Business Innovation Lab

Freetown, Sierra Leone | 5-7 & 12-14 May 2017



What is the Business Innovation Lab?
The Business Innovation Lab is an accelerator programme for entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone, helping them to scale up their business. The training programme helps prepare entrepreneurs to secure customers, build prototypes, identify key cost drivers of their businesses, build strategic plans and much more. It is designed to help these entrepreneurs rapidly identify and validate the foundational assumptions of their business.

The lab will take place over two consecutive weekends; the 5-7 of May and the 12-14 of May, at 6 the Maze off King Street in Freetown. Both weekends, the programme will start at 5pm on Fridays and finishing on Sunday afternoon, so entrepreneurs with full time jobs are also encouraged to apply!

Is there investment available for businesses?
Following successful completion of the lab, businesses will receive seed capital of up to $1000 to test their new business model. After two months, businesses will come together for a pitch competition where they can win up to $5000 in prize money.

What were the results of the previous Innovation Lab in Sierra Leone?
The first lab in November 2016 brought together 11 businesses to test their assumptions about their customer, iterate new business models, conduct early testing, and build out a strategic plan. Over the course of the session, entrepreneurs met with 15 business experts/mentors to get advice on how to improve their business. Following the lab, businesses reported improvements including up to 50% increase in sales, new contacts with customers, and use of new marketing tactics.

Get Involved: Use the link above to apply to the programme, or text or whatsapp us at 088 888 080 or 078 899 183 if you have any questions.

The Lab & Curriculum

The Business Model Validation Lab is designed to do one thing: provide entrepreneurs with a step-by-step methodology to rapidly and systematically validate their venture’s business model. Entrepreneurs will:

Identify the foundational assumptions that underpin your venture.

Design and run experiments to validate / invalidate the foundational assumptions (through customer discovery and rapid prototyping)

Meet with mentors to get feedback and develop next steps.

Daily Schedule

The curriculum of the Lab includes workshops, time outside the building with customers, and one-on-one time with business mentors.

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    Day 1: Friday 5 May

    We start with an orientation into the programme and then we continue with a workshop using the Lean Business Model Canvas.

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    Day 2: Saturday 6 May

    We start in the morning with a customer discovery workshop and we then go out and test our assumptions with customers. After lunch, we continue with a workshop on rapid prototyping and we finish the day building prototypes.

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    Day 3: Sunday 7 May

    We start at 12pm refining our prototypes and we then go out of the building again to test them with customers. After a break, we continue with a workshop on cost assumptions.

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    Day 4: Friday 12 May

    Today we have a workshop on building powerful relationships and we do some work to prepare for mentor day.

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    Day 5: Saturday 13 May

    Today we meet with the business mentors. After lunch with the mentors, we continue with a workshop on strategic planning. We finish the day preparing for the business pitches.

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    Day 6: Sunday 14 May

    On the last day of the lab we have another session with the mentors and in the afternoon we end the lab with all entrepreneurs delivering their business pitches.

Tangible Outcomes

By the end of Lab entrepreneurs will have something to show for their work. They will have:

  • Learned a repeatable methodology for how to do customer discovery
  • Built 2-3 prototypes of a key element of their venture
  • Tested prototypes with real customers
  • Learned how to build and maintain mentor relationships
  • Met and received feedback from 10-12 experienced business mentors
  • Conducted a break-even analysis of their business and identified the key cost and financial assumptions of their business
  • Built out a basic budget and financial model
  • Created a 6-month operating plan


This Lab will actively involve a diverse set of mentors. These mentors will be custom-selected after selecting the Lab ventures to assure mentors meet their needs. Interested in mentoring? please Email Leona.

Alfred Akibo-Betts

Sheka Forna

Dr Eva Roberts

Philip Bai Solomon Sesay

Salton Massalay

FAQ’s & More About This Program

Application and Selection
Apply now – deadline for applications is 26 April! You can apply here. We look forward to getting your application.

If you need to download the application form to prepare your answers or to give it to someone without internet access, you can do so here:

Any business that has started to generate revenue is invited to apply, regardless of sector or level of sales. You have to be based in Sierra Leone and be over 18 years of age.
No, your business does not need to be registered for you to be eligible to apply to the Business Innovation Lab
Entrepreneurs will complete the short online application (link above). Then the Innovation Lab Team will review all submitted applications and schedule 30-minute interviews with those who move on. After the interviews, 10-10 entrepreneurs will be offered a spot in the Lab.
Applying for the lab is free. If selected then there is a 50,000 LE participation fee. This is to ensure your commitment to the lab process.

The Lab Team will work with any entrepreneur who is accepted to attend the Lab but unable to pay. Do not let the cost prohibit you from applying for the Lab! Filling out the application is free!

Lab Details
The Lab is 6 days long and takes place over two weekends (5-7 & 12-14 May) starting at 5 pm on Fridays and finishing on Sunday afternoon. So anyone with a full-time job is encouraged to apply.
Businesses that successfully complete the lab will receive seed capital of up to $1000 to test their refined business models. After two months, the teams will have an opportunity to compete in a pitch competition for a grand prize of up to $5000.
If you are accepted to attend the Lab, we will ask that you attend all days of the lab. The curriculum is cohesive and builds upon itself, meaning that if you miss a day, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
Lodging is not provided but the Lab Team can help participants find accommodation if necessary.
Be a Supporter
If you are interested in being a mentor we would love to share a conversation with you.

Click here to email Leona to discuss becoming a mentor.

We would love to explore sponsorship opportunities with you. Click here to email Jason to discuss sponsorship opportunities.
If you are interested in helping us we would love to hear from you! Interested in being a sponsor or a mentor email us.


Here’s who made this possible.
Email us to discuss sponsorship opportunities.

Our Team

Here is the team that made this happen.


Business Innovation Hub, Senior Lead for the SOBA Programme

Manon Van Paaschen
Business Innovation Hub, Intervention Lead for the SOBA programme

Leona Aboko-Cole
SME Network Coordinator for the SOBA Programme

Angela Betancourt
Communications Manager for the SOBA Programme