The Right Honourable Aniekan Bassey Youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme, RHAB-YESS, is trending as the best enterprise development and empowerment programme in Akwa Ibom State due to its inclusiveness and transparency. Within seven months of its existence, the scheme has invested a whopping N4million to assist small business owners to grow.
In an exclusive chat with INVESTORS EYE, Mr. Darlington Udobong, the coordinator of the scheme, explained what the scheme is about and what it intends to achieve.
What is the idea driving RHAB-YESS?
RHABYESS is an acronym for Right Honourable Aniekan Bassey Youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme. It is the brainchild Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, the Speaker of the Seventh Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. The scheme is primarily aimed at discovering, mentoring and supporting young Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs to financial greatness. In a nutshell, the scheme simply complements Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Enterprise Development Drive.
RHAB-YESS is Governor Udom Emmanuel’s dakkada philosophy in practice; assisting young Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs expand their businesses (rise to their faith of greatness). The idea is that if they expand, after receiving the seed money, they will be able to employ additional hands to their businesses and by doing that the unemployment rate in the state will reduce.
When did the programme start and how many editions have you done so far?
The programme started in January 2020 and we have successfully completed seven editions.
Within this period how many people have you been able to empower through RHAB-YESS?
We’ve actually received 1, 016 entries from interested persons since the programme started. And out of this number, we have successfully scheduled 63 for the online contest and we have subsequently given out prize money to respective winners to the tune of N3, 500, 000 plus one special entry in our Sixth Edition, which the Speaker, in his magnanimity gave N500, 000 to assist him get his business back to life. So, in all, we have given out a total of N4, 000, 000 as seed to young entrepreneurs for business expansion.
Why the special entry? What happened?
We had an applicant, one Mr. Udeme Essien, whose boutique was razed down completely in a fire incident. We gave him the money to help him get his business back to life.
What are the criteria for participation in RHAB-YESS?
RHAB-YESS is for every indigene of Akwa Ibom State currently running Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is for every young business owner that is in dire need of financial support to boost his or her business.
The procedure is simple. Do a 5-Minute video documentary of your business on YouTube. Visit the website, www.rhabyess.com, fill the online form, add the YouTube link and submit. The video documentary must include your Bio Data (Name, Local Government of Origin, Date of Birth and Educational Qualification), Description of Business/Enterprise, Economic Importance of Business/Enterprise to Akwa Ibom State. Once that is done, nine (9) best videos will be selected from the pool (3 every week for three weeks) and subsequently placed (the 9 selected best videos) our Facebook page (Court of public opinion) for final selection of the Best-Three.
Now, the final selection is done based on the number of COMMENTS (votes) garnered from viewers on the Facebook page. Hence the prize money (N250,000; N150,000 and N100,000) will be grabbed by the Best Three.
After seven editions, how has this programme impacted entrepreneurs?
Our feedback template has shown that RHAB-YESS has seriously impacted on our young entrepreneurs. We have also received a whole lot of commendations especially for the fact that RHAB-YESS is apolitical and devoid of any form of bias. Also, its inclusiveness and spread across the entire state have been commended.
What informed the Speaker’s decision to extend it to cover the entire state?
The Office of the Speaker is a wider platform than Office of the Member Representing Uruan State Constituency. Perhaps, he felt it would be self-centeredness to limit such an empowerment programme to his constituency. So, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, in his wisdom and magnanimity decided to make it an all-Akwa Ibom Scheme to benefit all its sons and daughters. So, all Akwa Ibom small scale business owners are qualified to contest and enjoy the seed fund. It is our earnest desire to see Akwa Ibom State become the Singapore of Nigeria where small enterprises drive the multinationals and our economy.
There is an aspect of RHAB-YESS called ‘meet and greet’. What is the idea behind this?
The concept behind ‘Meet and Greet’ is that we bring our winners and few participants together to meet and interact in real life. They also meet with well established entrepreneurs whom we see as role models. This gives our participants the opportunity to interact and share their business experiences and in turn learn from already established business owners.
This way, they can pick relevant information that could improve their business. We decided to add that interactive session to our cheque presentation ceremony in order to offer our participants such opportunities that may not be there otherwise.
We carefully select our guests of honour for each event. They must be accomplished financial experts or experienced and established entrepreneurs who willingly accept to interact and inform our participants.
Considering the new business outlook in the state, what is the message of RHAB-YESS to young entrepreneurs?
The primary message is that for you to be successful in business you must persevere, be dedicated and be committed to your business idea before looking for financial support. That is our message to entrepreneurs. We are not just giving seed fund to entrepreneurs; we bring them to interact with successful business men and women. For us, it is a better way of mentorship.
Before I leave you sir, in view of state government’s business development drive, how long will RHAB-YESS exist?
RHAB-YESS will exist as long SMEs exist in Akwa Ibom. We will continue to ensure that young entrepreneurs are successful. The initiative is mainly to discover, mentor and support young entrepreneurs. That is the foundation on which RHAB-YESS is built.
Beyond giving out the seed fund we monitor the businesses of our beneficiaries, if there are encouraging improvements, we’ll add another support quietly and continue to monitor. So, that is our feedback mechanism. It is well planned. Therefore as long as we wish to encourage our young entrepreneurs to succeed, RHAB-YESS will stand.