Lebanon has faced a series of unprecedented events since 2019, with negative repercussions impacting society as a whole. However, behind the scenes, organizations have been working tirelessly to revive parts of the country through strategic programs, mentorship and funding. The belief in Lebanon and its talent remains ever so prevalent.
One such organization is Izdihar Libnan, supporting entrepreneurs in Lebanon with holistic business packages to promote meaningful employment, create a positive community impact, and contribute to sustainable economic growth.
BDD’s team sat with Samir Raad (SR), Executive Director of Izdihar Libnan, to discuss the power of Lebanese entrepreneurs, the funding needed for the ecosystem to thrive, and global support being received.
BDD: Why did you set up Izdihar Libnan to begin with?
SR: Since the eruption of nationwide protests in October 2019, Lebanon has faced compounding economic, financial and political crises. The economic turmoil has made it extremely difficult for businesses to continue operating and, consequently, for consumers to access the food and supplies they need to survive. From July 2021 - July 2022, the average monthly cost of essential items has escalated dramatically: food prices have increased by 240%, utilities by 110%, and transportation costs by 354%. According to a survey conducted by UNICEF in June 2022, 84% of households could not afford basic necessities.
To respond to the ongoing societal needs, Izdihar Libnan was formed in September 2020, to support entrepreneurs for a more prosperous Lebanon.
BDD: Since its founding, what response have you seen from the business and entrepreneurial community?
SR: The response has been amazing. There are so many talented entrepreneurs in Lebanon with business ideas that can bring a real positive impact to the current situation in the country. We, at Izdihar Libnan, are fortunate enough to have started our journey in supporting social entrepreneurship in Lebanon
BDD: Despite the crisis, Lebanese entrepreneurs continue to make headlines. What differentiates Lebanese entrepreneurs from others in the region and globally?
SR: The Lebanese population is renowned for being creative, ambitious, and determined, and the innovative mindsets of Lebanese entrepreneurs is truly inspiring. Their desire to tackle issues and overcome economic impediments head on, is unlike anywhere globally.
BDD: But they face many challenges. What are the key challenges they face and how is your organization supporting them?
SR: Unfortunately, the challenges that entrepreneurs face in Lebanon can feel infinite. Izdihar Libnan has created a socio-economic development strategy to support entrepreneurs in Lebanon overcome these challenges by providing them with a holistic business package to promote meaningful employment, a positive community impact, and sustainable economic growth.
This is accomplished by providing tailored financial assistance, market driven business expertise and mentorship from Izdihar Libnan's Global Support Network to increase success, scale impact, and connect entrepreneurs with local, national, and international markets.
BDD: Do you have any tangible results or success stories that you can share?
SR: For our inaugural program, we are supporting EcoJoun, a waste management and composting business in Joun. In just five months, EcoJoun has:
This is one such success story that we hope to replicate in other industries and sectors, through our programs.
BDD: Where do you receive the funding for your initiatives?
SR: We were able to raise USD30,000 through a private fundraising round in 2021. Of which, USD20,000 has been allocated to the entrepreneur and the remaining funds have been assigned to cover administrative costs to operate Izdihar Libnan.
BDD: We see that you have a global network of mentors. What types of profiles do you have on board to support entrepreneurs?
SR: An integral component of Izdihar Libnan’s goal is the contribution and participation of the Global Support Network, which is composed of local and international humanitarian and business professionals with diverse perspectives and capabilities. They volunteer their time to be change agents for Lebanon. The functions of the Global Support Network include administrative organizational support, participating in the entrepreneurship application review panel and selection process, and being a member of the Mentorship Team for successful entrepreneurs.
EcoJoun, for example, is currently being mentored by a three person mentorship team. The focus of the mentors is monitoring, evaluation, and learning, as well as cash flow management, and solid waste management and recycling.
BDD: To scale your efforts and support more entrepreneurs, what do you need?
SR: Funding! The socio-economic development strategy that Izdihar Libnan is implementing is best placed to have a three person entrepreneurship cohort. To be able to financially support this strategy, Izdihar Libnan is seeking a USD100,000 grant. These funds would be able to support three entrepreneurs for one year and scale up the internal capacity of Izdihar Libnan.
To learn more about Izdihar Libnan, visit: https://izdiharlibnan.org/