MALUTI Mountain Brewery (MMB) has rewarded budding businesspeople who excelled in the company’s Kickstart initiative, amid calls for more innovation from applicants in the entrepreneurial project.
The winners on Friday walked away with grants ranging from M50 000 to M90 000, which are meant to assist kick-start new or develop existing entrepreneurial projects.
In its third edition, the annual Project Kickstart is a flagship corporate social responsibility initiative by MMB and seeks to alleviate unemployment through instilling a spirit of entrepreneurship among youths aged between ages 18-35 years.
This year’s competition had received 740 applications from which 41 were short-listed for business training which is done in collaboration with UNESCO Lesotho’s Student Training for Entrepreneurial Promotion (STEP).
Six winning enterprises which were also awarded seed funding were selected following the training.
This year’s winning enterprises were Beads and Ting Foundation which received M50 000 funding. The company produces beads and other artistic ornaments.
Heavenly Touch Soaps, which manufacturers eco-friendly and organic bath soaps, received M60 000. Green View Vegetable Farm received M90 000 while Apex Pictures, which produces motion pictures, received M75 000. Centre for Sheep and Goats, which produces wool and mohair, received M70 000 and Bataung Construction and Steel Works received M70 000.
Semethe Raleche, who was one of the four-member panel of judges for this year’s competition, said many applications they received only focused on one sector.
Mr Raleche, who is the Domestic Investment Promotions manager at the Lesotho National Development Corporation, however said he was impressed by the quality of business plans re-submitted after the entrepreneurship training.
“I have seen over the years the quality of submitted applications gradually improving group after group. And this is all thanks to the trainers,” Mr Raleche said.
“We however, have realised that there are still challenges, and one of the major challenges we picked up is lack of innovation. A lot of the applications we receive tend to be generic and reflecting a lack of innovation.
He added: “For instance, you will find that around 20 percent of proposals speak to one area of business, such as poultry or piggery.
“There is nothing wrong with these businesses, in fact we would like to see more young people going into agriculture or agro-processing. “However, it is the manner in which they are presented that is a bit concerning. They seem to lack innovation.”
MMB Managing Director Tom Mpedi said he was proud of the momentum the project had garnered over the past three years. He said MMB was not only about producing liquor and soft drinks, but was involved in uplifting communities with sustainable projects.
“Project Kickstart is our flagship CSI program that is aimed at accelerating growth and social development in our value chain,” Mr Mpedi said.
“Kickstart aims to support young people who have got good business ideas with grant funding to start or improve their businesses.”
He said another advantage of the project was that applicants who were not lucky enough to receive funding from MMB stood a better chance of doing so elsewhere as the business training they underwent equipped them with proper business development skills.
Development Planning ministry Principal Secretary Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi expressed gratitude to MMB for assisting the government in its role of empowering communities.
He urged the winners to make good use of the funds to turn their businesses into successful enterprises so they can provide jobs for themselves and other youths.
Heavenly Touch Soaps founder ‘Mathekiso Ramositli from Mafeteng district told the Sunday Express she would use the funding to buy equipment, ingredients, packaging materials and for marketing purposes.
A National University of Lesotho Bsc in Biology and Chemistry graduate, Ms Ramositli said she was going to use some locally-available inputs such as aloe.