In 2023, the Aurora Foundation made significant strides. The year saw the launch of the impactful Sweet Salone Webshop in Europe, enhancing the global reach of Sierra Leonean artisan products. A critical partnership with UNDP marked the start of the Growth Accelerator Programme, nurturing women-led enterprises. Additionally, the launch of the 18-month pottery school program signified a major step in fostering artistic skills and economic growth in Sierra Leone. These initiatives and so many others marked a year of remarkable growth and community empowerment for the Foundation.
We warmly welcomed our experienced potters Peter Korompai and Guðbjörg Káradóttir, for the 4th time and 5th time, respectively, to the Lettie Stuart Pottery. Their visit facilitated knowledge exchange and skill development, enhancing the quality and variety of the pottery products. The relationship and knowledge-sharing between the potters left us hopeful and inspired for the second pottery school planned in the fall of 2023.
In February, we visited members of Aurora Impact’s Cohorts. Andrew Sahr Noma from Cohort 5 and Hickmatu Leigh from Cohort 3. They are both very prominent individuals who we enjoyed visiting and interviewing. Andrew founded Greentech Bioenergy, which focuses on green technological solutions using biodegradable material energy. His vision and prototype demonstrate a clear, sustainable future. Since we first met Hickmatu, we could see her talent for photography. We met with her to hear more about her journey since graduating from Cohort 3, which has been inspiring.
During the month of March, Cohort 5 of Aurora Impact had their highly anticipated Demo Day and Pitch Night. These events are significant for Cohort members to showcase their products, network with investors and partners, and take a pivotal step forward in their entrepreneurial journey. The Pitch Night was especially critical for Cohort 5, featuring innovative startups from various sectors. Ultimately, Mamawa Muyenga Agro-processing emerged as the winner, making the event a crucial milestone in supporting young entrepreneurs.
April was an eventful month, with various activities taking place. The Ideation Program’s graduation ceremony was held. The program aims to promote creative expression and practical realization of ideas, creating a supportive community for aspiring innovators. The Aurora Foundation staff also took a field trip to Brama Town, where they learned about basket weaving and showed their support for local craftsmanship. The most significant milestone of the month, though, was the Sweet Salone Webshop Launch! This initiative promotes sustainable and ethical commerce by providing handmade Sierra Leonean goods in Europe. Additionally, Aurora Impact hosted ICT and Web Development Training aimed at improving the digital skills of young entrepreneurs with a focus on practical applications for businesses.
The keychains made by the Lumley Beach Arts and Crafts Market artisans for Save The Children Iceland made it to Iceland and were sold to contribute to child protection projects. We received an Icelandic professor, Bjarki Grönfeldt, as a part of a collaboration between Bifröst University in Iceland and Aurora Foundation. The class he facilitated for two weeks was Applied Statistics for Business & Marketing Research Training. Its purpose was to empower entrepreneurs with research and analytical skills. Aurora Impact partnered with Njala University in Sierra Leone and conducted entrepreneurship training there for three days, focusing on equipping students with essential entrepreneurial skills and fostering a collaborative learning environment. A financial literacy training took place in the Aurora Foundation Office, which had been highly anticipated and exceeded expectations. To wrap up the month of May, Aurora Foundation sponsored Freetown Innovation Week, and Mavis Madaure, Aurora Impact’s Project Manager, participated as a judge in the Fempreneur Pitch night.
In June, we had a Canva Training at the office, to enhance digital design skills for effective online communication. It was led by Kharifa, who was a member of Cohort 2! Due to high demand, we decided to have a Sweet Salone Mini Market, extending the opening hours of the Sweet Salone shop that is dedicated to promoting Sierra Leonean design and craftsmanship, bridging cultural gaps, and nurturing local talent. We also continued with our mission of visiting the members of Cohort 5; this month, we visited Bai Conteh, who is in soap industry innovation, and Augustine Macarthy, who focuses on a sustainable cassava farming.
