LightCastle Partners in association with OXFAM Bangladesh, Prantojon Agro, completed the second batch of the “Business Incubator for Youth Entrepreneurs” of Empower Youth for Work (EYW) Project to provide support via accelerator program and investment readiness training to selected youth entrepreneurs.

    The consortium partners have successfully completed the event with a Demo Day on January 29, 2020 at AVAS Learning Center, Barishal. The Demo Day concluded an eventful four-week long acceleration program.

    Figure: 1. Timeline of EYW Accelerator Program

    Initial Screening

    The program began with a daylong initial screening of the application forms, which was held on January 6 at WAVE Foundation’s head office. The WAVE Foundation collected 100+ applications of enthusiastic participants from Bakerganj Upazila of Barishal District. From the immense pool of applicants, 60+ of the most talented were shortlisted for the Bootcamp by the project team.

    Pre-Incubation and Boot Camp

    In the second phase of the accelerator program, a pre-incubation session and boot camp were facilitated by LightCastle Partners at Caritas Learning Center, Barishal on January 8 and 9. Out of the 100+ applicants, 60 applicants were shortlisted and invited to attend these sessions. The sessions pertained to the introduction to basic topics of business, entrepreneurship, accounting, and green business. Extensive discussions on how to increase productivity, tactics which would help raise income, provision of loans were the prime areas the participants looked forward to. It also discussed in detail, the next step of the competition which was the interview stage to be held on the next day.

    The consortium team, held key one-on-one interviews with the participants, the next day, to help shape their business models into a more sustainable and fruitful one. The interview panel shortlisted 20+ youth entrepreneurs for the accelerator program. The interview panel contained representatives of LightCastle Partners and WAVE Foundation.

    Accelerator Program

    As a part of the accelerator program, the first week of the accelerator training was held on January 14 and 15. The 2-day long workshop focused on equipping the participants with the technical know-how of running a business. Starting from introducing business planning to business model canvas to creating a green business model, participants were engaged through different classroom activities and group work to provide a holistic knowledge building and experience-based learning.

    The second phase of the residential workshop was held on January 27 and 28. The sessions were mainly comprised of financial planning, analysis, record keeping, asset valuation and calculating net present value of assets. A session was also conducted by Dr. Alauddin Masud, Livestock Officer, Livestock Office of Bakerganj, on livestock handling and diary production. The participants were given valuable advice on how to take care of their animals, ways to prevent illnesses and other diseases as well as steps to follow when animals were to contract diseases.

    The workshops, in two phases, entailed both hands-on practical learning sessions and theoretical lessons.

    The hands-on learning sessions included:

    Debate: Participants were divided in two groups and provided with relevant topics to debate on.

    Critical Thinking: Participants sat for multiple quizzes throughout the two weeks on topics covered in the theoretical sessions.

    Presentations: Participants were asked to present and explain their findings from group discussion and their green business model.

    Besides the above activities the theoretical sessions covered the following knowledge areas:

    • Business Principles
    • Product Matrix
    • Business Model Canvas
    • Financial Governance
    • Financial Management
    • Branding and Sales
    • Business Opportunity
    • Financial Investability
    • Green Business practices

    Prior to the Demo Day, the third day of training was held on January 28, where participants learned and practiced how to present their businesses in the form of pitches. Rigorous pitch practice sessions were held, which allowed participants to find their flaws and way of correction, as well as honing their public speaking and presentation skills. Besides, the practice sessions bank representatives from WAVE Foundation were present for the day.

    Demo Day

    The Demo Day of the “Business Incubator for Youth Entrepreneurs” of Empower Youth for Work (EYW) Project was held on January 29, 2020 at AVAS Learning Center, Barishal. An esteemed panel of judges were present to grace the occasion. The panel consisted of representatives from WAVE Foundation, Jamuna Bank, Islami Bank, Barishal Chamber of Commerce, BIDA Barishal and Velocity Asia Ltd.

