Supporting small informal businesses to grow – Mariama Mansaray shares her story

May 30, 2023
Mariama Mansaray in her shop

Mariama Mansaray beaming with smiles in her shop

UNDP/Janet Dabire

“Our community is very big, but  we lack health care facilities, pharmacies, and drug stores to seek medical attention when sick, so I decided to open this Chemist to serve my  community,  says Mariama Mansaray

This is how Mariama, a trained Laboratory Technology Technician in 2020 become a business owner in Torkpombu II, a sprawling community in Kenema  District when she opened a local chemist to sell drugs.

She started her business with SL 700,000 Leones and could only afford painkillers and a few medical items. “I used to make at least two trips to the wholesale pharmacy every day because I could only afford to buy a box each of the drugs I was selling and no one was willing to sell to me on credit”, she said.

Her business like many other small informal businesses, was not registered, and had no systems or any form of documentation. It was a buying and selling venture for drugs and medical items. 

In 2022, Mariama read about the UNDP Growth Accelerator Programme, and applied for support, she was selected as one of  34 (14 Formal and 20 Informal)  women and youth-led enterprises for the first cohort of the accelerator. 

The Growth Accelerator Programme focuses on supporting women and youth-led enterprises through tailored coaching, mentorship, and provision of business development services to strengthen their entrepreneurship skills, capacity, and planning for innovation as well as growth, and investment. For Mariama, the additional support provided has been a game changer for her enterprise.

“The Growth Accelerator Programme has changed my business completely and I see improvements already”, Mariama notes with a pride.

She has started formalizing her business by initiating the registration process with the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone for a patent Retail License. 

“Before this time, I never knew that when you are selling you need to keep records of the transactions, and talk to my customers in a nice way to make sure they return. I have taken steps to make sure my business is properly registered”, she said.

Mariama is looking forward to expanding her Drug Store. Her parents are building a new structure to house her enterprise.  She looks forward to consolidating the gains her business has made since joining the Growth Accelerator Programme.

The Growth Accelerator Programme 

In 2022, UNDP Sierra Leone together with the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MOYA), launched the Growth Accelerator Programme to support the economic and social growth of 55 innovative, viable, and ambitious Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with a particular emphasis on women and youth-led enterprises. The first cohort of 34 MSMEs (14 Formal and 20 Informal)  have received investments through grants, technical assistance, and mentorship

UNDP Sierra Leone Local Economic Development Team with Mariama after a monitoring visit

Mariama Mansaray with a Team from UNDP Sierra Leone's Local Economic Development Unit

UNDP/Janet Dabire