Africa: 2 Liberian Entrepreneurs Win U.S.$15k From Cummings Africa Foundation

-Foundation vows to support Liberian entrepreneurs

In what appears to be an empowerment summit by the Cummings Africa Foundation ended this week with a deep smiles on the faces of two Liberian entrepreneurs.

Folton Blasin, finance officer of the "Say No to Hunger" and Satta Wahab, Chief Executive Officer of "Naz Naturals" emerged as the winners of the competition after a participation by 100 entrepreneurs.

Satta Wahab of "Naz Naturals" won US$5,000 in grants from the foundation, while P. Folton Blasin, who represented "Say No to Hunger", walked away with US$10,000 as first winner. Naz Naturals is involved into various hair products, while Say No to Hunger is involved in agriculture activities in central Liberia.

Cummings Africa Foundation said the financial support to the two winners is intended to financially empower Liberian businesses, many of whom are struggling to grow amid the tough economic situation in the country.

The competition was intended to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their brilliant ideas to improve or scale their businesses, according to the organizers. They were selected through a competitive process and selected as winners out of a hundred contestants.

Ms. Wahab said the competition was a challenge, especially being the only woman among the remaining six males. But again, she said, "we have to work hard and twice as much as our counterparts (men) to get what men will get easily."

According to her, coming into the competition as the only female, she had to sit and think about the fact that amongst the final contestants, she was the only female.

"I had to work hard to represent us. I had to work hard." She said she will invest the grant into her business to make it stronger and more competitive, Ms. Wahab said."

Blasin, whose business is based in Nimba County, said the US$10,000 will help the business support the empowerment of more women, especially those who are single parents.

Mr. Blasin said "Say No to Hunger" also aims to bring more vulnerable youths out of poverty and hunger by giving them employment to earn a livelihood.

Currently, Mr. Blasin said "we are the major vegetable cooperative. With this amount, we plan to give financial assistance to single mothers and vulnerable youths. We want them to leave the street and find a livelihood, especially encouraging people to get involved in agriculture."

Blasin said about two weeks ago, his cooperative was certificated by the Cooperative Development Agency as a national Cooperative. Now, he says, being the winner of the Nationwide Entrepreneurship summit means a lot.

"With this award, we are going to produce more fresh vegetables and pork meat on the Liberian market. Agro business is key to nation-building and thanks to my hardworking and very committed team."

Entrepreneurs from all levels of the Liberian business benefitted from the 2-day summit sponsored by the "Cummings Africa Foundation," intended to promote innovation, idea sharing, and Inspiration.

The summit under the Cummings Africa Foundation is the first in Liberia. The Liberia Entrepreneurship summit appeared to be the most comprehensive business conference of its kind that brought together scores of Liberian business owners.

The summit focused on knowledge sharing, business identification, seminars and masterclasses facilitated by industry experts.

The overarching goal of the summit was to equip Liberian businesses with knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to position their businesses to be drivers of the Liberian Economy.

Blasin added that his organization was proud to receive the prize from Cummings Africa Foundation.

"The process was tough with a high degree of competitiveness to convince a team of high-level panelists about our business idea and proposal among over one hundred entrepreneurs across Liberia and to finally emerge as number one," he said.

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