Opening pathways for entrepreneurs in Bandarawela

Sumathy was one of the entrepreneurs
Sumathy was one of the entrepreneurs
“The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas. The responsibility of leadership is to create an environment in which great ideas can thrive.” – Simon Sinek

The leading questions before our trip to Sri Lanka were: whether the Entrepreneurial Compass, the solution we developed during the MasterClass 1, would work; and if people would be actually interested in using it. During previous months the MasterClass team developed a handbook with learning material for entrepreneurs. Moreover, we conceptualized an app that would complement it.

Just one week after our successful pitch, Ben, Marisol and I arrived in Sri Lanka. Sateesh picked us up in Colombo in the afternoon. What a journey! Driving in Sri Lanka is quite an adventure. It was already late at night when we arrived safe and sound at our final destination.

On the next day, the cool climes of Bandarawela welcomed us. It was a cloudy day. Once in the learning center, we talked to Sujitha about her expectations for the workshops. Based on Sujitha’s feedback, Ben, Marisol and I prepared the workshops for the next five days.

Marisol and Sujitha talking about expenses and revenues
Marisol and Sujitha talking about expenses and revenues

Our vision turned into reality

Back in September 2017, our team set a vision, seeing it turned into reality was a gratifying experience. Before the workshops started were excited and a bit nervous. We were wondering: Who will show up? Are the materials and presentations that we prepared good enough? One by one the participants arrived. The day for which we were working for has come.

Over five days we conducted workshops that included topics such as leadership, business model canvas, finance, marketing, business planning, and pitching. The participants had the chance to apply their learnings to their own businesses or ideas. Moreover, we had a feedback session with them.

Mark is teaching automation and robotics
Mark is teaching automation and robotics

Breaking the ice

Once the participants felt more comfortable with us, we got to know more about their businesses and their needs. Sumathy brought murukku (salty snacks) and laddu (sweet snacks). These homemade snacks are delicious!

Gayathri brought one of her products, a flower vase. She uses cement and old-towels to manufacture unique designs. Mr. Thiyagaraja and his family welcomed us at their farm with tea and banana cake. Besides fish farming, they grow cucumber, jasmine, and other flowers. They put a lot of effort into their work.

Mr. Suppiah runs an ornamental fish farm too. He, Mr. Thiyagaraja and other fish farmers are organized as a cooperative. They aim to export ornamental fish in the long term.

Visiting Mr. Thiyagaraja fish farm
Visiting Mr. Thiyagaraja fish farm
Sangeeth invited us for dinner to his food truck, Mr. Cook. We visited him at the university where the food truck is located and had the opportunity to talk with young entrepreneurs who are still studying. He would like to develop a gastronomy concept that promotes Sri Lankan ayurvedic food.

Mark invited us to a robotics school competition, where he was a juror. Mark offers robotic and automation workshops for children at the Learning Center. His concept is targeted to train children in villages due to the centralization of the IT sector in Colombo. He wants to prepare the generations to come to implement innovative ideas.

Sateesh is part of Bandarawela Learning Center staff and Sujitha’s right hand. Together they are developing a tourism agency. The logistics of our module on-site where organized by Quick-Biz Net Tours. We recommend it fondly.

Participants and team are very excited: it´s pitch day!
Participants and team are very excited: it´s pitch day!

The moment of truth

On the pitch day, the participants had the chance to show what they learned. They had the previous afternoon to prepare their pitches. Some of them arrived earlier and worked with us on their presentations.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Carsten and our MasterClass colleagues watched the pitch day virtually. One by one the entrepreneurs shared their ideas. They got challenging questions and received feedback. To our surprise, Gayatri and Sumathy received funds to work further on their business ideas!

Mr. Suppiah is pitching
Mr. Suppiah is pitching

Key learnings of the on-site module

From an entrepreneurial point of view, we learned two lessons: to go on-site early and to talk to the end-user as well as to keep moving even if the solution is not 100% perfect.

The greatest lesson that we take is that linking people from the Global North with great entrepreneurs in the Global South and working together at eye-level is beneficial to make ideas succeed.

Sujitha and Benni presenting Masterclass at BridgeBuilder Summit
Sujitha and Benni presenting Masterclass at BridgeBuilder Summit

Sujitha is ready to continue offering the courses by herself

The whole process wouldn’t have been possible without Sujitha. She is an entrepreneur at heart, someone who believes in developing the potential of others and brings the best out of the people.

Sujitha believed in our project even in the most difficult times. We hope that Bandarawela Learning Center becomes a place where entrepreneurs grow tangible businesses.

Ben is preparing his workshop
Ben is preparing his workshop
Sujitha is opening pathways for entrepreneurs in Bandarawela. Up to date, she is coaching Gayatri and Sumathy. Based on the feedback from the participants of our workshop and the lessons learned, the next entrepreneurship courses run by her will start on August 1st, 2018.

We are running MasterClass 2 in January 2019 to tackle the urgent need to create jobs in the communities around our learning centers. We want to support local entrepreneurs in setting up tangible businesses. Would that be something for you? Check our new program!

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