Madi Suso is a blacksmith who owns a jewellery production centre in Soma. His business, Suso Brothers Trading, engages in manufacturing rings, necklaces, bangles and other jewelleries for sale. This is a family trade he learned at a young age. “I inherited this business from my family. We are known for this trade in the community. I learned the skills when I was very young, and it is something I love doing`.”

But Madi would abandon his business to seek for opportunities elsewhere because according to him the business was not paying his bills. “I embarked on the perilous irregular journey with the hopes of reaching Europe because the business at the time was slow and I was not earning enough money,” he said.

Few reasons explained why Madi`s business at the time was not flourishing. Madi, like many small business owners in rural areas, had little skills in entrepreneurship. He did not have the financial and management skills to run the business, therefore, making it difficult for the business to grow.

He was not keeping financial records of his business transactions. He did not even have a proper record of the inventory in his shop. There was also no strategy to separate the business finances from his personal finances. These compounded challenges almost led to the collapse of his business.

“My business almost collapsed. I did not know what was happening. My cash inflow was not positive, and I found it very difficult to grow my business. This partly contributed for me to embarked on the irregular journey because business was not profitable,” he said.

After a failed attempt to reach Europe, he voluntarily returned home. In 2019, he saw an opportunity on the European Union-funded Youth Empowerment Project Facebook page which motivated him to apply. When he applied, he was shortlisted and enrolled into the training programme. This marked the beginning of success for Madi and his business.

“The Andandorr programme turned the course of the direction of my business. Without the Andandorr Programme, my business would have collapsed, and I would not have been talking to you about business.”

The “Andandorr Programme” is an innovative entrepreneurship support programme launched in December 2019 and jointly implemented by various Business Support Organisations (BSOs) in The Gambia. The programme is supported by the International Trade Centre (ITC) through the European Union (EU) funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). At the core of the programme stands the spirit of “Andandorr” which means partnership in Wolof.

Madi learned a lot during the training but mostly important, he learned how to manage the day-to-day operation of the business, like financial recording and marketing his products both online and in the right markets.

Madi said: "before the Andandorr training, I was not managing the finances of the business. I treated the business as a personal property. I was unconsciously spending profits from the business without ploughing back into the business for growth. Now, I know how to manage the business.”

The training also provided him with a perfect opportunity to learn from other businesses. “During the training, I met different young entrepreneurs with different skills in their trades. I was able to network and learn from their experiences and knowledge.”

After the training, Madi opened a bank account in the name of the business enabling him to benefit from many financial services. “I was able to get a loan from the bank to buy more materials to produce more products. This would not have been possible without a bank account.”

Madi further received online coaching on how to manage his business by tapping from the opportunities available to him. His coach improved his networking and marketing skills by encouraging him to increase his presence on online platforms.

Although, still faced with few challenges, Madi has successfully grown his business. He supplies his products to most part of the country, thereby, making more income from his sales.

Madi has big plans for the future. He currently has two people working with him; however, he hopes to grow further his business to create more jobs for Gambians, especially young people and women. He also wants to train them in his area of trade.

“I want to expand my business to train and employ more young people. And I also want to open more shops across the country to sell my products,” he concluded.

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