DATE: 13 DECEMBER, 2023

VENUE: Limkokwing University, Hill Station

THEME: Sustainable Fashion & Heritage

The monthly Freetown Pitch Night event is dedicated to celebrating and promoting groundbreaking ideas. This month’s pitch night was hosted at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Hill Station, Freetown, on December 13th 2023, and started from 4:30pm – 7:30pm bearing the theme: SUSTAINABLE FASHION & HERITAGE. 

Innovation SL is an entrepreneurship support-led organisation that is geared towards nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate growth, disruptive and value creating start-ups by creating a robust and efficient ecosystem that sow viable seeds for Sierra Leone innovators and business.

The event was hosted by Fatmata Turay, a staff at Innovation SL who started the event by welcoming the audience to the last pitch night event of the year. The event was initiated with a hearty welcome oration delivered by Mr. Francis Stevens George, MD/CEO of Innovation SL, who created a sense of purpose. He highlighted to the audience that “for entrepreneurs to work there should be a need for a pipeline where old and new ideas can thrive in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.” He further applauded Mr. Martin Michael, the MD of Mercury international, for making a ‘conscious decision’ to collaborate with Innovation SL through Freetown Pitch Night providing seed capital of $25,000.  He expressed his appreciation to the entire Innovation team for their dedication in making things feasible.

The Public Relation Practitioner of Mercury International, Mr. Caulker explained that since 2017 Mercury International has been engaging in corporate social responsibility. He further stated that they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and two out of the five sessions had exclusively been for female entrepreneurs.

The host, madam Fatmata Turay ushered the panel of judges to introduce themselves. The judges consisted of predominantly women, namely: Isatu Harrison (CEO Izelia Fashion World & Creative Hub Africa), Kadiatu Kamara (CEO Vivid Emporium), Beresford Bournes-Coker (Chief Operation Officer, Mercury International) and Joyce Abigail Coulson-Olowu, Lecture IPAM). At this point, pitchers were reminded of the rules, designated five minutes each to pitch their business ideas and two minutes allocated to both judges and pitchers to ask questions and to respond to questions being asked.

PITCH COMPETITION

The first pitcher for the night, Memunatu Bah who happened to be the CEO of Chocco Collection, is a young dynamic content creator and an innovative female entrepreneur who has a strong passion for fashion design. In the evolving world of clothing, Chocco Collection has been playing a vital role in the production of cloth in Sierra Leone. In that regard, most of the waste from the finished products were trashed out causing environmental degradation, especially landfill that has a negative impact of flooding.  As a young female entrepreneur, she developed a strong vision of decreasing landfill waste, bridging skills gaps more especially for girls and creating employment opportunities in sustainable fashion. She aimed to mitigate the problem of environmental degradation by using their textile waste to patch clothes into one-of-a-kind long lasting ones. She has been working assiduously to see every Sierra Leonean have access to sustainable fashion clothes, children’s decorative Arts and household pieces maid from the waste collected from her shop. 

The judges asked what she was offering that is different from her competitor? In her response, she is offering a kids collection. Her finishing torches are not like the regular patch work.  Another Judge asked about the process of collecting scrap materials? In her response, she told the judges that she collects waste textiles from her own Chocco collection to make different outfits. Another judges suggested that she should create a niche using scrap materials and also think about the kind of patch material because kids have sensitive skin.  A third judge asked how she can incorporate Africa into her work heritage? “I incorporate heritage in my work by sewing patches having the Sierra Leone flag” which depict our unique culture as Sierra Leoneans. The portrait also has an embodiment of our heritage creating a sense of patriotism by uphold and illuminating our neglected culture

The second pitcher Abigail Hawanatu Kamara from Dominion Fashion Wardrobe bags as the CEO and founder, a skilled entrepreneur and a certified seamstress, she has been in this business since 2018. As a certified seamstress, she has used to trash out her waste material causing environmental pollution. Recently, she decided to use her waste materials from her shop to produce bags, dresses and accessories symbolising the afrocentric nature of our culture. In a bid to solve environmental degradation, Dominion Fashion Wardrobe will be engaging in stockpiling of wasted/used materials. Due to the huge market size, they have decided to innovate the pyramid shape to design dresses as well as knitting and finishing style to streamline the fashion industry in Sierra Leone making their products unique and different from their competitors. 

During the Question & Answer session, the judges complimented Abigail Hawanatu Kamara for knowing  her target audience, and what they wanted,  however, they commented on her failure to talk about the composition of her team and the role played by each member.  She was further advised to have an idea of her operative cost as that will help her to have an idea of what the selling cost will be. Finally , she was asked by another Judge the cost of making the bag, to which she responded that it cost her le100 to make the bag and she sells it at a minimum price of  le500. 

