For everyone else, 24th September 2017 was just any other Sunday. However, for six of Aidha’s alumni, it was anything but. Chosen from an initial group of 12, the finalists for Aidha’s Big Pitch were preparing for their final presentation at the Sunday campus, as an audience of friends and supporters gave them moral support. After weeks of studying, their efforts came down to this – a 5-minute presentation on their respective business plans, and the hope that they would be chosen to receive funding.
Written by: Michelle Tan
The air thrummed with a nervous energy as a panel of Aidha’s long-time volunteers took their seats, and offered some calming words of advice. The first presenter was Wiji, who found her passion for baking when her employer enrolled her in a course many years ago. Now, she wants to start her own online vegan bakery.
The next presenter was Luz, who by all accounts is an amazing cook. She aspires to bring Singaporean delicacies like Nasi Lemak and Chicken Rice to the Philippines and start a small restaurant in her hometown.
Juliet was third, and presented a unique idea – she plans to start a corn and rice mill in the Philippines with the hope of generating income for her family while also helping her community.
The most developed idea came from the fourth presenter, Marilyn, who has already started her water refilling business since November 2016. She hopes that with more funds, she can purchase even more equipment to ensure that everyone in her service area has access to clean water.
The fifth person to present was Dianasari, who wants to start a library café in her hometown in Indonesia. There is an extreme lack of libraries where she is from, and she wants to encourage reading amongst underprivileged populations.
Lastly, Tina has had an affinity for Mexican food ever since her employer took her on a trip to Cabo. She would love to start a Mexican fast food restaurant in Indonesia that uses local produce so that she can also support the local economy as well. An audible breath was released upon the conclusion of all six presentations, and there was a break for the audience as the judges huddled to deliberate. Over an hour later, the winners were announced.
The first prize of $1000 went to Marilyn, as her idea was the most concrete and the funds could be immediately applied. Second place went to Tina, who was ecstatic that she was one step closer to opening her Mexican restaurant. The rest of the alumni were ranked in the following order: Luz, Wiji, Juliet, and Dianasari.
Whilst understandably there was some disappointment, there was also great joy and wonderful camaraderie and sportsmanship from all of the participants. More importantly, all of the finalists were paired with one judge who had a personal interest in their specific projects and they will continue to receive mentoring sessions to further improve their business plans and assist them with their respective challenges.
We would like to thank all six participants for their courage, determination, and hope throughout this programme. If every one of these business plans succeeds, the world would surely be a better place for it.