- Prinson Thuraiaiya from Jaffna wins finalist slot in Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 category
Nimali Gunawardana from Ambalantota in the Hambantota District was crowned last night as the UK’s Youth Business International (YBI) Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 at an awards ceremony in London.
The award is endorsed by UK’s Prince of Wales and prior to receiving her award, she and other award winners had an audience with the Prince Charles.
The awards recognise the hard work and determination of young, underserved entrepreneurs who have created exceptional and sustainable businesses. YBI received over 80 entries for the Young Entrepreneur Awards this year from countries including China, India, Barbados, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.
Nimali runs a small-scale business named Nimali Chips and Fibre Mill, which produces and exports environmentally-friendly coir for mattresses and coir piths and more uniquely making coconut husk chips, which is a new industry.
Nimali, who comes from an impoverished background, was determined to overcome traditional ideas about women in Sri Lanka. However, a failed coir business venture and a lack of collateral meant that banks rejected her loan requests.
With the help of UK’s YBI member Youth Business Sri Lanka (YBSL), Nimali’s new business employs 13 people and is looking to generate a turnover of more than $ 39,200. And she is just 25 years old.
Nimali is one of seven children from an underprivileged family and she worked to pay for her higher education. Thereafter, to make ends meet, she became a machine operator in a garment factory. However, Nimali was determined to be independent and took steps to open her own business.
The chips are mainly sold to Tropicare, which exports them. Meanwhile, the coir piths are sold to a company in Embilipitiya in southern Sri Lanka, which exports them to Germany, Canada and the UK, where they are used in agriculture and to purify water. The coir for mattresses is supplied to a Galle-based company which exports them to countries situated at high altitude.
YBSL has praised Nimali’s determination and courage. “A woman running this type of business in Sri Lanka is pioneering,” said the YBI member. “She is a businesswoman with a future. The amount she has achieved within an eight-month period and her dedication and sacrifice is inspirational. She has overcome many traditional and gender barriers and she has grasped this business opportunity with both hands and run with it.”
Sri Lanka also produced a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 category. This award went to Prinson Thuraiaiya of Jaffna. Also supported by Youth Business Sri Lanka, Prinson’s unique and environmentally-friendly brass foundry business produces castings from waste metal.
Prinson Brass Products encompasses entrepreneurial spirit, sustainability and a positive social mission, YBI said.
The other two finalists were from India and China.