The Young Entrepreneurs Council of Solomon Islands (YECSI) and Strongim Bisnis who is the major supporter of Ennovation Blo Iumi program successfully held the grant contract signing agreement with the three 2021/2022 EBI2.0 business winners namely Empire Barber shop, Twice Is Nice and Cravings at the Mendana Hotel on Thursday 12 May 2022.

The Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Dr. Lachie Strahan, told the audience in his opening remarks that entrepreneurs play an absolutely central role every single economy around the world and most jobs in any economy are generated by the private sector.

He said that “A challenge for many economies is generating job opportunities. Today, we have an opportunity to acknowledge young people who are generating jobs in Solomon Islands. As you all know, Solomon Islands is a young country where 70 per cent of the population are under 35 and we also know that youth unemployment is a big problem – so this contribution is vitally important.”

He also added in his remarks that “It’s wonderful that 15 participants stepped forward to pitch their business ideas in this competition. I understand that they each participated in an eight-week training program which focused both on technical aspects of making business pitch; and also, on the key question of motivation, because starting a business requires the right mindset. You got to have a bit of get up and go. You got to have a bit of imagination and willingness to be bold, creative, take a few risks, and spot an opening in the market. Real entrepreneurs fail once or twice but they keep coming back and try something else until they succeed.”

Dr. Strahan appreciated and acknowledged the three EBI winners with their wonderful ideas and congratulated them for taking up the initiative to take up another step in their businesses. He said he looked forward to seeing how they would use the SBD$30,000 funding they were awarded.

He concluded his remarks saying that the economic empowerment of youth and women are very important drivers for the Australian Government and Australian High Commission.

“Australia believes in gender equality, as well as the inclusion of youth and people living with disabilities. For development in Solomon Islands to be sustainable, young people really need to be empowered and supported. The Solomon Islands Government, the Australian Government and all private sector actors must do their part to support young people of this country Solomon Islands – today we show our commitment to that.”

Gianluca Nardi from Strongim Bisnis acknowledged the presence of Australian High Commission, New Zealand High Commission, UNCDF and the EBI2.0 winners and YECSI for making the time to attend this event. In his remarks he stated that the process of this EBI program is a very interesting one that gives a lot of hopeful outcomes.

EBI program is first initiated in 2019 and this is the second successful edition of Ennovation Blo Iumi program. He mentioned that it is interesting to see how YECSI is growing and is harnessing always more and more interest and support from the local private sector and other organizations and this makes us hopeful for the future of this initiative regardless of Strongim Bisnis’ support. He was also very pleased to acknowledge the fact that two women are among the three winners. This shows the quality and potential of women entrepreneurs in Solomon Islands despite all the additional challenges that they face, and we hope that they can be examples to inspire more women and girls to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

“There has been a more matured process that led to the designing of the business plan for each of the participants and in the first edition of the EBI according to a survey, there was a 100% satisfaction rate from the participants, that means all of the participants whether they win or have the feeling of improving their way of doing and running their businesses and are able to make a better entrepreneurship endeavour after going through the EBI program, said Mr. Gianluca.

He added that the EBI program is not just about the winners but it’s about the whole process that really empowering the youth here in the Solomon Island. It was also great to see real innovation from this edition and there has been a maturation in the digital space where most of the businesses strengthened their presence.

Speaking also during the agreement signing event was YECSI vice chairman Limahl Totogi and he highly acknowledged the continuous partnership with the Good People of Australia, New Zealand, and our beloved Nation of Solomon Islands. He added that without their Support towards YECSI its programs wouldn’t be able to eventuate” this Idea written on a piece of paper will become a reality. Thank you all for your continuous support and we really appreciate all that you have done for us as an organization.” He further added the Young Entrepreneurs Council of Solomon Islands would like to extend sincere gratitude to Chris Elphick from Breadfruit Consulting for facilitating the EBI2.0 program. “Thanks to technology we are able to facilitate this program despite the geographical locations.”

In 2020 YECSI designed, established and piloted The Ennovation Blo Iumi (EBI) program in partnership with Strongim Bisnis as a response to youth unemployment to promote innovation, develop entrepreneurial capacity of youth and build resilient business models that can be formalized into the economy. EBI has proven to not only be a first of its kind in the country, but also a much welcomed and successful program by young aspiring entrepreneurs (participants and spectators), the wider Solomon Islands community and the private sector.

Limahl stated “we are here to Celebrate Accomplishments, Yes, Accomplishments, a success Story, a new twist to the story, a milestone in the entrepreneurial Journey, we are here to celebrate results of our three successful EBI2.0 winners” Mr. Totogi stated.

The goal of EBI 2.0 is to create a collaborative business development program that engages both public and private sector in the development of local young entrepreneurs with existing informal businesses and its pipeline program leading to formal business operation for young entrepreneurs operating in the informal sector.

EBI 2.0 Contestants have had a really tough time especially with the COVID 19 Pandemic that we currently facing and also the riots last year. These challenges have delayed parts of the program but highlighted what it means to be an entrepreneur, to adapt, overcome and remain positive with a growth mindset even in the face of adversity, despite these obstacles 3 winners have emerged on top out of all the hardworking individuals who have been part of the race.

The YECSI Vice Chairman Limahl Totogi Finally, thanked all the participants of the EBI program and the YECSI members and that these are Powerful, creative, energetic, enthusiastic, visionary, hardworking and accomplished young men and women of the Solomon Islands who are the future private sector of this beloved nation creating employment for themselves and others. Concluding his remarks he said,” to our EBI winners may Management be your priority partner as you put into good use the funds you have received through this partnership program.”

Speaking on behalf of the winners, Ilalina Bisili from Cravings thanked YECSI and Strongim Bisnis for organizing and funding the EBI 2.0 program in order to support young entrepreneurs in the Solomon Islands.

”We are so fortunate to have won the EBI 2.0. As young entrepreneurs, this is such a great achievement for us, as we now can expand and invest in more things to aid in our business operations. Even with covid 19 and other things happening we managed to pull through and finish off the program. EBI is a great learning tools for young entrepreneurs. From this program we got to network with other wonderful young entrepreneurs who have great vision and motivation” Ilalina Bisili stated.

She then ended her remarks by saying that if you’re looking to get an awesome haircut from professionals, go to Empire Barber shop and if you’re looking to shop for clothes from the comfort of your home, visit Twice Is Nice page on Instagram and if you want great tasting cakes to celebrate for any occasion, order from Cravings.

The Board and Secretariat of YECSI acknowledge the presence of the Australian high commission Dr. Lachie Strahan and team, Gianluca Nardi from Strongim Bisnis, Josephine Langi from New Zealand high commission, finally Zoe and team from UNCDF for being able to witness the agreement signing for our Ennovation Blo Iumi 2.0 winner. Most of all congratulations again to our three-business winner, Julian Maetoloa owner of Empire Barber shop, Ilalina Bisili and Charles Jnr Ashely owners of Cravings and Ebony Finau owner of Twice Is Nice.

The event closes with a word of thanks from YECSI chairman John Wopereis and followed by networking, group photos and light refreshment.

Source: Press Release