August 6, 2013

SPARK IGNITE: ‘Sink or Swim’

by Richard van Hoolwerff

The Birth of a TV Show

In Liberia entrepreneurship is somewhat of a novelty. A lot of people know what business is, however, a person may own a business selling random goods and many people call themselves businessmen and women, but the finer art of entrepreneurship is not something that is widely known or practiced.

The skills of seeing an opportunity, having the perseverance to overcome challenges, and the knowledge to innovate and grow your business need to be promoted much more.  This is something that we do through our business plan competitions.  We help people think differently, and challenge their own ideas and conceptions, teach them the basics of doing business and writing a business plan. We then give them the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the jury for an opportunity to have access to finance.  This, in and of itself is great, and we do this with passion and promote it through award ceremonies and workshops. So far, so good.

Is This Really the Best Way to Stimulate Entrepreneurship?

Is this all we can do to make sure people are aware of the challenges and, more importantly, the potential for success involved? In Liberia we thought we could do more.

Modeled on the British and American TV shows, Dragon’s Den, Shark Tank and the Apprentice, we developed our own show called, ‘Sink or Swim’.  The name embodies the endeavors the entrepreneurs embark upon, the challenges they face and the obstacles they have to overcome.

In the end they either sink or swim; they succeed or they don’t.  However the name also suggests there is support out there; there are lifeguards to help you out and instructors to support you through the rough waters. Support much like the BSC Monrovia offers.  The show was created by SPARK, BiD Network, BSC Monrovia and AAW Peace.  Months of planning, meetings, and discussions resulted in a grand master plan with an MOU between all partners involved.  And then the real work began.

‘Sink or Swim’

‘Sink or Swim’, or SOS for short, tells the story of participants in the BSC Monrovia’s IT Business plan competition 2013.  They are filmed at every stage of the game; from when they first enter, right up to the grand finale.  Every moment is captured on video; the training, the special pitch coaching, the IT workshops organised by iLab, as well as all the trials and tribulations along the way.

Those who do reach the grand finale have to pitch their business plans to the jury members, named ‘the lifeguards’ for the sake of this TV show. The grand finale took place yesterday, 1st August. The entrepreneurs unveiled their plans, presented their business ideas and laid their future ambitions in the hands of the jury members. The show was presented by Himieda Wallace from the BSC Monrovia and Barkue Tubman from AAW Peace.

Raising Awareness of Entrepreneurship in Liberia

The show was a great success and, most importantly, we have our winners.  The final editing has begun and we will soon have the first episode of ‘Sink or Swim’.  The show will be broadcast on Liberian television, Power TV, and copies will be sent to video clubs and small venues around every town and city in Liberia where Liberians gather to watch television, films and football.  This will certainly raise awareness of entrepreneurship in Liberia.  It will show people the difficulties as well as the rewards.  And for you, our international audience we will broadcast the episodes for you through YouTube.

*Richard van Hoolwerff is the Country Manager for  SPARK Liberia