(MENAFN- Colombo Gazette)
Despite being faced with an uncertain economic future and gender-related barriers, women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka have risen to the challenge and demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability by turning to social media to not only sustain but to grow their businesses to new levels.
Meet Nishadi Gamage, a young woman from Yatinuwara who turned her dream of starting a business into reality. She came up with crafting hawi , a home-based business that actively uses social media as a primary tool to promote her handcrafted wedding invitations, wedding cake boxes, party invitations and similar handcrafted products. Her captivating creations are posted on Facebook and Instagram to help build engagement with potential customers and obtain orders.
Nishadi commenced her business in early 2019 using Facebook where she simply uploaded photos and details of her creations to her page. However, her business was transformed later that year once she was presented with the opportunity to participate in the Suhuruliya program in Yatinuwara where she gained an in-depth understanding of how to market and grow her business using digital tools.
The Suhuruliya program is a program of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment. Meta, formerly known as the Facebook company, partnered with the initiative through its shemeansbusiness program to support women-owned businesses and to enable the social and economic empowerment of women in Sri Lanka through ICT-enabled entrepreneurship. SheMeansBusiness is focused on leveling the playing field by ensuring women have equal access to tools and networks that will allow their businesses to thrive. It also seeks to celebrate and spotlight women who despite the additional challenges they face, continue to drive their businesses to success.
Nishadi immediately put her newly-acquired knowledge into action by using Facebook and has been receiving a very positive response ever since, leading to impressive growth of her business. Although she received only a couple of orders monthly in the months prior to her training, today she operates at maximum capacity handling 30-50 orders per month out of which approximately 60-70 percent have been generated strictly via Facebook promotions.
Over the years, she has also expanded her knowledge on product photography so that she can take better photos of her creations while sourcing various machinery to streamline her production operations. She is also making plans to open her own store in Yatinuwara in the near future.
“I have been successfully running my business on social media for four years. There is a lot of interest in wedding and party invitations. Thanks to digital tools, I can reach a wider audience with a much lesser investment and can take on a lot of orders.” – Nishadi Gamage
Another Sri Lankan woman who has successfully embarked on her entrepreneurial journey is T.M.B. Tennakoon who runs thuru sisila plant nursery . Based in the hill country town of Welimada, the business markets a wide range of flowers and plants. Following several years of reasonable growth, in 2019, Tennakoon attended the Suhuruliya training session where she was able to gain insights into Facebook promotions. She gradually began using her new knowledge to market her business on Facebook.
During the period of 2020-2022 when they were travel restrictions, 90 percent of her business was done through Facebook. Currently, 40 percent of her monthly income comes through her Facebook page. Since using social media for marketing, she has seen her business grow by over 50 percent. She now employs five full-time workers, has expanded her greenhouse from 300 sq. ft to 7,500 sq. ft. and has converted her store into a modern showroom to provide greater convenience to customers.
“I started my business a long time ago and built it up gradually, one step at a time. During the early days, suppliers came to my house to buy my flowers and plants, but later I realized that they were irregular with their visits. That's when I started to promote my business on social media using Facebook and WhatsApp. Soon I started getting lots of orders and identified a new mechanism to deliver flowers to customers.” – T. M.B Tennakoon
On March 15 this year, ICTA, the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment and Meta, hosted a national forum to celebrate the achievements of Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs who are using digital platforms for business. They announced the impact of the program over the last five years and deliberated the plan for the next phase of women's economic development as part of their partnership on the Suhuruliya program contributed through Meta's SheMeansBusiness initiative. Tennakoon's success was recognized at the event and she won the award for“Best Suhuruliya Entrepreneur' in the Badulla District.
As a key partner, Meta enhanced the technological aspects of the Suhuruliya initiative by introducing its expertise and advanced tools to help educate women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka about the power of digital technologies to grow their businesses while also making them more resilient to the fluctuations of today's challenging economy. Currently, over 17,000 women entrepreneurs across Sri Lanka have received training on digital skills. Furthermore, impact surveys have revealed that the overall income levels of trained women entrepreneurs had increased by 36 percent and a total addition of LKR 1.2 billion in annual income in businesses of trained women entrepreneurs have been recorded.
For more information about how Meta is providing access to resources and training for women-owned businesses, visit .