On Monday 14 November, 11 top start-ups from across Sierra Leone gathered at the Sensi Hub in Freetown for five days alongside seasoned mentors who helped critically analyse their businesses and to define new growth opportunities.

They gathered for Unreasonable Labs: Sierra Leone’s first Business Model Validation Lab, a five-day intensive training programme that prepared them to secure customers, build prototypes, identify key cost drivers of their businesses, build strategic plans and much more.

“These entrepreneurs were something special. They have the kind of creativity and zeal that it takes to tackle big problems and to create jobs with innovative business solutions,” explained Unreasonable Lab Sierra Leone’s Business Model Validation Lab Director Kim Beevers. “This was a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to participate and to foster an emerging ecosystem and to connect with other new and experienced entrepreneurs and investors that will help to drive growth in Sierra Leone.”

In those five days, in addition to receiving guidance in testing the core assumptions of their businesses, participating entrepreneurs had the opportunity to engage with other like-minded business people and receive valuable advice from experienced mentors.

“It’s the responsibility of entrepreneurs with some experience like me to mentor new companies and emerging leaders that can change the country’s future, helping it grow and making an impact with a commercial imperative. That was our mission over the five days,” said Brendan Sullivan, lab mentor and head of regional expansion for Impact Water, a social enterprise that provides clean water for 500,000+ students across Africa.

On the last day of the lab, the participants presented their week’s work to a team of judges. A first-place prize of USD 3,000 and a second-place prize of USD 1,500 were awarded to the entrepreneurs that best showcased a strong pathway to business growth. The first-place prize went to Claudette Ahiabor and Isatu Favour, co-founders of CBBA Incorporated. They are the producers of a variety of scented liquid soaps and pineapple juice. As the winners, their plans are to expand their detergent product line and increase brand visibility.

At a close second was Mohamed Bah & Mustapha Katta co-founders of Skytech, a company that provides marketing, research and media services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)’s in Sierra Leone.

“Sierra Leone has never hosted a lab of such nature. We look forward to continuing to build an entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Christopher Kebbie, Unreasonable Lab team member.