On Thursday, August 04, 2022 the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo finalized a partnership with Shell (KE Suriname B.V.) and Stichting Vonzell to expand the Embassy’s Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Program Suriname (YIEPS) training program for young entrepreneurs. The partnership will expand the YIEPS program from Paramaribo to Saramacca and Coronie.
U.S. Ambassador to Suriname Karen Lynn Williams signed the partnership agreement with Andrew Hepburn, Shell Suriname Country Chair, and Leanda Zeldenrust from Stichting Vonzell. Williams noted:“Through this program we are working with our partners at Shell and our local implementer to ensure young Surinamese entrepreneurs have the skills, knowledge, and mentorship to build their businesses, and to deepen the economic ties between our nations.”
“Enterprise development and skills enhancement are key components of Shell’s purpose of powering lives through our business activities.” said Andrew Hepburn, Shell’s country chair for Suriname. “Partnerships like this allow Shell to make a positive social impact on communities, contributing to local business development, job creation, and innovative social and economic solutions.”
The U. S. Embassy started the YIEPS program in 2019 at the Embassy’s American Corner at the Cultural Center Suriname in partnership with Leanda Zeldenrust, a U.S. exchange alumna who had studied workforce development in the United States. YIEPS provides training for young Surinamese entrepreneurs between the ages of 16 and 24. Participants spend ten weeks in workshops learning the basic concepts of entrepreneurship, such as marketing and finance. The students are assigned business mentors throughout the entire process who guide the teams and coach them as they develop business plans. The program ends with a business plan pitch contest in which the winning team receives $500 to start their business.
For the past three years, the program has been implemented by Stichting Vonzell, which Zeldenrust chairs. Said Zeldenrust: “Thanks to the U.S. Embassy the YIEPS project is now a platform for creative young people with brilliant ideas. By gaining knowledge and insights they can turn their ideas into small businesses and upscale to formal enterprises.” As a result of their participation in YIEPS, dozens of young entrepreneurs in fields such as food sales, IT repair, and design, have taken their first steps to becoming full-fledged business owners. This year, along with a cohort at the American Corner at CCS on Henck Aaronsraat, young entrepreneurs in Saramacca and Coronie will get the chance to take part in the program, thanks to the partnership with Shell.
Stichting Vonzell believes that small entrepreneurship not only contributes to employment and self-reliance, but also to the economic development of Suriname. The organization sees collaboration as one of the most important entrepreneurial competencies. Zeldenrust complimented Shell on its willingness to partner with the program: “I am pleased that Shell takes the initiative to contribute to this goal and together we will further stimulate entrepreneurship and specifically youth entrepreneurship in Suriname.”
“It is exciting for us to be able to partner with Shell to reach a larger audience with this impactful program,” said Ambassador Williams. “We are all working towards the same goal, a prosperous and growing Suriname, and entrepreneurs are a key to achieving that vision.”
Potential applicants can find information on how to apply to the YIEPS program on Stichting Vonzell’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stichting.vonzell.5.