Apia, Samoa – Several young, local entrepreneurs have won seed funding to take their businesses to the next level, at the completion of the latest round of the Youth Co:Lab program.
Through the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Regional, the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has facilitated the fourth annual Youth Co:Lab Samoa National Dialogue 2022 from the 27th June – 1st July 2022 at the Tanoa Hotel Conference Room.
Youth Co:Lab Samoa (YCL Samoa) is a startup incubator program that brings together a diverse group of Samoan youth in the early stages of operating their businesses, or young, aspiring entrepreneurs, and works to improve or create business plans introducing innovative thinking, financial planning and social impact through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The industry interest of this year’s cohort ranged from transportation, food services, 3D mapping and manufacturing, to name a few.
The key objectives of the Samoa National Dialogue include providing a national platform for young social entrepreneurs across Upolu and Savaii and to foster a sense of community between youth entrepreneurs, industry leaders, government stakeholders and business support including the Samoa Chamber being the National Private Sector Organization.
“Today starts the National Dialogue for Samoa’s Youth Co:Lab bringing this program’s most important stakeholders, our young entrepreneurs, to discuss and establish a common goal to strengthen the coalition and establish an enabling ecosystem to promote social innovation through entrepreneurial spirit for the benefit of Samoa,” said Mr. Patrick Lawson, Second Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, in his opening remarks for the program.
“Through our close partnership with the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, as the lead implementing partner for this initiative, the Youth Co Lab Initiative has supported over sixty young entrepreneurs since its inception in 2018 through capital investment, funding, capacity building, mentoring and networking opportunities,” said Ms. Verena Linneweber, Officer in Charge of UNDP.
The Samoa Chamber acknowledges the support of its private sector partners – BOSS Jewelry, TokoUso Barbershop and Food Bar, Brown Consult, Samoa Stationery and Books, SkyEye, Vodafone Samoa, Digicel Samoa, Mana Care, BookingSamoa, INSEACT and the Samoa Business Hub. The Chamber also wishes to thank the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, the UNDP Accelerator Lab as well as the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Ministry of Customs and Revenue, and the Ministry of Communications, Information, and Technology for their support and participation in this initiative.
Through the inclusion of youth speakers, government stakeholders, industry leaders and regional partners, this infused an element of inclusivity in the program design in recognition that it is through these partnerships where the true strength of the YCL Samoa program lies. These ecosystem partnerships prove how together, a difference can be made for the benefit of Samoa’s youth entrepreneurs and business leaders of tomorrow.
“During the whole program, I was so impressed by all the methodology that helps promote and run my business smoothly. I had learned a lot from this workshop and am so honored to be part of it,” said YCL Samoa participant, Grace Jaydene Teleaga.
The week-long training culminated in a pitching competition for the young entrepreneurs to win seed-funding to support the development of prototypes for their business ideas for startup participants, or the furthering of business developments for scale-up entrepreneurs. The award categories were split by startup and scale-up tracks and included an Award for Social Impact, Award for Ingenuity, Award for Impactful Technology and the YCL Samoa 2022 Excellence Award.
The Chamber wishes to congratulate the following youth entrepreneurs and this year’s award recipients:
Award for Social Impact – Joseph Kupa, Kew Consult (st), and Jimmy Leausa, Salani Bright Horizons (sc);
Award for Ingenuity – Taupaū Alex Mikaele, Luma App (st), and Vaimoana Hunt-Lee, Fia Ola App (sc);
Award for Impactful Technology – Clark Duseigneur, Motu Visuals (st), and Hazel Lei Sam, Helping Hands (sc);
YCL Samoa 2022 Excellence Award – Taupaū Alex Mikaele, Luma App (st).
YCL Excellence Award winner, Taupaū Alex Mikaele, shared what this opportunity has meant for him, “I feel extremely honored and humbled to be awarded the YCL Excellence Award 2022. It came as a complete surprise as there were so many creative and innovative ideas amongst our cohort. Everyone did so well on the final day. It was inspiring to witness and be part of this group. Thank you to Youth Co:Lab, Samoa Chamber, UNDP, mentors, facilitators and everyone involved in the program.
In early 2022, I started my entrepreneurship journey as the Managing Director of the Siusega Taxi Service. It was here where I got to understand the challenges faced by the Taxi Industry as a whole. I was immediately inspired to utilise my skills and knowledge to support the Taxi Industry in addressing some of these challenges, particularly with the national gap in taxi fare. This is where the idea and concept of Luma App (a taxi fare application) was born to standardise, regulate and update Taxi Fares in response to the ever-changing cost of fuel.
I hope my story and journey will inspire every youth in Samoa to aspire to be an entrepreneur regardless of your circumstance. During my early upbringing in Manono, not once did I think of becoming an entrepreneur. We have all been taught in school to be great employees instead of encouraging our youths to be entrepreneurs themselves. I am grateful for the opportunities that later followed with education and mentorship to be where I am today. I would encourage all our youth to get involved, surround yourself with good people, be great and honest at what you do and the opportunities will present themselves,” said Taupaū. The YCL Samoa 2022 Excellence Award included a partial sponsorship from Samoa Market/Seki Eats, founded by YCL Samoa 2018 alum and inaugural YCL Samoa winner, Etuale Scanlan.
YCL Samoa and the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem around it has grown because of the youth leaders that are part of this network. In the future, plans are to continue to scale this initiative and showcase more of Samoa’s youth entrepreneurs in Savaii and rural Upolu.
“We would like to acknowledge the presence of the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Verena Linneweber. The support and partnership that we have with UNDP has allowed great initiatives like the Youth Co:Lab to be implemented and build the capacity of Samoa’s young entrepreneurs. We thank you Verena and the UNDP team, Christina and Tupe, for hosting another great YCL workshop. We look forward to growing this partnership to support more of our young aspiring entrepreneurs. We would also like to acknowledge and thank the Australian High Commission through DFAT, our donor partner for YCL 2022, H.E. Emily Luck and her team for supporting this workshop and creating opportunities for our youth. Thank you to the British High Commission through His Excellency, David Ward, for your partnership through the YCL to provide an internship opportunity for our participants and we look forward to working closely with your team in coordinating this,” said Ms. Lote Lima, Memberservices Manager at the Samoa Chamber of Commerce in her closing remarks on the final day of the program.
Following this workshop, the SCCI and UNDP are dedicated to the development of these startups and will be implementing a follow-up internship thanks to the support by the British High Commission. Other startup support services available for youth entrepreneurs include mentorship, guidance and the potential for international exposure for their business growth.
In the past five years, the regional Youth Co:Lab programme has been implemented in 28 countries and territories in Asia and the Pacific, and has reached over 200,000 participants, benefiting over 11,000 young social entrepreneurs to date.