20 of Liberia’s Budding Entrepreneurs Complete Training Program

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Twenty aspiring Liberian entrepreneurs have been honored for successfully participating in the Branson Scholarship Program. The ceremony took place on Tuesday at Bella Casa Hotel in Monrovia.

A diverse group of diverse businesses participated in the program, including the major security firm SEGAL, food delivery tech startup Cookshop.biz, Paynesville-based Hope Bakery, and waste management company Green Cities.

The Branson Scholarship Program is designed to directly address social and economic development challenges faced in conflict-affected countries. It develops aspiring entrepreneurs who act as catalysts to spearhead development and accelerate a viable private sector-led economy.

The just ended cycle marks the second phase of the program since it was launched in the country in 2014.

Program manager Wilson Idahor said his program was proud to graduate some of Liberia’s amazing entrepreneurs. He assured that the new graduates have developed the potentials to create and manage multi-million dollars’ worth of investments.

“During the program, we had training both here in Liberia and in South Africa, and provided hands-on training,” he said. “They were provided with skills to grow world-class businesses and generate local employment opportunities.”

As an advanced business development program, Idahor said the nine-month program worked with entrepreneurs who have the passion for moving their businesses to higher levels.

“We’ve seen a lot of innovative ideas, and that has given us a lot of hope that indeed Liberia has a future in terms of small medium enterprise development to entrepreneurship in general,” he said.

According to him, Liberia has achieved a lot in developing small and micro businesses, but now was the time to develop entrepreneurs who will completely take over the country’s economy. “Every time we hear that foreigners are taking over the economy, but we need to prepare ourselves to take over the economy ourselves,” he said.

Idahor said the 20 participating businesses have created 773 new jobs.

The event’s keynote speaker highlighted the need for some of the skills taught during the Branson Scholars Program.

Oratio Weedor, the deputy director of small and medium enterprises at Access Bank, said his institution has had a long history of businesses defaulting on their loans because they were poorly run.

He said it was a problem when entrepreneurs started and ran businesses “without proper knowledge on the business and lack of knowledge to diversify.”

Weedor said many Liberian entrepreneurs engaged in businesses without considering a clear direction and technique for achievements. He identified poor customer service, in addition to improperly orchestrated sales and marketing, as an impediment to the success of many businesses.

He encouraged Liberian entrepreneurs to consider proper planning and management as a way to sustain their investments, adding that business sustainability and continuity are major factors among challenges affecting many Liberian businesses.

Weedor said the 20 entrepreneurs participating in the Branson Scholars Program were gaining an advantage, as they would be better prepared.

The executive governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Milton Weeks, praised the organizers and beneficiaries of the program and promised changes from the Central Bank that would improve transactions and reduce business costs for entrepreneurs and their customers.

The Branson Scholarship Program was organized by Business Start-up Center Monrovia in partnership with SPARK, the Branson Center for Entrepreneurship, Virgin United, and Humanity United.

Meanwhile, the Business Start-up Center’s director William Reide II said his organization was proud to contribute to building a vibrant Liberian economy through local entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurs expressed their appreciation for the program. Patricia Gant of the food processing company Patom Enterprise, hailed the organizers of the program for the mentorship they provided. She promised she and her colleagues would change the business climate in Liberia by taking over the country’s economy.

Momo Cyrus of Segal Security said his participation in the program now allows him to pursue higher levels of investments.

“Before coming to the program, we were relatively new to the sector, but right now, we are actually doing businesses,” he said. “Right now, we are doing scientific business. Our eyes are opened on our finances, the processes are scientific and we are now seeing results.”

Cookshop.biz Co-founder Charles Cooper says his program has added a great improvement in his accounting practices.

As a new business that was experiencing exponential growth, Cooper said putting into place the right financial principles was a timely venture for his business.

Since its re-launch last following the Ebola outbreak, he said Cookshop.biz has now increased to over 2,500 customers in Monrovia and serves 28 restaurants.

CORRECTION: A previous version of the article misspelled the name of the keynote speaker. It has been corrected to reflect Oratio Weedor.

Featured photo by Lloyd Massah

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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