MONROVIA – As it stands, foreign multinational companies dominate Liberia’s private sector. However, in contrast, local small businesses and startups have been unable to scale their businesses. To solve this, TRIBE and Pacha are partnering to build up a Startup Incubator for Liberian entrepreneurs.
Report by Dounard Bondo, Contributing Writer
Pacha Soap Inc is no stranger to Liberia, the US-based manufacturer of all-natural soaps and bath products currently works with J-Palm Liberia to include J-Palm’s wild harvest palm kernel oil as part of its soap base. Pacha’s initial investment will enable the launch and pilot of the proposed annual incubator designed by TRIBE.
TRIBE is a Liberian owned and Liberian based non-profit design, strategy, and implementation Company improving learning outcomes, facilitating workforce development and building entrepreneurial ecosystems. The company uses research, innovation and entrepreneurship to develop young people and support economic development.
Entrepreneurs face a number of challenges such as a difficult economic climate with low growth and stagnant job creation, all of which make it difficult for entrepreneurs to launch and grow businesses. These challenges are exacerbated in Liberia with its low income, huge- semi educated population amidst other unique challenges
Consequently, despite the fact that Liberia has a large and growing number of small and medium-sized businesses that represent a promising source of employment and opportunity, many of these companies lack the necessary mentoring, funding, and networking to scale in order to effectively address social issues and generate a sizable amount of employment.
Additionally, while investments in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development have recently increased across Liberia, growth and impact amongst businesses has been largely limited as these gaps and challenges persist.
To solve this challenge, the proposed incubator would give startups the access, skills, resources and opportunities to increase their chances of success. More specifically, the incubator will provide bespoke design and support to startups, while also offering generalized training and guidance in areas such as capital raising, sales, marketing, business strategy and finance.
When implemented, the incubator would also mobilize and infuse investments into ventures to aid in growth and scale. The proposed incubator would not only provide ventures with a platform to share and transfer knowledge across the ecosystem, but also with the investors, and industry experts upon which their ventures will ultimately depend.
For Wainright Acquoi, the Chief Executive Officer of TRIBE, the need for a business incubator in Liberia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is pivotal: “Entrepreneurial success relies heavily on the availability of infrastructure, talent and resources in any given environment, which are fundamentally missing in Liberia. Currently, entrepreneurs who are thriving rely on their strong intelligence, resilience, and access to external support – not many entrepreneurs are as privileged. Our goal is to localize these external support for intelligent and resilient entrepreneurs to increase their chance at success,” he says.
When implemented, the pilot model will be tested on three ventures in 2023, and will include a strict recruitment process, bespoke training, and seed funding. In addition, the incubator will provide businesses with follow-up monitoring and evaluation, coaching, resource and network support.
The incubator would also provide businesses with seed funding after incubation. Depending on the type of business, the seed money will come in the form of an equity investment, a loan that can be paid back, or a recoverable grant.
Lastly, for continuity and sustainability, the returns from the ventures will be put back into the incubator. It is hoped that the pilot project will validate the project model and attract external investment to expand and develop the model.
Speaking on the aim of the partnership long term, Andy Thornton, Pacha’s Chief Impact Officer said “Right now we’re excited to see the results of this first trial with TRIBE, identifying new entrepreneurs that we could support further in future years. Part of the innovation of this approach is to not be too prescriptive, and to have the flexibility to identify different ways of supporting entrepreneurs, so for now we’re waiting for results before knowing best how to expand the partnership further.”