During July, half of our office worked remotely from various locations around the world, but we remained connected. It was a productive month for us, as we received great news from the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their decision to grant us funding for the Investment Readiness Bootcamp of Aurora Impact will enable us to continue our mission to enhance Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial sector. At the foundation, we are committed to supporting this sector, and receiving funding like this is essential to our success.
Aurora Foundation continued to boost digital literacy among Sierra Leonean youth in August by hosting ICT beginner trainingsat the office. It was led by the Aurora Impact team in collaboration with our trusted partners from Byte Limited whom we got to know through one of our first cohorts! We celebrated Fatmata Barrie’s transition from intern to staff and received significant funding from the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs to empower the creative sector. Their decision to grant us funding for the second Cohort of the Lettie Stuart Pottery School will enable us to continue our mission to enhance Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial sector. At the foundation, we are committed to supporting this sector, and receiving funding like this is essential to our success.
After a successful debut at the ShowUp trade show last year, we were excited to bring Sweet Salone back to the spotlight at ShowUp again, now accompanied by our webshop. We loved showcasing the unique products once again. But that’s not all for Sweet Salone. In September, we also shipped the second container of the year (5th in total) to Europe, AND we celebrated a significant change and addition to the Sweet Salone storefront in Freetown! We started selling books by Sierra Leonean authors. We celebrated the transition by hosting an author event featuring the authors whose books we are selling, Maria Bradford and Ishmael Beah.
Aurora Impact also had a big month, hosting its second Advanced Excel Training for Entrepreneurs of the year and first Business Formalization, Statutory & Regulatory Training in collaboration with the esteemed Betts Firm. Aurora Impact also visited Habib Turay, who is a member of Cohort 5 and has founded a company focusing on sustainable pig farming. Habib has inspired many with his consistency, dedication, and perseverance.
The Investment Readiness Bootcamp, funded by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has commenced. Participants in the bootcamp are start-ups with whom Aurora has collaborated previously through either the Start-up Accelerator or short courses. The Aurora Impact team is also committed to promoting inclusivity and diversity in the tech industry and, as such, collaborated with Byte Limited to offer a three-week coding training course specifically for girls. In addition to the entrepreneurial sector, the creative sector was also active. The Lettie Stuart Pottery organized a staff retreat that included representatives from the two organizations (Aurora and SLADEA) that have played a significant role in their journey. Finally, the staff of Aurora Foundation celebrated the annual beach day in October, where staff members, their children, and partners gathered at Cockle Point.
The Aurora Foundation is deeply honored to have been selected as UNDP’s Business Development Service provider for the second Cohort of “The Growth Accelerator Programme to support women-led cooperatives and MSMEs in Sierra Leone. The launch of the programme took place on the 6th of November; as you can imagine, it marked a milestone for us at Aurora Foundation, and we are beyond grateful and excited about the future, working with the 18 selected women-led cooperatives and MSMEs. The board of Aurora Foundation came to visit, during their stay, they had the opportunity to meet the growing Aurora Team and paid visits to the talented artists and dedicated entrepreneurs we proudly support. The Aurora Impact team hosted a Bootcamp for the 18 MSME’s and visited their business sites. The second Cohort of the 18-month-long pottery school at Lettie Stuart Pottery was launched. The girls from the three-week coding training graduated, and the Aurora Impact team did 3 days of training at WODA (Women Development Association).
What a month!
December was the month dedicated to events (in Iceland and Sierra Leone) and, in a way, to new beginnings since Sweet Salone launched two initiatives! Now, the Sweet Salone products are available in a store called As We Grow in Reykjavík, Iceland, and the result of the collaboration with the founders and designers behind the brand Farmers Market was launched the Farmers Market Basket. Available in the Farmers Market store on Hólmaslóð 2, Reykjavík, Iceland. The Kraumur Music Awards were awarded for the 16th time in Iceland, and simultaneously, the exhibition “Reunion Freetown Contemporary Art Exhibition,” sponsored by the Aurora Foundation and other supporters, took place in Freetown, Sierra Leone!