    The judging panel consisted of the following personnel:

    1. Habibur Rahman
      FAVP & Head of Branch
      IBBL Bakergonj Barishal
    2. Abdul Qayyum
      Manager
      Janata Bank Bakergonj Barishal
    3. Md. Jalish Mahmud
      Deputy Manager
      BSIC, Bakergonj Barishal
    4. Md. Maksud Alam
      Public Relationship Officer
      Barishal Chamber of Commercce
    5. Syed Mostofa
      Officer
      Barishal Chamber of Commercce
    6. Mahmud Howlader
      Proprietor, Bhai Bhai Store
      Bakergonj Barishal

    The demo day started with a welcome speech from the consortium, followed by introductory remarks from the esteemed dignitaries and judges. The main proceedings began with a session on Conflict Management for Entrepreneurs and Gender Inequality in Business, conducted by LightCastle Partners. Following the sessions, the participants each went on stage to pitch their business ideas to the dignitaries’ present. Through their 5-minute pitch, the participants described their profile, experience, business plan, current fiscal solvency, revenue, profit projection and capital requirement. After presenting, each participant faced a Q & A session from the panel and guests where different queries were regarding their business plan. The participants had to defend their stance.

    Outcome

    After the pitching session, participants were introduced with fund providers i.e. Bank representatives present and forward market players. The 20+ participants were each evaluated by the judges and in accumulation to their overall performance over the program, dedication, business idea and capital requirement, LightCastle Partners awarded two selected participants with a seed investment of BDT 20,000 and BDT 10,000. The closing ceremony was followed by a certificate awarding session and instructions from the facilitators regarding the future proceedings of the program to become investable and expand their businesses.

    Overall, the shortlisted entrepreneurs were at a disadvantageous position as they lacked access to finance and both forward-backward market linkages. Due to having limited scope of formal education and business knowledge they were unable to access financial institutions for their working and growth capital. The prevailing patriarchal culture and gender power distance had caused some of the female entrepreneurs to be lagging behind their male counterparts. Many of the female entrepreneurs were not able to stay overnight at the venue’s dormitory due to not having permission from their spouses or other family engagements.

    There was a general lack of the following among the participants:

    • Access to finance
    • Gender power Balance
    • Formal education
    • Business administration and management knowledge
    • Formal bookkeeping methods
    • Support from family

    Case in point

    Nusrat Jahan Lamiya
    Owner
    Ranna Ghor
    Bakerganj, Barishal

    “I feel very honored and privileged to have attended this training program and getting to know about the basics of business management which have opened new opportunities for me in countless ways such as getting to know about these accesses to loans. Before this, I didn’t have a proper action plan for my future goals but after attending the sessions and creating my own BMC (Business Model Canvas) I believe that I will be able to manage my business better and more efficiently.”

    Ms. Nusrat Jahan Lamiya is the owner of Ranna Ghor. She has been running the business of catering for the past 6 months.

    Prior to attending the program, she was unaware of bookkeeping practices and hadn’t maintained proper bookkeeping. She was unaware of the provisions of capital from private commercial banks at interest rates lower than micro-credit financing the latter one being a much more expensive source of capital. During the program, she pitched her idea of expanding her business to serve customers of Barishal town by this year. She also expressed her present need for capital to improve the space she uses to cook food. At the end of the program, she received a seed funding of BDT 20,000 to help meet her capital requirement.

    Post-event feedback from the participants and guests were very promising, they applauded the initiative and were very enthusiastic to support and participate in such an event. The executives from the Jamuna Bank and Islamic Bank stated that they would try their best to facilitate the financial needs of the participants starting from opening a zero-deposit account to arranging SME loans for them upon evaluation.

    The Chairman of BSIC, promised to help the participants to connect to wholesalers where he promised to arrange deals to be executed on credit. This will enable the entrepreneurs to work on a small working capital and enable them to run the business without immediate financial crunches.