Contest for budding entrepreneurs aims to build start-up Samoa

By Soli Wilson 25 October 2019, 8:41PM

Youth Co:Lab Samoa, the project that gives budding Samoan entrereneurs to pitch their start-up ideas before business experts, ended on a high note on Friday afternoon.

The successful three day workshop had 15 local entrepreneurs with ideas for new businesses. 

Some of the ideas pitched covered areas such as healthy living, climate change, and digital technology amongst others. Many were in alignment with Sustainable Development Goals that they aim to achieve through their projects.

Lemauga Hobart Vaai said this year's event has been very significant with the amount of support that came through to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the U.N. in building the capacity of the young entrepreneurs.

"Last year, we struggled to see who wanted to come on board to work with us, apart form private sector, but now there is a more enabling environment coming across," Lemauga said. 

"Especially with some of the initiatives done by the Government through the innovation fund and the development of the Tui cable, so it is a really exciting space."

Lemauga highlighted that for the next Youth Co:Lab, they want to be more mobile, and be more inclusive of the youth in  rural areas.

"We want to go more on the road," he said.

"Because we see that the best way to identify these kids is going out into the schools and hit more of the villages out in Savaii, because there are kids there.

"In a program last year with the support of the ONE UN, we did an internship programme recently and we started identifying some of the kids."

Youth Co:Lab had their youngest entrepreneur this year, at only 15 years old, pitching her idea for promoting healthy eating in Primary Schools.

Lemauga reiterated the need to establish the relationships and give them the chance to participate but are hopeful for their partners to be supportive of their outlook.

"We see huge potential," he said.

"We need a more inclusive environment because the reality is, the Government infrastructure of digital transformation is great but we need to develop our youth and have our grassroots level to take advantage of it.

"They are the next generation, and we are working with the mindset that the Samoa that they're growing up in, is different from the Samoa I grew up in."

Four winners from the Co:Lab initiative were able to win prize money as well as the assurance of being connected to a network of opportunities.

These winners include, Salote Vaai for the Impactful Technology award, Luana Ross for Regional Scalability and Salote Vaai again for Community Development. "Health in her hands" by Salote Vaai won the 2019 youth Co:Lab Excellence award.

Youth Co:Lab Samoa launched in 2018 as the first Pacific Island nation to join the wider Asia-Pacific initiative. In its inaugural event, UNDP and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry brought together 20 young Samoans and gave them a platform to develop innovative approaches that address sustainable development challenges faced in the Pacific.

By Soli Wilson 25 October 2019, 8:41PM

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