Sri Lanka Unites (SLU) – the country’s largest youth movement for reconciliation and leadership development – recently launched Shark’s Tank live via the Sri Lanka Unites Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The Sri Lanka Unites movement is engaged in every district of the nation and has established 9 reconciliation centres across the island. The Business Entrepreneurship course which is taught at these centers provides an introduction to entrepreneurship, problem-solving, market research, branding, sales, financial management, expansion, and much more. Students are then guided to create their business plan, the most innovative and investable of which are then selected for the final round. The finalists then pitch their businesses to some of the country’s renowned investors and business tycoons at the final event which is usually hosted in Colombo.
Funded by the Canadian High Commission, the 2021 edition of Shark’s Tank focused on 4 of the poorest districts of the country – Monaragala, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa and Nuwara Eliya – where Sri Lanka Unites has already established its reconciliation centers and has been engaging with the communities over the years. The youth of these districts have limited opportunities and reportedly record the highest rates of unemployment and poverty.
Over 200 youth in all 4 districts participated in the trainings, and 20 young men and women were selected and brought down to Colombo to pitch their ideas to an esteemed panel comprising Jeevan Gnanam – Serial Entrepreneur, Shalin Balasuriya – Director and Co-Founder of Spa Ceylon, Nayana Karunaratne – Founder of Salon Nayana, Dulith Herath – Founder and Chairman of Kapruka.com, Fouzul Hameed – Managing Director of Hameedia Group, and Sammani Pathiranagama – Founder and Head Designer of O:LIVE.couture.
Sri Lanka Unites expresses its gratitude to the panelists who continue to work towards empowering young entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. Together, they have pledged over a million rupees – in addition to their time – to mentor these young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Kalayarashi is a 21-year-old entrepreneur from Mullaitivu with a unique business of making healthy snacks for her community as she sees a pattern of unhealthy eating habits. Her idea won a total investment of Rs.200,000 from Jeevan Gnanam and Fouzul Hameed. Kalayarashi – who was only 10 years old when SLU began engaging with the Mullaitivu community – has now grown up to be a powerhouse in her community and a true epitome of transformation and inspiration.
Mangalika from Monaragala – who is a mother with a disability, running her own business of ornamental fish farming to support her family – also won an investment of Rs.150,000 from Sammani Pathiranagama, Duluth Herath and Nayana Karunaratne, to expand her business by building four more tanks. SLU is inspired by Mangalika who, despite her circumstances, strives to work hard for her family and the development of our economy.
Fathima Fahmitha and Mohamed Fahim are 20-year-old entrepreneurs from Batticaloa with a unique handicraft business. They won the support of Shalin Balasuriya and Jeevan Gnanam who decided to provide assistance and lend them a 3D Laser printer, while Fouzul Hameed has considered buying their products. The duo plan to empower women and special needs individuals by providing employment in the crafting field and creating an opportunity of financial sustainability.
Saman Keerthi from Nuwara Eliya won Rs. 200,000 in support from Shalin Balasuriya, Jeevan Gnanam and Dulith Herath to purchase a machine that would help him expand his business. His mushroom-based food product, the only one of its kind, was well received by the investors. Saman is also an innovator of sorts as he built the machine himself to fulfill his requirements. His pioneering idea and determination serve as true inspiration to the next generation.
As the next step, Sri Lanka Unites will continue to offer its support to these businesses by facilitating the relationships with their investors, continuing to offer space at the reconciliation centres, and providing resources to further develop their businesses, in addition to monitoring the post-investment growth of these businesses.
For more details on Shark’s Tank, please visit the Sri Lanka Unites Facebook page where you can also find the livestreamed event.