Entrepreneurship in Kekirawa

Participants of the entrepreneurial program
Participants of the entrepreneurial program

As an entrepreneur, the ultimate goal is to go from zero to hero. For most, this doesn’t happen over night. Eight entrepreneurs joined BOOKBRIDGE Entrepreneurship Program at BOOKBRIDGE Kekirawa Learning Center from February 11 – 14, 2019. Their goal was not only to get funding but also to get management training.

In early January 2019, Rainer (who had attended in our program GSE2) and Markus (from Startup Academy Switzerland) kicked off their MasterClass program. Markus and Rainer’s goal was to run an entrepreneurship program at the BOOKBRIDGE learning center in Kekirawa, Sri Lanka. In the long-term, they envision to turn the learning center (KLC) into an entrepreneurial hub.

The vision they developed for the program was to „support the participants to become self-confident and successful entrepreneurs“. During the kick-off, Rainer and Markus had the opportunity to meet, via virtual conferences, the participants of the entrepreneurship program. During a video call, the entrepreneurs shared their business ideas and challenges which varied in the business sector and complexity. There were very diverse business ideas: increase the clothing production of a small tailor shop, grow from a small food takeaway business to a restaurant, develop a marketing strategy for a hotel, increase the production of plants, fruits and vegetables, doubling bags production, or commercializing spices to hotels and restaurants.

Going on-site soon after the kick-off module

MasterClass Kekirawa
Rainer in action

Only one month after the kickoff, Markus and Rainer travelled to Sri Lanka. Sampath, Community Hero of KLC, picked them up in Colombo. The adventure started by experiencing local traffic jam during the next four hours.

Rainer returned to the learning center he had founded with GSE2 program in 2017 with joy. Markus, Sampath and he started preparing the workshops for the next four days. The night before the program, Rainer and Markus were quite nervous. They asked themselves: will the participants show up tomorrow? Is the content of the courses understandable to our target group? One by one the participants arrived. The day for which they prepared intensively had come.

Addressing the individual needs

MasterClass Kekirawa
Markus with entrepreneur

For the next four days, the entrepreneurs attended workshops that included topics such as Leadership, Business Model Canvas, SWOT Analysis, Finance, Marketing, and Pitching.

Each entrepreneur drew her and his vision. As the days passed, they shared more about their businesses and their needs. Rainer and Markus individually coached each entrepreneur in respect to the different business cases. To work one-to-one was the right approach. As a result, the entrepreneurs felt more comfortable clarifying their ideas. The local team, Sampath, and Sujitha Miranda, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Sri Lanka, supported with translating from English to Sinhala.

The highlight of the on-site module

After each morning session, the team visited two entrepreneurs. They felt welcomed by friendly families and will never forget the hospitality they experienced. Visiting the actual business locations was the highlight of the on-site module. Only this enabled Rainer and Markus to assess the conditions under which the entrepreneurs ran their businesses and to understand their real needs. By the end of the program, they prepared the entrepreneurs for the moment of truth – the investor pitch.

The moment of truth

On the pitch day, the participants had the chance to show what they had learned to apply for funding. The entrepreneurs brought samples of their products. The pitch was followed in Europe by Arlette, Ben, and Marisol (alumni from MasterClass 1) as well as Curdin (member of BOOKBRIDGE Board). One by one, the entrepreneurs shared their ideas. Each one of them got challenging questions. One of the entrepreneurs pitched in in Sinhalese, the rest in English. It was a big challenge for them.

MasterClass Kekirawa
Sujitha handing in certificates

What a relief when it was over!

After the hard work, the entrepreneurs received a certificate endorsed by Startup Academy Switzerland. They received a small investment for the further development of their businesses, with the obligation to report back to Sampath on their progress within the next few months.

Key learnings of the on-site module

  • The life of an entrepreneur is not easy. It takes courage to keep going even if others don’t believe in your idea. Rainer and Markus vision to “Support the participants to become self-confident entrepreneurs” was accomplished.
  • Understanding basic financial concepts is essential to run a business. The best entrepreneurs communicate their passion and dreams effectively. The decision to teach the entrepreneurs financial planning and pitching turned out to be right.
  • The value of mentoring is priceless when it comes to helping participants to grow their entrepreneurial skills. The entrepreneurs learned the importance of networking and exchanging their ideas with other entrepreneurs like them.

Sampath ready for the next batch of entrepreneurs

The whole process was only possible thanks to Sampath’s commitment. During the on-site module, he got prepared to run the program by himself. The next BOOKBRIDGE Entrepreneurship Program will take place this fall. Rainer and Markus will support him virtually until the end of MasterClass in October.


MasterClass Kekirawa
Sampath as facilitator

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