Hatch, with funding support from the U.S. Department of State, recently concluded its Demo Day for AccelerateHER, Sri Lanka’s trailblazing accelerator program tailored for female entrepreneurs. The program marked the graduation of seven female founders, who showed remarkable progress and business acceleration throughout the 3-month program. The entrepreneurs made compelling pitches to an audience of investors, stakeholders, friends, and family, aiming to secure potential investment and support for their ventures.
Ruvanara Tillekeratne, AccelerateHER program manager for Hatch stated, “It has been an active few months for us and the entrepreneurs, filled with hard work and dedication, rigorous learning, invaluable mentoring, networking and astute business scaling. Witnessing the growth and transformation of these entrepreneurs has been truly inspiring and we owe this success to our partners and well-wishers, especially the U.S. Department of State, for wholeheartedly supporting this program.”
Addressing the seven female entrepreneurs graduating from the program United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung stated, “Innovative new startups are going to fuel the economy, helping improve the lives of families, communities across the nation and you are providing real life examples of female leadership that will inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. The United States is committed to supporting your endeavors, fostering entrepreneurship, and empowering women in business. Together, we will continue to drive innovation, create opportunities, and build a future in Sri Lanka where everyone can thrive and contribute meaningfully to our shared global progress.”
Among those graduating from the program was ‘Lak Nature’ a business that manufactures a variety of preservative-free, all-natural, ready-to-prepare food by utilizing the abundant supply of fruits and vegetables in Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the event, Lakmini Weerakkody, founder of Lak Nature stated, “My journey began when I came across a newspaper article on the excessive wastage of fresh produce in Sri Lanka. This inspired me to take action and find a way to utilize and minimize this waste. I’m also proud to mention that my factory staff is entirely made up of women, as I strongly believe in empowering and supporting women in the workforce.”
Another such enterprise at Demo Day was ‘Star Mushrooms’, a company that produces a range of value-added mushroom-based products.
Nimesha Perera, partner of Star Mushrooms stated, “The lack of vegan options for meat substitutes in the Sri Lankan market inspired my mother to establish Star Mushrooms nearly two decades ago. Recently, I joined as a partner, aiming to expand our business and bridge the void in nutritional vegan alternatives for food products in Sri Lanka.”
Agro Feed, a social enterprise from the Northern Province was another graduating startup specializing in transforming fish waste into poultry feed, showcasing an innovative approach to resource utilization.
Arupriya, the founder of Agrofeed stated, “The improper disposal of fish waste can cause significant pollution and environmental damage. To tackle this problem, I took the initiative to convert fish waste into valuable poultry feed. Even with my parents’ support in managing the business, it’s still challenging since I am also a student, and I must strike a balance between my academic commitments and running a business.”
Another innovative business featured at Demo day was ‘INGROW’, a healthy food manufacturing business providing gluten-free and natural food solutions.
Achinthya Neligama, Co-founder of Ingrow said, “The reason behind launching this enterprise was my personal struggle with gluten intolerance and the limited availability of suitable options in Sri Lanka. As a result, I began developing gluten-free products, and over time, we expanded our offerings to include products catering to diabetic individuals as well. Our focus has always been on using the finest, all-natural ingredients in crafting these products.”
Apart from the above businesses, Demo Day also featured other innovative and inspiring enterprises such as Nue Body Basics an artisan brand that formulates natural skin and personal care products, Barbet Apparel, an artisanal, ethical, and gender-neutral children’s clothing brand made with 100% cotton hand block printed fabric from Rajasthan, and The Makers Global an ed-tech company that provides fun and engaging STEM activities for kids.
In November 2021, Hatch introduced ‘AccelerateHER’ in partnership with the US Department of State. This initiative serves as an accelerator and a gender-focused awareness campaign, with the goal of nurturing female entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka. Hatch plans to expand AccelerateHer and many more programs centered on female entrepreneurship in the hopes of being a driving force of economic and social change in Sri Lanka.
Photo Caption – The AccelerateHer Graduates with the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung