This post is the first in a series of three, as we introduce you to the three top finalists from June’s Entrepreneurship Challenge with Not For Sale and brand partner Spence Diamonds. Profiles for our third place winner, Esther, and second place winner, Benard, are also available on the Not For Sale blog.
Steps Toward Change
Our first place winner for this month’s entrepreneurship challenge with Spence Diamonds is Simon Marot Touloung! Simon’s brand-new sandal making business is only 4 months old, but shows great promise.
Originally from South Sudan, Simon came to Uganda in 2000 when he was just 8 years old. Simon moved around from one refugee settlement to another during his childhood and teenage years. While living in Rhino refugee settlement, Simon received a scholarship to attend university. After graduating, Simon eventually moved to Kiryandongo refugee settlement and joined together with 5 other refugee youth to found a peace building initiative called the African Youth Action Network (AYAN) in 2015. To date, Simon’s initiative has trained 162 refugee and host community youth in peacekeeping,, leadership and video editing.
The youth that Simon mentored through AYAN often complained that they didn’t have anything to do, or any way to support themselves. Simon decided that a shoe-making enterprise could be a good solution.
Using recycled tires and a borrowed sewing machine, Simon learned how to make stylish sandals from discarded materials.
In the past few months, Simon has trained and hired his first two youth sandal-makers, Willy and Pouk, with hopes to quickly expand and hire more youth! He hopes to set up a workshop that can train many youth in skills that they can someday take back to their countries of origin to open new businesses.
In addition to use funds to support his workers, Simon uses profit from sandal sales to continue funding AYAN. The funds that Simon received through the entrepreneurship challenge will be used to set up his training workshop and hire new employees.
If you’d like to learn more about the “why” behind the Entrepreneurship Challenge, you may read an introduction to the project, as well as our project wrap-up and initial impact report here on the Not For Sale blog. For regular updated on our impact-focused projects aand programs around the world, be sure that you’re signed up for our upcoming newsletters!