Young Entrepreneurs Showcase their Business Ideas, 11 Winners Announced
VIENTIANE, June 20, 2011 –The World Bank, along with AusAID and the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Lao PDR (YEAL), announced 11 winners of the Young Entrepreneur Marketplace Competition.
The Marketplace Competition is a key component of the STEPS program, an initiative launched in December 2010 to promote entrepreneurship and employment prospects for young people, in particular young women, in Lao PDR. STEPS is one of eight programs being implemented around the world under the World Bank's Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI).
“We believe that investing in young people’s, and in particular young women’s, employment opportunities is smart economics and has a large development impact on their future and the future of their families, not to mention long term benefits for poverty reduction. In Laos, where half of the population is under 20 years of age, one of our main goals is supporting the government to build the capacity of young people and to help them engage successfully in small business activities that can provide income for their families, employment for their communities and economic growth for the country,” said Keiko Miwa, World Bank Country Manager in Lao PDR.
“The Young Entrepreneur Marketplace Competition is part of a broader initiative that is providing key services, including business training, support in the development of a solid business plan, seed grant funding and mentorship. We believe this innovative combination of different but complimentary interventions will increase the likelihood of the participants being able to realize their business ideas,” added Senior Social Development Specialist of the World Bank in Lao PDR, Helene Carlsson Rex.
The announcement of the 11 winners was made at the National Culture Hall following a day-long exhibition event which showcased innovative business ideas from budding young entrepreneurs. Thirty finalists – all under the age of 35 and 52% of whom are women – presented their business ideas to an executive committee of jurors and to the general public.
“It is an incredible experience and opportunity for me. My project focuses on manufacture of Lao traditional handicrafts and giving job opportunities to women affected by HIV and AIDS. I’m really looking forward to continue working and to make my dream a reality,” said Phennapha Phommachanh one of the winners of the competition.\
With support from several sponsors, including Millicom Lao-Tigo, Banque Franco Lao, Buarapha Development Consulting Firm, Tourism Malaysia and KP Yamaha, the event and the announcement of winners was the culmination of a competitive six-month selection process, which included a call for proposals, the provision of practical entrepreneurship training to short-listed candidates to enhance their business skills and develop stronger business ideas, and a technical review of the candidates' final business plans.
To maximize success, winners will receive seed grants of up to $5,000 and mentorship support from the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Lao PDR, to turn their business ideas into reality over the next year.
“The Young Entrepreneurs Association of Laos will provide support, guidance, and concrete assistance on a one-on-one basis, to support winners of this competition in the launch of their own business. It is important to further develop their business skills, become aware of potential real world derailments in building a business and make connections that can last a lifetime,” said Ms. Valy Vetsaphong, Acting President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Lao PDR.
Hundreds of people participated in the exhibition, including the opening ceremony attended by the representatives of the World Bank, AUSAID, YEAL, as well as private banks, companies and academic institutions. The evening agenda featured an official awards ceremony and a traditional Lao dance performance.
WHAT IS AGI-STEPs?
The Adolescent Girls Initiative – STEPs in Lao PDR is co-founded by the World Bank and AusAID and coordinated in partnership with the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Lao PDR (YEAL). AGI includes two main components: (i) promote a culture of youth entrepreneurship, especially in women, using a ‘market-place’ model which identifies strong business ideas and supports young entrepreneurs with business skills training, mentorship and seed grants; (ii) provide recently graduated and graduating young women and men with employment services, including work readiness skills, career advice, job placement support and links to internship and employment opportunities in the private sector. The initiative is being implemented over a two year period between 2011 and 2012 in three provincial capitals (Vientiane Capital, Luang Prabang in the north, and Champasack in the south).