UNDP helping to bridge the gaps in sustaining small businesses

The Menwo Soap Production Center has been operational since 2014 and has customers from Ganta and other surrounding cities.

Mewaseh Behyee runs the Menwo Soap Production Centre in the city of Ganta in Nimba County as its General Manager.

Behyee was among over 200 entrepreneurs who benefitted from the UNDP Business Opportunities Support Service Project (BOSS) training in 2017.

Behyee says that prior to the training, he lacked basic accounting and managerial skills to properly run his soap production factory. According to him, the UNDP/BOSS training exercise has added value to the daily running of the business.

Highlights

  • The Menwo Production Center sells soap both on a wholesale and retail scale. A bar of soap is sold at less than US$1.00 (LRD$25) while a carton containing 60 pieces is sold at US$9.00 (LRD$1,200).
  • Each week the Factory earns about $500US by selling over 2,000 bars of soap to customers.
  • The UNDP/BOSS training targeted small business owners in four Counties – Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa and Margibi, providing business development skills to help them improve the management of their enterprises.

“The UNDP training helped me a lot, to an extent that I know how to manage a business and to keep a very good record system,” Beyhee says.

He is assisted by other members of his family (six) including his wife Agnes, who is the Assistant General Manager to run the soap factory. Other family members serve as advisor, marketing manager and sales agents.

The UNDP/BOSS training targeted small business owners in four Counties – Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa and Margibi, providing business development skills to help them improve the management of their enterprises.

Since 2014, the Menwo Soap Production Center has been operational and sells hand-made soap to many customers from Ganta and surrounding cities, villages and towns, as well as from Grand Gedeh, the Guinea border and even as far away as Monrovia.

Behyee is excited that with the knowledge acquired from the training, he’s able to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with his business and is proud to report that profits have also improved.

“A good record system helps a business to grow and it maximizes profits,” he says. The company sells soap both on a wholesale and retail scale. A bar of soap is sold at less than US$1.00 (LRD$25) while a carton containing 60 pieces is sold at US$9.00 (LRD$1,200). Each week they earn about $500US by selling over 2,000 bars of soap to customers.

He went further to mention that he’s now in a better position to register his business, alleviating the fear he had in the past of doing so.

“At first, I was afraid to register my business. I had thought that when my business is registered, the government would collect too much from me. But, now I know that registration of my business will protect my business and gain the trust of partners working with me,” he says.

Despite his growing business and his happiness with the work, he says that making soap by hand can be tedious. It takes over three days to produce the soap with each step taking several hours a day. Even the stamping of the logo on the finished products is an overwhelming experience, also done by hand.

To help Mewo Soap Production Centre grow and become more efficient – UNDP/BOSS is helping Behyee to buy an automated stamping machine. This will cut down on the time they spend making soap.

One of UNDP’s priorities in the upcoming year is to also help Liberia’s small business owners to access bank loans and properly manage the repayments. This is a welcome activity, seeing as many small businesses lack capital, which stifles any potential growth.

This kind of support network across Liberia’s small businesses will help stabilize the overall economy. Behyee is also doing his part to support this network. While he supports the education of several youth and children in his community, he goes the extra mile sharing his knowledge gained from the UNDP/BOSS training, to mentor other people to make a business like his.

“At least five members of the community have acquired soap making training from my center. They are now taking care of their families and sending their children to school,” Behyee says.

BOSS is a UNDP-supported project in partnership with the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Commerce. It was established to enhance decentralization and support micro, small and medium enterprises policy implementation in Liberia through the establishment of Business Support Service Centres at the county level.

The project is key to the implementation of the small business empowerment act and the micro small and medium enterprise (SMEs) development in Liberia and helps strengthen the capacities of youth, women and agri-producing enterprises.

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