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A Business Plan Competition for Young Entrepreneurs – YouLead’s Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan
MEDA is currently partnering with Cuso International in Nigeria on the Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) project. The Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) is one of the many activities aimed at improving access to finance for young entrepreneurs. The YEBSP has been designed and administered as a business plan competition for youth, between the ages of 18-35, who have completed or are currently enrolled in YouLead’s entrepreneurship training program. The YEBSP is meant to kick-start youth-led businesses in the natural resources sector with funds ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 naira (approximately CAD$400 -$1200).
The first and pilot phase of the YEBSP was launched in April 2016 and the results were recently announced on August 9, 2016 , after a long process of selection and verification.
Table 1: YEBSP Administration and Selection Flow Chart
The competition was structured in a way that allowed an evaluation committee to assess the viability and profitability of the applicants’ proposed businesses based on merit and the quality of the application and business plan. The evaluation committee comprised of representatives from microfinance banks, business people from Cross River State, and YouLead technical staff.
In total, 667 applications were received (335 submitted by women and 332 by men) from six local government authorities. However, only 152 applications (75 by women and 77 by men) were screened in for assessment by the evaluation committee. The most popular businesses were in the agricultural sector, followed by fisheries and forestry. Out of the 152 applicants, 68 were selected for the verification round (40 were female and 28 were male).
In person and over-the-phone interviews were conducted with 68 youth applicants to assess the validity of the proposed business plans. These verification visits were also used to examine the seriousness and reliability of the lead applicant through a series of questions measuring both technical skills and non-technical attributes, such as communication skills. Of the 68 applicants who made it to the verification round, 54 applicants (29 women and 25 men) were confirmed and selected as winners of the 1st round of YEBSP funding. By far, the most successful/popular proposed businesses were in the cassava value chain and fisheries sector; others were in the mushroom, beekeeping, palm oil and goat-rearing sectors.
There are 3 more rounds of YEBSP planned over the next two years to cover the remaining local government authorities in Cross River State. There are many lessons learned from this first pilot phase and adjustments need to be made to the application and selection process. The YouLead project staff intends to closely monitor the 54 winners and provide business development services as required to ensure the success of these young entrepreneurs. We expect that this monitoring process will also inform future rounds of the YEBSP, and will help project staff better understand the needs of young entrepreneurs as they move from business ideation to actual implementation. It remains to be seen if the small grants provided through the YEBSP will in fact kick-start these youth-led business and lead them to success. Only time and careful monitoring of the process will tell us more. Stay tuned to learn more about these winners in the coming months.