- Chrysalis launches an online platform for female entrepreneurs
By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
The world of business and entrepreneurship tends to be dominated by men, while women are rarely placed on equal footing and struggle to find similar opportunities or recognition. However, efforts are being made to change this, among which is the “Made by Her” platform established by Chrysalis, with the support of the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka, CARE Netherlands, and Deutsche Bank AG Colombo Branch.
“Made by Her” is an online platform for women to grow, thrive, and inspire, and opens doors for female entrepreneurs to take their products and services to not just a larger market within Sri Lanka, but also across the globe. While the platform can be accessed at www.madebyher.lk, attendees were given the opportunity to browse and purchase items at the launch, held last week.
A holistic approach to transforming communities
At the launch of the platform, Chrysalis Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ashika Gunasena spoke about the purpose or objective of “Made by Her”, saying: “‘Made by Her’ is enabling our conviction that women and youth are the drivers of change in this country. Without their potential, this country will not be able to fulfil its potential.”
Gunasena explained that since its inception in 2016, Chrysalis has worked to transform communities and institutions to embrace diversity, and catalyse inclusive growth, promoting economic independence and dignity of work for all, especially women and youth.
To date, Chrysalis has worked with nearly 250 micro, small, and medium enterprises led and managed by women, and has enabled the start-up and growth of these enterprises, generating nearly 4,000 direct and 14,000 indirect employment opportunities.
Their approach is a holistic one, Gunasena explained, adding that instead of limiting their efforts to supporting these enterprises, they also undertake research, especially to understand what women experience in this sector, which in turn provides information and knowledge that enables them to fix these issues.
The team behind Chrysalis believes this model helps them to make a systems’ change.
Gunasena went on to say that they felt it was important to create a platform through which women can access services like marketing, value addition, and quality control, and also build solidarity.
“It has been truly amazing what can happen when women connect with each other from across the country,” she said, adding that they will start with 15 enterprises.
She believes this platform will enable women to navigate the ongoing economic crisis as well as crises we will experience in future.
Helping enterprises grow
Chrysalis is among this year’s recipients of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, through which a number of organisations are supported annually. Counsellor for Political and Trade at the High Commission of Canada Daniel Bood, representing Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, addressed the gathering, saying Sri Lanka is home to many entrepreneurs who produce quality products, but that too often, these products only reach a limited client base. This is especially the case for enterprises based outside of Colombo.
“Chrysalis has long been working with [small and medium enterprises] SMEs employing women and led by women to help them build their marketing capacity, and expand their access to marketing. The “Made by Her” ecommerce platform is the culmination of those efforts, and will help these enterprises grow and thrive.”
Bood went on to say that the emergence of online solutions to connect producers and clients, in Sri Lanka and abroad is increasing, and is “proving to be an efficient way to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Sri Lanka, especially at a time when women disproportionately face the impacts of both the pandemic and the current economic downturn”.
He further added: “Women and girls are powerful agents of change. And their participation in the economy not only improves their own lives but also those of their family, their community, and their country.”
Charitha Dumbarage, representing Deutsche Bank Colombo, spoke about sustainable investment, as opposed to charity, which he said is an ethos that Deutsche Bank and Chrysalis share.
“Deutsche Bank has been operational in Sri Lanka for forty-plus years and even though we don’t publicise it a lot, CSR (corporate social responsibility) is a big part of our operation in Sri Lanka. Women’s empowerment has always been on the radar but I’d say this is our first initiative that really, truly invests in women’s empowerment.”
He added that there is no better time than now to support this programme, as the country, and women entrepreneurs in particular, are going through a difficult time.
What does ‘Made by Her’ mean for entrepreneurs?
Giving us a better idea of the impact a platform like “Made by Her” will have on female entrepreneurs was RHS Bee Honey Propriety Sanjeewani Perera, whose products are available on “Made by Her”. She explained that she comes from Hasalaka and is a social entrepreneur working in the bee honey industry.
They collect bee honey from wild areas like Meemure and Hasalaka, she said, adding that they make various value-added products. “Every year, we introduce a couple of products to the market,” Perera said.
“I’m really excited to join ‘Made by Her’ because it gives a hand to upcoming small business owners like us, so I have hope that this is going to be a big opportunity for us. And I am very grateful to say that this platform is going to bring hope for us.”
PHOTOS KRISHAN KARIYAWASAM