Students studying at a Business Development School in Sierra Leone

From being stationary to starting my stationery business.

This story is a part of our 10 years of Restless Development Celebrations; Becoming Restless, Changing Development.

Since 1985 we’ve been helping young people take control of their lives and help their communities, and ten years ago we transformed to be more community-driven than ever. Abdul Mans-Kanu, now a Programme Officer at Restless Development, tells us how he became an entrepreneur and a community leader. 

I had wanted to start my own business for a while, but didn’t know where to start.

One day when I was listening to the radio, I heard about a programme Restless Development was running for young people interested in entrepreneurship. I thought that the programme would be a great opportunity for me to build my skills, learn how to start a business and become the entrepreneur I wanted to be, so I applied. 

Abdul Mans-Kanu.

I was accepted and excited to start the six week course but the training centre was 15 miles away from my home, and the cost of transport was a challenge for me. Fortunately some family members agreed to cover the £2 per day for my transport. This was a lot of money for my community, but I was so determined that I was able to persuade my family to support me and started attending the sessions.

There were 100 of us taking part in the training and we learnt about financial management, market research, record keeping and everything else we needed to start our own businesses. The training culminated with us writing business plans that could be used to attract donors or investors if we had no capital. Restless Development were also offering around £1500 loans for the business plans with the most promise. It took time and patience, and all the knowledge I had learnt to make my business plan.

I was one of the winners and received the £1500 loan to start my business, but I wholly believe that with or without that loan I had gained enough skills and knowledge to successfully apply for loans elsewhere if I had needed to. 

I started my stationery business the same year and it quickly grew until I was able to employ three other young people. I took them on as apprentices and taught them everything I had learned. Some of them have moved on from the business now but we are still in touch and have expressed gratitude for the skills I shared, which have allowed them all to find success. 

Lamin’s Story

Lamin is another young entrepreneur who got his start through Restless Development’s Business Development School.

Read more about Lamin and his bakery.

Later I heard they were looking for a programme coordinator to join Restless Development as a member of staff, and I was successful in my application.

I’ve worked on a number of different projects with Restless Development since then, and I can say it has changed my life completely. I still use the skills I learnt in my community, and I am championing important issues. I never knew that I had something in me that would contribute to the development of my community and my country until I started at Restless Development. Now I know how much I am capable of doing.

The impact of COVID19

The pandemic and lockdown measures have impacted my business a lot, and all the others that were created through the Business Development School project.

In May I got in touch with 48 (of around 400 BDS businesses) and conducted a survey on how they were getting on. 

A lot of businesses that get their produce from far away have really struggled with the movement restrictions enforced. Others that sell their products at night were unable to do so due to curfews. And generally customers’ spending has reduced because people are worried about having enough money for food. A lot of the businesses were employing several other people before but have had to let them go.