Developing youth skills | Sunday Observer

Developing youth skills

The Youth Social Enterprise (YSE) Incubator Program was launched at the Institute of Industrial Technology Auditorium, Colombo recently. The YSE program, a recent initiative of Lanka Social Ventures (LSV) aims to develop skills on entrepreneurship, employability and innovation among youth.

This initiative is supported by SAP, National Enterprise Development Authority, Lanka Impact Investors Network and the British Council. The target audience of the YSE program are youth between the ages of 18 and 25 from five provinces in Sri Lanka namely Western, Southern, Central, Eastern and Northern, interested in starting up businesses that address social or environmental issues.Young Voice interviewed Natasha and Thinkaran, who have been selected among the 30 best entrepreneurs during the incubator program.

Shashmi Natasha, a Grade 12 student of Buddhist Ladies’ College, Colombo said, “I am doing my Advance Level in the Commerce Stream. I got to know about the YSE Incubator Program through one of my friends. My father and I had an idea to start a handbag business. My father had the idea of selling the handbags. When I got to know about this program, I thought it could help us start our business. I started my handbag business with a social and environmental friendly adaptive concept.

“The program helped me to start my business. I will be receiving coaching and training to run my own business. I am very happy to be here and also happy that my business idea was among the 26 best selected. The assistance that I receive will be good for me and help me in making new investments and generating more ideas. The program is really helpful for youngsters like me and is a great opportunity.

My dad and I are going to import handbags from Asian countries and sell them and make a profit of 20 percent. We are going to get old bags as well and re-cycle them and sell them at a discounted price. It is going to be environmentally adaptive,” Natasha said.

She further said that she will be going to some rural areas to donate about 50 of her bags. “When donating, we will look for manufacturers and we will sell their bags in our outlets. If we get 100 bags, we will keep 50 for us to sell and export the balance 50. Foreigners, high income and low income earners can come to our outlets and buy bags of their choice. We will have bags for everyone. My ambition is to stand up in my business and shine. I hope my environment and social friendly handbags will be a successful business. I like to help the others who have ideas to start up a business,” she said.

Young Voice also spoke to Selvamanokaran Thinkaran from Jaffna about his business. He said, “I am happy to be selected as one of the youth with the best business ideas. This is really is a good platform for young entrepreneurs like us to be introduced to the government and non-government sector entrepreneurship service providers. I got to know about this incubator program through an advertisement. I do a lot of research about business and also I am a young inventor. I started to do mushroom cultivation just after completing my Advanced Level Examination in the Bio Stream.”

Thinkaran explained that society is not aware about mushrooms and the benefit of consuming them. “While selling mushrooms, I face a lot of issues. As a result, I thought to reduce selling and to look into marketing. Mushrooms will be fresh only for seven days. Mushrooms can be preserved for about six months by drying. But the weight goes down from 7kgs into 1kg of dry mushrooms. It is a huge loss for us. We got contacts from the Philippines who are helping us in preservation and getting a good income. We are trying to improve the value added market and strengthen marketing for selling mushrooms. I am also trying to start a livelihood business connected to mushroom cultivation. I did not have physical support at the beginning of my business,” he said.

“Mushroom is a natural product which has a lot of health and nutritional value. It is not harmful and is a cure for cancer and heart diseases but the community is not aware about this. At this time I received the support from the YSE Program. They advised and coached us on how to do business. I got a lot of contacts to develop my business. My ambition is to open a company of my own with value added mushroom products such as pickles, chips, jams and biscuits. I got a 75 percent grant from LSV. The program helps us get loans from Commercial Bank as well,” he said.

“The initial idea and lab workshops of this program were held in the five districts attracting youth who are enthusiastic in pursuing entrepreneurship. The youth who submitted the best ideas were introduced to key actors engaged in entrepreneurship development in Sri Lanka. Over a period of 18 months continued business coaching and mentoring support will be provided to set up and grow their businesses. LSV is a ‘Social Enterprise’ committed to promote and support entrepreneurship and innovation for social development and environmental sustainability.

“We support entrepreneurial and innovative individuals, groups, communities and SMEs with social or environmental missions to develop and transform into successful and financially sustainable ‘Social Enterprises’,” said Chairman of LSV, Dr. Lalith Welamedage.

Pix: Ranjith Asanka