The courses to train aspiring women entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Pakistan had some solid curriculum, but Amanda Bullough noticed something conspicuously missing.
Material relatable to women entrepreneurs.
Bullough, now a professor of management at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, was working in 2015 as a consultant for the World Bank as it developed training programs.
The courses used case studies — real life examples from the business world that students can discuss, analyze and learn from.
“It just kind of brings it all to life, because it’s seeing it through the eyes and the experience of somebody who actually did it, how they got through it,” Bullough said. “And it helps contextualize and make all of the theory and the concepts real.”
The students were learning from examples featuring inspiring and savvy business leaders like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey. Bullough had no problem with that, but felt they needed examples more familiar to their lives and situations building very small businesses like website development services or selling goods. Even the local cases, Bullough said, featured men and were not high quality.
So she started looking for better options, but had a very hard time finding them. There are some catalogs of cases featuring women, Bullough noted, like Harvard Business Case Studies, but they can cost about $4 per student. That can be a dealbreaker for a grant-funded program in a developing country with a tight budget.
“Still to this day, I’ve not come across another free case series about women entrepreneurs and leaders,” Bullough said in an email. She reached out to other professors around the world, with the only response “people asking me to let them know if I found anything.”
In the years since, Bullough has had a lot on her plate, including arriving at UD, working her way up to a full professorship, and co-founding the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Lerner, which promotes greater equality through programs, educational events and research. But while juggling all that, she’s been working on a series of cases about women in business in locations around the world, with the help of a dedicated cohort of student researchers. (Some of the cases even come out of graduate students’ projects.)
Thanks to Bullough and her students, 10 of these cases are now available for free from the Case Centre, a hub for these learning tools based at Cranfield University in England. They tell the stories of female entrepreneurs from Chicago to Pakistan, starting businesses like their own restaurants or clothing enterprises and each facing different cultural challenges.
For example, a case might spell out how a business owner dealt with conflict that erupted between employees. “Then in the teaching note, I can connect that story to a couple of really great articles that explain why that worked, or what didn’t work,” Bullough said.
Students Lisa Larrew and Aynsley Dunham, now graduated, and Mariam Chaudhry and Tosin Idowu-Kunlere, both still at UD, have all made major contributions to these cases as writers and assistant editors. It’s a lot of work for all involved, with writing, researching and testing out the cases to develop teaching notes. Larrew graduated with an MBA focusing in business analytics this spring, and Dunham graduated in 2021 with an MBA with a focus in strategic leadership. Idowu-Kunlere is currently studying to earn an MBA, majoring in business analytics, and Mariam Chaudhry graduates in fall 2023 with a bachelor’s in global enterprise management.
By early 2024, Bullough hopes to have an additional eight cases for 18 total, and has a few more possibilities in mind from her work with African leadership programs.
Her goal is to build momentum so that more people are contributing and developing the cases and the project can grow even beyond what she and her student helpers have been able to do so far. For that, she’ll need more help and some fundraising to maintain the work.
If this catches on and spreads, Bullough thinks it could have a worldwide impact on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of women. “It’s something I’ve been super excited about.”
That kind of result could mean more than her research and teaching and other accomplishments as a professor. “That, in my heart, could be the real legacy I leave behind.”
Interested in helping with this project? Reach out to Amanda Bullough at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a sample of one of the cases.