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Institutional influence and the role of family in poor women's micropreneurship.

Xiong, Lin; Ukanwa, Irene; Anderson, Alistair R


Lin Xiong

Irene Ukanwa

Alistair R Anderson


Purpose - The paper's purpose is to develop understanding of how institutions (family and culture) play out in shaping family micro business practices. Our focus on family business led by poor entrepreneurial women in a context of extreme poverty enables a fuller appreciation of the centrality of family as directive, obligation and means. Design/methodology/approach - Our methods included participant observation, focus groups and interviews in two poor villages in South-East Nigeria. Thematic analysis was used to analyse how the institutions of family and culture shape family business practices. Findings - Analysis demonstrated that the family, associated responsibilities and norms institutionally determine women's role and business behaviours, such that family is central to all that they do. Micropreneurs use their limited available resources entrepreneurially to meet their families' basic needs. Poor entrepreneurial women depend on family to run their business, but family needs are the overwhelming business objective. Family is both means and end, so that the concept of 'familiness' takes on a deeper meaning in this context. The study explains how this type of income generating entrepreneurship is both necessity and opportunity. This suggests that westernised family business theory needs to be adapted to explain micropreneurship by the poor. Research limitations/implications - The study was limited to rural Africa, in particular to a small sample of rural women entrepreneurs in South-East Nigeria; as such, the findings are not generalisable. Nonetheless, the concepts seem generalisable to similar contexts and offer some theoretical explanations. This study offers explanations for the influence of institutions in business led by poor rural Nigerian women. It contributes to understanding the importance of context for theorising entrepreneurship. Moreover, it signals how support for poor women and micropreneuring must take account of the centrality of family in their micro enterprising. Originality/value - This research adds to the family business literature, offering conceptual insight about how the institutional obligations of family mean that micro enterprising should be conceptualised as an entity, rather than as a family in business, or the family in business. It contributes by adding the dimension of poverty and micropreneuring to the concept of familiness.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 29, 2020
Journal International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research
Print ISSN 1355-2554
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 122-140
Institution Citation XIONG, L., UKANWA, I. and ANDERSON, A. 2020. Institutional influence and the role of family in poor women's micropreneurship. International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research [online], 26(1), pages 122-140. Available from:
Keywords Family business; Poor women; Institutions (culture and family); Micro entrepreneurship; Families; Poverty; Rural Africa


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