Twenty Lebanese entrepreneurs win ILO competition for best business idea

Winners of the “Women do Business Experience” were granted a seed fund each, in a competition aiming to encourage entrepreneurship in some of Lebanon’s most disadvantaged areas.

News | 14 October 2022

Photo by Charbel Farah - The Lee Experience
BEIRUT (ILO News) - Twenty entrepreneurs, mainly women and young people, have won an ILO competition and cash prize to assist them in developing their local businesses in disadvantaged areas in northern Lebanon.

The ILO Regional Office for Arab States organized the “Women do Business Experience” competition under the framework of the Productive Sectors Development Programme (PSDP) in Lebanon, in cooperation with the LEE Experience. PSDP is a joint UN programme, funded by the Canadian government under the Lebanon Recovery Fund and implemented jointly by the ILO, UNIDO, FAO, UNDP, ILO, UNWOMEN and UNICEF that aims to support gender-responsive job creation and economic opportunities in the agriculture and agro-food sectors prioritizing women and female youth in disadvantaged areas.

Photo by Joya Baradii
The initiative also aimed to encourage the entrepreneurship spirit of women and youth working in the agricultural and agri-food sectors in Lebanon through a real-life business-oriented competition.

Photo by Charbel Farah - The Lee Experience
Forty shortlisted candidates presented their ideas on how to further develop their businesses to a jury composed of eight judges from different organizations and technical backgrounds after benefiting from a total of 9 days of training and coaching through ILO’s regional “Women Do Business” entrepreneurship program, followed by an “advanced business resilience” tailored training to enhance the sustainability of selected participants. The candidates were shortlisted based on attendance, grades, and trainer’s evaluation.

Photo by Joya Baradii
20 winners were selected and have received a small fund each to support them implementing their business plans. The competitors were judged based on their level self-confidence and preparedness, in addition to the environmental and social dimensions of their projects.

The winners included producers of organic food, herbal oils and olive oil.

This experience was a learning opportunity. We have extended our knowledge and we have also learned new means to improve our business. The pitching event and being a winner was exciting. We can work on a new range of products in order to satisfy our costumers’ needs and improve our business."

Hind Said Nehme – owner of Hestia.

The opportunity of a lifetime! I’m immensely happy for winning and making this kind of achievement in my life. I want to be an active and independent member in my society who is able to establish a business, make profits and provide for my three daughters without relying on anyone.

Laila Boukdal, owner of Monet Dayetna

I believe that throughout this program, I learned many eye-opening things about business, which pushed me to improve and work harder on my project. Finally, after reaching the final level with my successful colleagues, I felt that all of my hard work had paid off, and I intend to continue learning to ensure that my business thrives as it should

Edgar Gergi Muller, owner of Eleven N Living Olive Oil

I cannot express how happy I am for winning. This is an outstanding achievement for me. I can now grow my business with more confidence and steadiness. I will also officially register my company.

Nermine Abdallah Hawa, owner of Pomegranate Molasses.

I was anxiously waiting with my family for the announcement of winners, and when I saw my name among the winners, I could not believe it! What a wonderful educational experience it has been. Thank you ILO and the LEE Experience for all your efforts and we’ll hopefully make you proud.

Joumana Maurice Mansouraty – owner of Les Delices De Joumana
Initially, the ILO has conducted a progressive training cycle, starting with 200 women-led and men-led MSMEs and Entrepreneurs who received a training entitled “Women Do Business”, followed by an advanced “business resilience” workshop with 100 selected beneficiaries who presented a business plan at the end of their participation. 40 beneficiaries were selected for the business plan competition event.

The ILO and LEE Experience have been coaching existing and newly established MSMEs on entrepreneurship, feasibility studies, sales and marketing. The coaching has prioritized women and youth start-ups in the fruit, vegetable and nut production value chains, which have a high potential for job generation for both women and youth.

From left to right, Senior Development Officer in the Embassy of Canada Alexandra Santillana, ILO Project Officer Rami el Hassan and Christel Hanna, UN PSDP Programme Coordinator. Photo by Charbel Farah – The Lee Experience.
The event was attended by the Senior Development Officer in the Embassy of Canada Alexandra Santillana, PSDP team members from the Resident Coordinator Office, the six participating UN organizations and implementing partners, Academia, ILO partners and SME consultants, in addition to the 40 selected beneficiaries targeted from the North of Lebanon and Akkar with a majority of women business owners and entrepreneurs. All participants underlined the ongoing need to support employment creation and inclusive economic growth in light of the multiple economic challenges facing Lebanon.

"'The Women Do Business' competition was a great opportunity for women entrepreneurs to show their talents, knowledge and skills gained through the training provided by ILO and The LEE Experience. It was challenging for the members of the jury to select the 20 winners since all the participants showed Excellency and professionalism in their presentation. Canada is proud to continue promoting women’s economic empowerment in Lebanon." said Alexandra Santillana - Senior Development Officer in the Embassy of Canada.

"It was a privilege to accompany these wonderful participants on their journey and I advise them to always seek new opportunities." added Rami el Hassan, ILO Project Officer.

“I admire the confidence these participants showed in their ideas. This motivates us, as United Nations to continue working on helping entrepreneurs and SMEs owners in growing their businesses.” Concluded Christel Hanna, UN PSDP Programme Coordinator.

Photo by Joya Baradii