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

Lin Xiong, Irene Ukanwa, Alistair R. Anderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to develop an understanding of how the institutions of family and culture play out in shaping family business practices. This study focusses on family business led by poor entrepreneurial women in a context of extreme poverty. Design/methodology/approach: The methods included participant observation, focus groups and interviews in two poor villages in South-East Nigeria. Thematic analysis was used to develop insight about how the institutions of family and culture shape family business practices. Findings: The analysis demonstrated that the family, with associated responsibilities and norms, is a powerful institution that determines women’s role and business behaviours. Poor entrepreneurial women depend on the family to run their business, but also use the business to sustain the family. They make use of their limited resources (e.g. time, money, skills) to meet families’ basic needs and pay for necessities such as children’s education. These are family priorities, rather than maximising profits. Research limitations/implications: The study was limited to rural Africa, in particular to a small sample of rural women entrepreneurs in South-East Nigeria, and as such, the findings are not necessarily generalisable, but may be at a conceptual level. Practical implications: The study has highlighted the need to tailor micro-enterprise development programmes that facilitate change, add values to entrepreneurial activities and support women to fulfil their roles and ease institutional pressures affecting rural women economic activities. In short, such programmes need to account for cultural institutions. Social implications: This study presents insights of the influence of institutions (family and culture) in business led by rural Nigerian women. Originality/value: This research fills a gap in the family business literature by offering conceptual insights 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 business.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-140
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Family business
  • Institutions (culture and family)
  • Micro-entrepreneurship
  • Poverty

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