The penultimate pitcher, John Sawo Koroma, told the audience that they  are designed to manufacture local Africa design bags, and run short skills training programs.The business has been in operation since the year 2000. They have been in a triangle of quality, comfort and affordable designs mixed with Sierra Leone heritage that are worth both home market and international market depicting our afrocentric nature. As a result of this innovation there are job opportunities especially for young  people by engaging themselves in tailoring work and the network of bag selling. 

According to the panel of judges, the product should have a portrait of your organisation by attaching your business logo onto your products. One of the judges asked how  they reduce waste to which he responded that they collect plastic waste from the street and recycle them into waterproof and attach them to the bags. This will prevent the bags from getting spoiled. 

The final pitcher Salimatu Jagitay,  the CEO of  Bella’s Designs is an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has been working with a team of three members: Ibrahim Salieu, Jeneba Barrie and Dogoluya Sachi Women’s group-Kabala, pitch on behalf of Bella’s Designs. Bella’s Designs  is an organisation whose aim is to preserve and celebrate our tribal cultural fashion sustainably where applicable. They envisage a change in the way people dress in Sierra Leone making them upholding and consuming more traditional dresses like the Leppi and woven cotton as opposed to Western fashion seamlessly. This will create the passion for both producers and designers to pay heed onto cultural heritage regardless of the complexity in producing them. To remedy the situation, they have been collaborating with local artisans, especially vulnerable women, and designers producing tribal clothes having modern designs that suit customers’ needs. It ushers economic sustainability by creating jobs that yield revenue for sustainable development.

The judges asked Salamatu how she planned to make her products sustainable. Response to the question is that, by promoting schools and the environment.  Another judge commented on the heritage aspect saying that her heritage design is well seen in her products such as the Leppi and the woven clothes. These are what our forefathers were wearing to celebrate their uniqueness as Sierra Leoneans. Therefore, bring it once again to the limelight of this generation is a picture of upholding and emphasising the beauty of our heritage  

ISSUING OF  Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW 2023) WINNERS’ CHEQUE

Mr. Francis Stevens-George was charged with the responsibility of handing over the cheques to the winners of the GEW event. He called on important stakeholders such as Mr. Chucks  from invest SL, Papa Njai from Milton Margai university, Joannes Hotagua and madam Mariama Korama, they issued out the cheques respectively, starting from the junior pitchers to the senior pitchers. For the junior pitchers Regina Kumba Turay of Operation Clean my Community  who emerged as the winner, won $1000 as a seed capital while Josephine Quee from Jojo’s Design, clinched the runner-up title having seed capital of  $ 500

For the senior pitchers  N’yillah B. Cawray of  Nyillah’s Design, emerged as the victor having a cheque of $ 2000 and Mariama Mbayoh of  “Kam Rent Ya” bagged the second position having a cheque of $1,500

GUEST SPEAKERS’ REMARK

Oswald Dundas, the winner of the October edition explained that the money that he won has been used  to  transform his Water Light Technology and tackle community issues, especially the carbon footprint.  His vision is converting trash into valuable resources, fostering a cleaner environment, and simultaneously generating employment opportunities. Additionally, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in renewable energy, which he affectionately calls “Crazy.” This innovation aims to supply clean and affordable electricity to communities, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. By addressing the challenges of limited access to reliable and affordable electricity and improving waste recycling, Oswald Dundas introduces the Water Light Technology V1 Battery and Water Light Technology V2 Battery, Which work by ionising an electrolyte made up of saltwater. This transforms the magnesium on the inside into electrical energy.

Mohamed Kamara from ‘Freetown Innovative Hub’ a place where conceived business ideas are made feasible, who is the co-founder explained how the hub has trained and established some business ideas. He maintained that  they are in the business of  recycling used tyres into house furniture such as: chair, table and christmas tree made out of tyres. The Hub also focuses on waste management by the recycling of tyres to minimise the potential health risk of Sierra Leoneans, the brand is committed to creating awareness about climate changes and its impact. He demonstrated a snippet of his work that depicted his successes. He applauded  Innovation SL as a major player that is also nurturing young people who are impregnated with potential business ideas.

Conclusion 

Conclusively, certificates were presented to all the pitchers respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared Salamatu Jagitay, from Bella’s Designs as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night. The programmes manager of Mercury Radio, Mr. Alexander Thullah presented the cheque of 72,000 new Leones as seed capital to the winner. A cheque of 48,000 new leones was presented to John Sawo Koroma, of CraftyBee as a seed capital. The event concluded with an atmosphere of exhilaration.

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