women entrepreneurs around the world.


IBI provides insightful analysis and practical, timely solutions to challenges facing governments and companies worldwide, including for women entrepreneurs. Our core principles focus on sustainable results, job creation and maintenance, poverty reduction, inclusive partnerships, grassroots impact, and transparency and integrity. When asking Dr. Phillips for advice for women entrepreneurs, she said, “The one thing we focus on is the skills involved in active listening. They are vital for creating collegial relations in diverse teams. Active listening involves holding back on one's own opinions until one has understood others and avoiding leading questions.”

IBI thanks Dr. Phillips for her ongoing leadership and support to IBI as we continue to grow. IBI is proud to be a woman-owned small business, along with 13 million other small businesses across the United States. Let’s all celebrate Women-Owned Small Business Month!


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