Achol has been running businesses in and around Aweil since the 1990s, when she had to find a way to support her two children during the war.
“I was looking for a way to be independent. I have girls, no boys, and in our culture that means they will not inherit anything. I’ve worried for long about how will I give my girls opportunity,” she said.
Achol views the skills gained during UNDP’s recent Entrepreneurship Training Workshop as a pathway to achieve her dreams of providing her girls with an education and more flexible life options.
Over 70 entrepreneurs completed the programme, designed to catalyze the growth of innovative and locally competitive micro, small, and medium enterprises in Aweil. The training was funded by the Government of Japan and is one aspect of UNDP’s efforts to restore livelihood and productive capacities as part of an integrated recovery and resilience response.
“This training was a surprise to me. I’ve had businesses in the past but I never had the training to get good at it. It was only ever at a subsistence level. What I was taught [at the workshop] was to use the skills within you to get started. Use the trust you have built in the community around you,” she reported.
A core component of the training is the “Business Create Exercise”, which involves each participant launching and conducting a new business within the span of the six-day workshop itself. The participants are provided no additional capital to begin, and are required to independently identify opportunities, market gaps, and customers.
“I went home on the first day struggling to pick a business to create. Then, I looked at an old Indian cloth I owned with beads all over it. I took those beads and used local thread to make 15 new jewelry pieces out of that cloth. I started advertising here in the hall with participants and had a market immediately,” she said.
Through a combination of other business activities, Achol went on to generate over 80,000 SSP during the remaining five days of the training.
“I’ve learned that starting a business doesn’t necessarily require you to have money already, you can always find capital. I’ve also learned how to control costs, as well as gain and extend profits,” she said.
As her cohort finished the training on Saturday 26 May, Achol was beginning the search for land to build a restaurant.
“I recognize that my customer base for beads and jewelry is limited because people can’t really afford those type of things, and those that can are not a big enough population to sustain my business,” she said.
Now her plan is to test other kinds of businesses until she finds a sustainable and profitable long term option.
“If you come and see me in 5 to 10 years, my life will be different from the businesses I will launch. My message to others is to not give up on life even if the world feels against you. Don’t give up. Use what is within you. You can stand by yourself. If every one of us does this, especially women, we can change South Sudan for the better,” said Achol.