LightCastle Impact’s SMARTCAP initiative to assist thriving MSE-s came into play as LightCastle teamed up with Truvalu.enterprises, to identify and help potential Ag-MSEs in Bangladesh. Truvalu, which is a renowned impact-investments company based out of Netherlands, primarily work with Ag-MSEs in key 10+ emerging markets, including Latin America, Africa and some parts of Asia; aiming to create fair and inclusive value chains.
In the events leading up to the launch of the project, LightCastle collaborated with 40+ institutions to scout potential Ag-entrepreneurs all over Bangladesh. More than 1000 entrepreneurs applied out of which around 70 ideal ones where selected for the 45-day Boot Camp Program held on the 9th of July, 2018 at RDRS Guest House in Rangpur.
The LightCastle along with truvalu worked together to teach the participants about the importance of impact investment, business management, capacity building, market linkage, and timely product development; when it comes to conducting a business. Numerous sessions where held, where the entrepreneurs were given an in-depth knowledge of business development strategies and tactics, along with ways to improve the value chain using the Business Model canvas. Following a day-long session filled with small workshops and idea sharing sessions, participants sat through another selection round in the form of one-on-one interviews. 26 participants were selected by the judges to make it to the next round. The participants were then divided into groups of 2 and narrowed down into two broad criteria, 13 of which were selected to be the Potential Direct Investees by the judges, being deemed as the highly potential ones and the remaining 13 were selected as Potential Accelerator Program Participants. The Accelerator Program included Ag-SMEs from various sectors such as Jute diversified products (JDP), mushroom farming, mango processing, poultry, seed and seedling production, vegetable farming, vegetable waste compost production, flower farming and processing, and agro-input production and processing. They received classroom training, one-to-one mentoring and exchanged ideas to help become more profitable businesses.
LightCastle also undertook several field visits to Rangpur and Gaibandha, where most of these SMEs were located to understand the background and culture of their businesses. Sessions, taken by experts in the relevant fields, covered business case analysis, business profile construction, financial model development, branding and forward market linkages to help build a sustainable business model for these firms. The aim of the Accelerator Program was to enrich stability and enhance the capacity of the Ag-entrepreneurs so that they can expand their businesses, and become stable and self-sufficient. Upon successful completion, the graduating Ag-SMEs received impact investment from Truvalu.enterprises.