Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Social Change

The launch of the Youth Social Enterprise Incubator Programme attracts the support and blessings of leading players shaping the entrepreneurship landscape in Sri Lanka

On 23rd of February at the Industrial Technology Auditorium in Colombo the Youth Social Enterprise Incubator Programme of Lanka Social Ventures (LSV) was launched amidst a large gathering. This initiative of LSV is funded by SAP PYXERA International and supported by National Enterprise Development Authority, Good Market and Lanka Impact Investing Network.

The chief guest of the event was Mr. M.A Thajudeen Additional secretary to the Ministry of Industries. In addition among the gathering were; Mr Omar Kameel, Chairman of the National Enterprise Development Authority, Mr Lal Hemantha from the National Youth Services Council, Ms Selyna Peiris Director Business Development of Selyn Garments a leading Social Enterprise, representatives from banks such as the Regional Development Bank, international organisations; British Council, a Sri Lankan charity-The Foundation of Goodness, representatives from the Good market , media and the youth across the island who submitted the best innovative business ideas.

Upon introducing and welcoming the guest and participants of the programme Dr Welamedage CEO and Managing Director of LSV stated that from across the island the youth had submitted many innovative business ideas and the best 26 ideas from 31 group and individual submission were selected for the Youth Social Enterprise and Incubator Programme. “The Youth Social Enterprise Incubator Programme is the first time that youth are encouraged to start social businesses. We as organisations promoting sustainable development through social businesses should not wait until youth come to us but it is high time that we go in search of youth who are innovative, socially passionate and seeking advice and support.” He further said that for the best 05 ideas upon the final stage will be awarded grants of Rs25, 000 each respectively by the National Enterprise Development Authority and LSV.

The participants who had been selected for the programme too were introduced to the audience and their business idea were presented. K.P.G Lasika 26 years of age from Kananke in Galle works as a Consultant in Horticulture Management at the National Youth Services Council. Lasika having studied horticulture has proposed an innovative business idea: “redecorating gardens and producing seed beds”. Upon being invited to express his ideas Lasika had this to say:” While I was studying horticulture management I realized that students do not have adequate practical experience. I have already started my business however I realized that I cannot supply according to the demand as I do not have adequate human resource to support my business. Therefore, in the business I proposed recruiting students studying horticulture management as it benefits expansion of my business and provides hands on experience in horticulture management for students studying this subject” Nawa Prashanth and Nawa Jyothi brother and sister who had developed a business idea with the aim of addressing an environmental problem in their hometown in Jaffna had this to say: “While I was studying in University of Peradeniya and when I came home to Jaffna the water I drank was coarse not sweet as water in Peradeniya. Water in ponds and tanks in Jaffna were contaminated. The business I propose focuses on cleaning of the inland water sources in Jaffna and reviving inland fisheries industry and tourism”. Madushanka Sewwandi 25years of age from Dambulla proposed an innovative technical solution to preserve cooked foods for a longer period. The proposed business idea of a group of friends; Krishanthan, Kittushan, Kameshka and Lushanth from Batticaloa was an innovative business solution to market the products of Batticaloa to the world using an internet based software. The aim of the business is to promote the businesses of Batticaloa region and contribute towards improving the sales of the industries that become part of the network. Udara Lakshitha 20 years of age from Pituwala Kanda, in Elpitiya working as a Development Assistant proposes a business idea to promote organic products ,yams and plants unique to his hometown area.

Selyna Peiris Managing Director of Selyn Garments engaged the youth who attended the programme in a lively discussion about entrepreneurship related aspects. The participants queried about adherence to fair trade practices. Selyna expressed that willingness to learn is an important trait or quality that all aspiring entrepreneurs should cultivate.

Mr Lal Hemantha additional director of the NYSCO programme of the National Youth Council speaking at the event: “The unemployment among those who have passed GCE A/L is 8%, and still the preference is for state sector jobs. The NYSCO initiated by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe when he was Minister of Youth Affairs in 1986 started a loan scheme for youth entrepreneurs. Under this loan scheme a maximum of Rs500, 000 can be obtained with 7% interest with a guarantor under less stringent conditions”.

Kushil Gunasekera Founder and Chairman of the Foundation of Goodness speaking at the gathering stated that the “ the skills and talent of the youth are amazing and that there is a huge untapped potential among youth in remote rural areas and social enterprise approach among youth will play a lead role in development. Unless Sri Lanka bridges this gap we will not be able to reach the growth we expected”.

The Social Enterprise Academy of Lanka Social Ventures was also launched during this event by the CEO and Managing Director of the organisation Dr Lalith Welamedage. Under this academy entrepreneurs and business service e providers will be able to receive Institute for enterprise and entrepreneurs(IOEE) UK accredited training and learning opportunities on social entrepreneurship and related aspects for the first time in Sri Lanka. The academy intends to provide training under this academy for 70 social entrepreneurs and 40 business coaches. The selected youth entrepreneurs under the Youth Social enterprise programme will be given an opportunity to access training free of cost from the Social Enterprise Academy.

Omar Kameel Chairman of the National Enterprise Development Authority and M.A Thajudeen Additional secretary to the Ministry of Industries extended their good wishes for the success of the programme.

The launch of the programme was followed by a two day training and exposure programme for the selected youth at the Foundation of Goodness Training Centre in Seenigama, Galle. The participating youth drawn from all parts of the island from the north to the south speaking different languages and from different cultural backgrounds developed friendships with each other and networked to develop their business ideas further. LSV provided coaching on key aspects related to developing a social enterprise.