... As iCampus Liberia, Accountability lab, UNDP conclude first cohort of Growth Accelerator program
Five Liberian entrepreneurs have won a total of US$194,750 at a UNDP business pitch competition, which provides technical assistance, mentorship, and co-financing support.
The Growth Accelerator program saw Wungko’s Farm in Bong County emerging as winner of US$40,000, Lunch Box in Montserrado County also took away US$36,500 and Redimere Chocolate in Nimba County with US$40,000.
Others include; Nimba Ventures US$40,000 and LIBRA Sanitation in Montserrado County winning US$38,250.00, among others.
The beneficiaries were selected from a group of ten semifinalists who were shortlisted to pitch their business proposal plans in front of a six members high-level panel of senior experts and seasoned entrepreneurs which includes the Managing Director of Ecobank Liberia, George Mensah Asante and Managing Director and Chief Executive of UBA, Nkechi Joyce Arizor.
Together with other experts, they assess the 10 business models of the 10 finalists before narrowing it down to the best five (5).
Providing an overview of the program, Luther D. Jeke, CEO of iCampus Liberia, explained that the program was aimed at supporting impactful entrepreneurs to scale up their various ventures through access to technical assistance, mentorship and co-financing.
He said following a series of vetting processes, ten semi-finalists were shortlisted from more than 167 applications from 9 counties, of the 10 Growth Liberia were able to pitch their Growth Plans as part of the program’s last stage.
Each venture, Jeke said, had representatives who pitch for 10 minutes on stage, as they were being buttressed by treatment while the judges’ panel had 5 minutes for follow-up questions.
It may be recalled that over the last six months they have participated in a series of business development workshops, boot camps and training which guided them through the process as well.
In remarks, UNDP Deputy Country Representative, Violet Baffour said that the private sector cannot be underestimated and needs more support.
Baffour told the entrepreneurs that it is important to note that they are the future of Liberia, and not the politicians.
“What you do is what makes the difference and it is the innovations, the ideas that each of you have to pursue with a passion to bring to fruition of what you want to see for your country,” she added.
Madam Baffour also told them not to underestimate themselves in any way because they are the ones who provide solutions to development challenges and the way that is more profound to change a life.
“I want to say congratulations to all of you here today, we think this will help you expand your ideas to be able to transform the Liberian economy, '' she stated. The UNDP Representative also said regardless of whether or not they made it or not; they should not stop but keep going.
She was however overwhelmed with the performance of the participants, “I am pleased to announce to your madam (Minister) that there will be a second cohort next year and we can commit ourselves to that at the UNDP and we will look forward to expanding it to more than one cohort per year.”
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister, Jeanine Cooper, who also served as one of the panel of judges of the pitching competition, lauded participants for their selfless efforts during the competition. Minister Cooper: “I want to wish you all the best and this pitching competition today should not be the end. I think many of you already know that.”
Min. Cooper indicated that there are other pitching opportunities that they use to promote their various businesses. She also thanked those who had made it successfully to the end and encouraged those who tried and could not reach the final stage,” keep trying because one day you will get there.”
Meanwhile, the beneficiaries who were happy lauded the organizers and UNDP for providing them the space to create and expand their business in the country.
According to them, with the cash prizes won they will ensure that they create jobs for others in their various localities.
The Growth Accelerator program is organized by iCampus in partnership with Accountability Lab Liberia, BSC Monrovia, and Growth Africa with support and funding from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and UNDP Liberia.