Last Tuesday, October 13th 2020 to be precise, marked the day our first Cohort graduated from the Pre-Accelerator Program! All seven startups went through a rollercoaster over the past months – they started the program in February to develop their business ideas, but then COVID19 arrived, and the program was converted to a digital form of coaching. From August 25th we’ve been back in the office in Freetown. During the last few weeks, the focus was on telling one’s personal story and how to pitch it. With COVID19 still around, the graduation had to be in a different setting than originally planned. All startups still performed their pitches, but with a smaller audience. However, we still managed to create the feeling of an official pitching event by inviting some of our previous guest speakers and other friends.
For us at Aurora, this moment creates the perfect opportunity to look back on the past months and to remind ourselves of the great moments we’ve had and the inspiring guest speakers that we welcomed during the program.
4th March 2020 – Alexandre Tourre
During the program´s ideation phase, Alexandre Tourre, CEO & Founder of EasySolar, gave a motivational talk about starting a business in Sierra Leone. Alexandre talked about, amongst other things, the importance of doing market research before deciding to take the leap, and about the failures they experienced along the way that taught them important lessons to run their business successfully.
10th March 2020 – Henry Henrysson
As the program moved forward, so did the students. To complement the sessions focusing on developing one’s business idea, Henry Henrysson, a lecturer at the University of Iceland, held an interactive session on critical thinking. During this session, the students were challenged to question and analyze their judgements and habits and were reminded to never take any assumptions for granted.
17th March 2020 – Ajara Marie Bomah
Just in time before the COVID measures were implemented, Ajara Marie, founder, and creative director of Women Mean Business, held a lecture on the importance of developing a brand identity. She engaged the students in a session during which they were asked to think about their personal, authentic story, how to convey this story and to develop their brand accordingly.
21st September 2020 – Michael Kamara
In September, Michael from GGEM paid a visit to Aurora’s office and, together with his colleague Emmanuel Kanneh, arranged an informative session about the do’s, don’ts and regulations about microcredit. With several branches spread across Sierra Leone, Michael has worked with an infinite number of entrepreneurs and SME’s and he incorporated his experiences and some success stories of using microcredit to fund one’s business.
22nd September 2020 – Margaret Kadi
Last but not least, Margaret Kadi from Pangea was the last guest speaker during the first Cohort. Pangea started operating in 2015 and is a lifestyle brand that only uses local, Sierra Leonean, materials. Margaret talked about her journey as an entrepreneur, her vision towards having an international standard for her business and the work they have been doing in cooperation with different international NGO’s.
We are very grateful for their generosity to donate their time and energy to support, inspire and motivate each and every entrepreneur from the first Cohort, and we can’t wait to welcome them back when the second Cohort will kick off!
Besides the guest speakers, we would also like to express our thanks to the mentors involved in the first cohort. Part of the Pre-Accelerator program entails that each start-up gets a mentor appointed tailored to their needs. The mentors have challenged the start-ups and assisted them where needed throughout the program.
Finally, we would like to thank Byte LTD, our partner in organising ICT courses, for offering a free Excel crash course to the start-ups. During this short course the entrepreneurs learned the necessary Excel basics to keep trach of their start-up finances.