Creative Isle with Colombo City Centre launches platform to support micro-entrepreneurship
By Dimithri Wijesinghe
On 28 August, Creative Isle in collaboration with Colombo City Centre (CCC) launched the weekly, three-day Ceylon Artisan Network (CAN) Weekend Market at The Atrium at CCC. Created as a platform to support micro-entrepreneurship across the island, the market will take place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10.30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The launch event welcomed Chief Guest, Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharan and a panel of guest speakers including Dian Gomez and Dilith Jayaweera.
“There are many talented entrepreneurs in our country, but they lack opportunity. Foundation of Goodness is all about empowering such individuals,” Muralitharan shared.
According to Creative Isle Founder Keshini Ann Suraweera, this is the primary purpose of the project. “The crux of this project was birthed during the Covid-19 lockdown, when many creative entrepreneurs experienced a downward trend in growth, stunting their ability to continue with their business efficiently. Identifying the gap in the current business landscape, I wanted to provide local vendors with a space where they could showcase their raw talent, which otherwise may have been undiscovered simply due to the lack of a platform to present themselves.”
She also shared that they have taken steps beyond simply providing them with a marketplace. They have also collaborated with the vendors in order to survey and evaluate their product to further the product in a way that it is widely marketable and of export quality.
The weekend market features vendors from around Sri Lanka showcasing their export-quality products at wholesale rates, whilst allowing them the opportunity to form new trade partnerships with bulk buyers. Focusing on sustainable and community-driven businesses, the market will consist of home and lifestyle products, fashion accessories, artisan food products, herbal teas and Ayurveda cosmetics, soaps and fragrances, etc.
Suraweera also shared that the CAN Weekend Market further supports and features recycle and upcycle initiatives and products, and will be an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative products and services to the B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) markets.
Speaking at the launch in support of the initiative, Dilith Jayaweera stated: “I am passionate about entrepreneurship and commend this initiative. Sri Lanka needs to recognise true entrepreneurs and value innovators.”
The CAN Weekend Market has received immense support from partners such as CCC, the Foundation of Goodness, National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a bid to further uplift Sri Lanka and support its SMEs (small and mediam-sized enterprises) and entrepreneurs who are most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative also welcomes on board Scope Cinemas as the cinema partner and Antyra Solutions as the social media partner.
We spoke to a number of the vendors at the event as well, who all shared similar sentiments about how, despite being quite drastically affected by the pandemic, this has been a great opportunity.
Theodore’s Bakery shared: “I have been a home baker only for the past three months, and I already have fast-moving items. The management has accommodated all of our requests. The fact that they are able to cut out a middleman has been a great help; there is flexibility and even the time slots (are) given. We were told that this would continue every weekend, and the constraints that come with being a home baker are manageable within this arrangement.”
Bhagya Kandage from Fytó Cactus and Succulent said: “We are so grateful for the organisers; having an event like this helps out with brand imaging as well as sales. Knowing we will get a crowd to take a look at our product is invaluable. We mainly rely on our online store, but also pop-ups, because it allows our customers to come and touch the product and get a feel for it, and that hasn’t been possible with the pandemic.”
Nadeera Silva from S&N Products shared: “We have had our business up since 2013. We sell 100% natural products and this has been one of the greatest opportunities for us as we often get sales through an intermediate person who then plasters their brand name on our product. We would really like to promote our name, and this initiative has allowed us a platform, and brand and marketing guidance to effectively pursue that.”