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  • Writer's pictureHsu Htoo Nandar Aung

The Future is Bright: How to Foster Economic Resilience and Innovation Among Youth

ONOW is empowering youth in Southeast Myanmar, transforming lives through business launches, with coaching and digital connections.

business coach discussing business ideas with women

In today's global landscape, empowering youth with the necessary skills and resources to become successful entrepreneurs is crucial for economic advancement and prosperity. In Southeast Myanmar, this need is particularly pronounced, with challenges such as limited opportunities for income generation and a lack of business knowledge among young individuals. To address these issues, a collaborative effort between NGOs and ONOW has led to the implementation of an entrepreneur support and coaching program tailored specifically for youths in the region.

In coordination between INGOs (names withheld) and ONOW in 2023, our entrepreneur support programs reached more than 300 youths in southeast Myanmar, through a business model creation and coaching program, delivered through ONOW’s digital business support platform. This program addresses the issues of income generation for youth through business launches; empowering youth to develop the necessary business skills and confidence to launch their own business, and providing a coach for every business to navigate through each unique challenge.

a southeast asian snack stall in the market

At its core, the program aims to address the pressing challenges of income generation among young people by facilitating the inception of their own businesses. Through digital learning, and personalized coaching, participants gain experience with essential business operational skill sets, enabling financial capabilities, and the confidence needed to navigate the complexities of today’s marketplaces. This initiative not only kickstarts small businesses but also lays the groundwork for a thriving economic ecosystem, promising enhanced employment opportunities and economic advancement.

The impacts of this program have been profound and multifaceted, reflecting both potential and realized benefits for youth in the southeast of Myanmar:

  • Fostering Entrepreneurial Spirit:  During three months of participation, 315 ambitious young individuals were provided with critical business knowledge and skills, all through the convenience of digital platforms. This access to resources and coaching catalyzed the launch of numerous entrepreneurial ventures.

  • Cultivating Small Business Ventures: Armed with systematic business planning and supported by small grants from NGOs, participants have successfully translated their startup dreams into reality. This surge in a variety of small business launches has not only improved individual livelihoods but has also contributed positively to the local economy.

  • Nurturing a Growth Mindset: Through individualized coaching sessions, participants explored the essence of SMART goals, conducted monthly business health assessments, and developed strategies for long-term operational success and revenue growth. This approach has ingrained a growth mindset, essential for the enduring success of any entrepreneurial endeavor.

A testament to the success of the program is in the standout high conversion rate for a primarily digital program.

program conversion analysis
99% Completion Rate. Industry standards typically expect 15-20% completion of a digital program.

While most digital programs may achieve program completion rates in the range of 15% to 20%, considered acceptable by industry standard, nearly 99% of participants completed the rigorous program. This is a testament to the relevance of the content, the stickiness of the approach, and the individualized coaching support.

Entrepreneurship and business are not topics which can “trained” in a vacuum. Instead, people learn business by conducting business.

program business launch outcome analysis
40% into business. A sign of a successful programs will be found in how participants act in the real world.

While most digital programs focus on course completion, this program focused more intentionally on business operation as a sign of program success. As of March 2024, nearly 40% of those finishing the digital program and coaching continued on to an actual business launch. This is a great achievement, and is a credit to the intentional partnerships struck between ONOW and participating INGOs.

Success Stories: Nan Chit Chit Htwe

female business owner making her juices

Meet Nan Chit Chit Htwe, who was one of the participants who took part in our program. Living in the small village of Hlaing Kabar, Kaw Pa, Hpa-an township, she faced many challenges before finding her path of success through our program.

She faced the harsh reality of unemployment, in the midst of Covid-19 and political instability. With her family also struggling to make ends meet, she felt uncertain about her future and her days were filled with the burden of joblessness, the responsibilities of household chores and caring for her siblings.

When Nan Chit Chit Htwe stumbled upon a training program advertised on Facebook, she decided to take a leap of faith and enroll in the program despite her initial doubts and uncertainties.

She shares that ONOW program broadened her horizons by offering digital lessons on business modeling and financial management, complemented by personalized coaching sessions for crafting her business plan.

“I never imagined myself starting a business at this point in my life. I used to believe that starting a business was only possible with lots of capital. Starting a business seemed like a dream that could only be accomplished someday in an uncertain future.”
“Coaching sessions made me more motivated and encouraged to start a business. I was able to identify my weaknesses and potential threats to my business idea.”

However, Nan Chit’s journey was not without its challenges. She says "When I talked to my family about starting a drinks shop, they were very doubtful saying I wouldn't succeed, especially with two competitors in the village, they questioned who would buy from me. I felt a lot of pressure but I decided to go for it, as coaches also encouraged me and made me motivated. Now, things are going well. People in the village are showing interest and buying our juices.”

An AI-rendered small juice stand, typical in Southeast Asia

It's early still, as Nan Chit Chit Htwe has been running her business profitably for over a month. But, she already took the initiative to teach her cousin how to prepare beverages, and together they also opened a store in front of her sister's house. Their shop offers a variety of fresh juices and sodas, including flavors like blueberry and kiwi. Additionally, she sells fried gourds and other snacks alongside the drinks.

Nan Chit proudly shares, "We earn around 20,000-30,000MMK every day (~4x a typical living wage), and I plan to expand our offerings by introducing more home-made snacks and 'Mote Te'. I learned to observe customer needs and wants well. I have become wiser with my spending and regular track the finances for my business.”

“I now feel more confident, independent and fulfilled than ever before. I have plans of opening a small restaurant in the future. I am now able to contribute income for my family”.

Looking Ahead: Enhancing Impact through leveraging AI integration and Collaboration

As we celebrate the success stories and impact achieved through our programs, ONOW remains committed to pushing boundaries and exploring new horizons in entrepreneurship support. Our journey doesn't end with launched businesses; it extends to continuous innovation and empowerment for entrepreneurs. To unlock new levels of efficiency, productivity, and success for entrepreneurs, we aim to integrate AI-driven solutions to offer scalable, personalized coaching and support frameworks.

Explore further into ONOW's continuous journey of exploring innovative solutions to enhance the value we offer to the MSMEs we support. Gain deeper insights by delving into our articles RAG to Riches: How Data Engineering Empowers Micro-Business Growth and Measuring Impact Through Innovation, which provide perspectives on ONOW’s strategies, methodologies, and unwavering dedication to creating meaningful impact in the entrepreneurial landscape. So, stay updated on our latest developments and be part of a community dedicated to driving sustainable economic growth through entrepreneurship.

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