How Mastercard is aiding Europe’s small businesses through turbulence

November 7, 2022 | By Mark Barnett

For Europe to prosper, small businesses need to thrive. The lead message of the European Commission’s “Relief Package for SMEs” epitomises the importance of small businesses to the health of the region’s economy. This is no surprise, considering they form 99.8% of all businesses in the EU – which translates to 25 million enterprises and almost 100 million employees.

At Mastercard, we recognise the challenges the region’s small businesses have faced – and will continue to face – as a result of the pandemic, geopolitical turbulence, and economic uncertainty. We have worked alongside the small business sector in Europe for over half a century, and commit to playing a leading role in supporting their short and long-term survival, recovery, and growth.

This month, we are pleased to mark two key moments for our small business support efforts across Europe: the one-year anniversary of Strive UK and the launch of its sister initiative Strive Czech Republic.

The evolution of Strive

Strive is an initiative tailored for the modern challenges faced by small business entrepreneurs. Launched by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth – our inspiring philanthropic hub – Strive aims to strengthen the financial resilience of small businesses by providing them with the resources and network to recover and unlock growth.

Last autumn, we launched Strive UK with a mission: to empower 650,000 British small businesses to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond. This came with a focused commitment to support female business owners and those from minority ethnic backgrounds.

In the 12 months that have followed, together with our partners, we have supported half a million small businesses – stemming from green go-karting to Caribbean cuisine – in their digital journeys and have run a series of mentoring programmes. It’s been an exciting year and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

To build on the initiative’s success in the UK, we are now launching Strive Czechia to expand our commitment to Europe’s small business economy and support an engine that generates almost half of the Czech Republic’s combined revenue and employs half of its people.

The goal of the programme is to partner with the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, Czechitas, the Czech Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Crafts CZ among others, to bolster the digital and financial resilience of 250,000 Czech small businesses and enable their business growth over the course of a three-year programme and beyond.[i]

Providing the technology for small businesses to recover and grow

It is no secret that the events of recent years have incited an urgent need for small businesses to digitise. Almost half of firms in the EU invested further in digitalisation as a result of covid-19. On average, those that did so were more productive, innovative, grew faster and paid higher wages than their slower counterparts.

Our network and technology combine to make the European digital single market a reality, and so we acknowledge the facilitating role we can play in small businesses’ digital journey. This year, we have worked across the region to foster partnerships and deploy technology that enables entrepreneurs to optimise recovery and growth efforts.

Two personal highlights have been the work we’ve done with PostePay in Italy and Czakó Farmers’ Market in Hungary, both aimed at making the lives of small business owners more convenient and more profitable. 

Staying safe is also a monumental challenge for small businesses embarking on a digital journey. An estimated 28% of European small businesses experienced at least one type of cybercrime last year. By leveraging our technology and fostering cybersecurity education programmes – such as that we created with Les Digiteurs in France – we aim to give peace of mind to Europe’s small businesses and enable them to focus their energy on driving recovery and growth.

Fuelling the flame of Europe’s start-up innovation

To conclude, I want to remind you that – despite the challenging environment in which they’re operating – Europe’s small businesses form a bubbling hotspot of innovation.

At Mastercard, we aim to support the regional push to become a global technology leader. We celebrate, collaborate with and support the cultivation of those pioneering this culture across the region, especially when it comes to fintechs that have such an intrinsic link to our own business.

This year alone, we have celebrated Nordic and Baltic’s most exciting fintechs through our MASSIV and FINITIV programmes, and welcomed London-based embedded finance network mmob to our Start Path accelerator. We’ve also launched Start Path Ukraine to enable Ukrainian start-ups to accelerate growth and contribute to the rebuilding of the country’s economy.

The journey of a small business will always encounter risk, challenges, and opportunity. At Mastercard, we will always strive to stand alongside Europe’s entrepreneurs and enable them to take a path of recovery, growth, and prosperity.


[i] Strive UK and Strive Czechia are part of Mastercard’s global philanthropic efforts to support small businesses around the world. For more information and to learn more about this work follow @StriveCommunity


Photo of Mark Barnett
Mark Barnett, President Europe, Mastercard