celebrate financial literacy

Getting to Know Their Numbers

October, 2016

Entrepreneurs Increase their Business Acumen with the Savings Game

How can small and micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world build business acumen in a quick, inexpensive, and effective manner? Using the Savings Game, a hands-on board-based business simulation. United by their mutual objective to provide access to education as means to help people around the world to move out of poverty, BTS and the Savings Bank for International Cooperation (SBFIC) partnered to develop a scalable solution that leverages their global reach and proven approach of discovery-based learning.

The goals of the program are for participants to:

  • Gain basic economic knowledge
  • Understand what entrepreneurial thinking and acting looks like
  • Understand how to further develop small/medium enterprises, discovering challenges and opportunities on the way forward
  • Build their financial acumen by learning accounting and how to apply simple financial tools
  • Develop a deeper customer understanding and basic market knowledge
  • Realize market dynamics and competition
  • Understand the interface between microfinance institutions and clients, recognizing their implications
  • Adopt a problem-based learning approach

The simulation: practice running the business

Run as a highly interactive multi-day seminar, this business simulation allows participants to simulate the experience of being the owner of a small orange juice shop, funded by a loan from a microfinance institution. Over the simulation program, each participant gets to run the business for three years – accelerating learning and helping them see the impact of their actions on the business.

First, individuals acquire a small store and transform it into an orange juice shop. Next, they forecast and plan for revenues and costs. They continue to do this throughout three simulated years. During this time, participants deal with decisions such as acquiring an outdoor table and chairs to put outside their storefront, adding pineapple juice to their offerings, purchasing a vehicle for juice delivery, investing in a fruit processor, a new fridge, and more. In addition, they respond to unexpected events such as the cousin they are employing in the store calling-in sick, bad quality of raw materials, marketing opportunities like a local soccer match, and complying with increased hygiene standards.

Fostering community growth

One of the key characteristics of this solution is the role of the facilitators. As of 2014, over 80 local facilitators had been trained to lead the program –further lowering costs and increasing community involvement. To become a local facilitator, each individual must go through three weeks of “train the trainer” certification, plus an additional one-week recertification later on to assure quality and consistency.

Small enterprises, huge results

The Savings Game business simulation was used by SBFIC project partners in 12 countries (including the Philippines, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Mexico, and Zambia), and translated into each country’s local language. Since its creation, the simulation program has reached over 50,000 participants.

"It is a different type of business training, other training in the past always left us unchanged."


In Zambia, an evaluation study was done to measure the impact of the program. Participants reported:

  • Strong behavioral changes managing their business (such as improved record keeping, separation of family and business finances, employment of staff, banking and investment)
  • Improved financial performance in the 6 months after the training. Profits augmented by an average of 1700 kwacha (approx. $170). Small businesses experienced higher growth rates while larger enterprises started with a higher initial income but experienced slower growth.
  • Increased turnover (on average, more than 60%), with the highest rate for the smallest businesses
  • Increased record keeping in all businesses (from 65% before to 92% after training)
  • Hiring of their first or additional employees, thus not only continuing their business’ growth but also creating new jobs for other members of their community

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