SMEF launched a series of business plan competition events for entrepreneurial young women in Somaliland on 13 Dec 2017. The first event took place in Hargeisa in which 44 young women competed for a business plan. The first event of the business plans competition continued for four consecutive days in Ambassador Hotel, Hargeisa, Somaliland. For the first day, the young women were given the opportunity to review the pre-assignment business plans with their mentors. Together, they took a closer look at the components of the business plan to identify areas of mending on the fundamentals of the plan. By the end, they were given feedback and suggestions for improvement.

On the second day, the participants have introduced the concept of pitching a business plan. They were given the skills to present the business plans in short and quick way by providing the overview of the business and main details that could make it successful. This was followed by a practical pitching session in which the young girls practiced the skills they received from the session. They pitched their business plans and received suggestions for improvement and they could better pitch their business plans to potential investors. Before now, I had no idea how to pitch a business plan to investors. To me, a business plan was a foreign concept and something of strange. Now, I have developed a viable business plan and I can easily bitch investors in search of investment.” Said one of the participants, Hana with the business plan of clothes design.

The third day followed with the networking session. Popular and well know business individuals and institutions were invited to session. During the networking session, some of the successful business women and men were asked to share the stories of their start-ups. They revealed that great desire doing it and that every challenge should be an experience instead of giving up made their business ideas into reality. The young women met business personnel in the networking session. They focused on talking what they did and do about their business. They also looked for opportunities to connect with them and most of them planed the next meetings to continue discussing their business plans and learning from them as well. Nafisa Mohamud, one of the young women who participated in the business plan competition said, “I had initial fear of failure for doing any business. The speech of the business owners is like I had ignited a fire inside me”.

On the fourth day, the business plans developed by young women were judged by a panel of independent professionals, involved in entrepreneurship and different business ventures. Judges were including; successful entrepreneurs, professional service providers, individuals working with the banks and academic institutions. The written business plans were evaluated against a set criteria such as the viability of the idea, value proposition, and solution presented to the customers, marketing strategies, growth potential, financial strength, and benefit for young people in terms of employment generation of the proposed business venture.

Though the essence of the business plan competition is to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship, sensitise and inspire the spirit of testing business ideas, nevertheless, SMEF with financial help from the World Bank, provided cash awards of $1,000 for the first, $750 for the second and $500 for the third winner respectively. The provision of the cash awards was to give some sort of encouragement and motivation for the young women to move the business plans forward. The winners from Hargeisa were from two clusters, making them six young women as the total of the winners. The winners are Mahuraan kids, Casita Sweats, Dunya Salt Production, Queen Mama, Nafisa Media Production, Ubah Inspire, and fitness centre. The profile of the business will be shared soon.

Though the essence of the business plan competition is to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship, sensitise and inspire the spirit of testing business ideas, nevertheless, SMEF with financial help from the World Bank, provided cash awards of $1,000 for the first, $750 for the second and $500 for the third winner respectively. The provision of the cash awards was to give some sort of encouragement and motivation for the young women to move the business plans forward. The winners from Hargeisa were from two clusters, making them six young women. The winners were Mahuraan kids, Casita Sweats, Dunya Salt Production, Queen Mama, Nafisa Media Production, Ubah Inspire, and fitness centre. The profile of the business will be shared soon.

Mohamoud Khayre, SMEF Somaliland Regional Coordinator, said “all young women who participated the business plan competition are winners. The real idea of organising this competition is to provide learning opportunities but not for a cash awards. It is to receive the skills and techniques needed to develop a wining business plan, how to pitch to investors and network potential supports, in which you all gained as witnessed by the judges”. He added that, you all have a reasonable chance for success, and I encourage you to seek an investment opportunities, and access to finance”. “We are extremely proud of the business plans developed by the young women. Many of the business plans really impressed us” says Ahmed Dalal Farah, from Quantum-CES consultant firm, speaking on behalf of the judges.

Similar events will take place in other regions of Somaliland, particularly, other five capital cities of Borama, Burao, Berbera, Erigavo and Las’anod.

The competition follows after 128 young women participated in a 5 days training workshops, in which the participants, through the training, develop a concrete business idea and document it for implementation. All the steps and essential element of the business plan development were covered during the training. The participants were equipped with the tools to transform ideas into business plan with clear operational and financial strategies that could deliver the results of the plan. The final portion of the training were provided the skills on how to put the finished parts on the plan altogether.

Seven separate workshops were conducted in the six regions of Somaliland. Out of the 128, 100 young women managed to complete a draft business plans. They further received mentoring and coaching session to further fine-tune their business plans. These 100 young women are clustered per region, are now competing a cash awards for the first and second and third winner positions.

The business plan competition is organised by the Somali Small Medium Enterprises Facility under the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Pilot (STEP) scheme which seeks to increase the employability and earnings potential of young women in Somaliland. The facility is funded by the World Bank.