AccelerateHER: a meaningful catalyst for innovation and higher female labour force participation in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s first accelerator program tailored for the country’s female founders, AccelerateHER, which recently held its finale event ‘Demo Day’. The program’s six recent graduates presented their products and services and pitched for 

the opportunity to receive investment and support from partners in Sri Lanka, USA and other parts of the world in effectively taking their business towards global markets. 

The event which took place on 23 June 2022, was held at the Hatch premises and featured female founders in industries that included tourism, baby and mother care, sustainable fashion and food. These six founders spent the last three months going through a rapid and immersive business acceleration program, working with industry mentors, business advisors and subject matter experts. 

When Hatch launched ‘AccelerateHER’ in collaboration with the US Department of State in November 2021, it was intended as an accelerator and gender-based awareness-raising initiative, aimed at developing women entrepreneurs within the country. 

“When the US began this partnership with Hatch to start the AccelerateHER program last year, we envisioned that women entrepreneurs would reap the benefits. Their success is now our success, and I can’t think of a better investment”, said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie J. Chung, on Demo Day. 

Aside from the US Department of State, the program was supported by outreach partners, including Diversity collective, Youlead, WEconnect International, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Daily FT, TNL, Arteculate, Echelon, and Chokolaate. 

The six founders showcased on Demo Day included Shenuka Umagiliya Founder of Ba.La.Mu, Sashini Jinasena Founder of Leo the Label, Bhagya Sandakalum Founder of BlueFish, Shivani Tyronne Founder of Miris by IslandMom, Lasni Silva Founder of Lactoboost by Spice Carriage and Tina Lobo Founder of True by Tina. Hatch provided each of these female founders a platform to access the skills and resources needed to scale their businesses.

AccelerateHER’s women entrepreneurs benefited from Hatch’s mentors and experts who have deep industry, investment, and entrepreneurship knowledge from having worked across all stages of a startup. This collective experience, together with that of Hatch’s growing list of female alumni, is aimed at helping these female founders overcome gender-specific nuances that prevent women from succeeding in business through peer-to-peer learning, to become investor-ready.

The program allows a selected number of women entrepreneurs and their startups to take part in the three-month initiative, allowing them to collaborate and co-create together with the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem while also enhancing their knowledge and uplifting their businesses. 

Global studies show that businesses with women founders raise more money and build better results. Yet, women often dismiss entrepreneurship as an option due to its impact on their family lives and its high risk. However, these six talented women entrepreneurs have demonstrated that despite harsh economic conditions, with hard work and creativity you can exceed your wildest expectations for yourself. We hope that Accelerateher continues to be an important catalyst for higher female labour force participation in Sri Lanka” – Brindha Selvadurai, Hatch Co-Founder/CEO 

According to the Program Director for the accelerator program, Minuri Adasuriya, these female founders are a great example of what is possible with a true entrepreneurial mindset, being agile, pivoting and resilience to overcome the challenges we have today. 

In three short months, our AccelerateHER female founders secured 17 partnerships both strategic and retail partnerships worth well over 20 Million Rupees. 5 out of the 6 teams doubled their product lines and increased quantities by 100%. 70% of teams doubled their sales and revenue and 90% expanded their teams, making them employers for the first time ever and creating jobs in the economy,” said Adasuriya at the event. 

The event also confirmed that Hatch will further conduct island-wide boot camps in 2022, from August to November. These boot camps will be an extension of the 2-year AccelerateHER programs, with modules covering key stages of business development and empowering female entrepreneurs. 

A major focus of these boot camps will be placed on supporting women-owned businesses that are economically and sustainably viable. The boot camps will take place in areas such as Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Kurunegala, Batticaloa, and Jaffna. 

For Demo day live stream: https://fb.watch/e3RL7MJgWU/

For more information about the program and upcoming boot camps, visit https://www.accelerateher.asia/accelerateher-bootcamp.

Alvin Van Gramberg
alvin@hatch.lk