Identifying Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as a critical engine of any nation’s economic growth, Diamond Bank Plc has shown support to the sector with a sum of N15 million grants to exceptional entrepreneurs.
Due to its global recognition as a predictable vehicles for sustainable economic growth, the bank in its Building Entrepreneurs (BET) initiative, gave the aforementioned amount to five budding MSME operators with outstanding entrepreneurial skills and productive business ideas.
The lender explained that has continuously supports the SMEs, due to its potential to create jobs, boost production, generate income and reduce poverty in the country.
Diamond Bank in a statement explained that the five BET winners, spread across different sectors of the economy and the six geopolitical zones, received N3 million each to invest into their respective businesses.
The bank noted that the financial injections into their businesses was expected to help strengthen manpower, expand the product lines and create increased service and product values that would make the MSMEs competitive.
Commenting on this development in Lagos recently, the Managing Director/CEO, Diamond Bank Plc, Mr. Uzoma Dozie, pointed out that because of the economic headwinds, young entrepreneurs need all the supports and mentorship that they could get to enable them stand firm and add the necessary value to the economy.
According to him, Diamond Bank was very passionate about building these entrepreneurs because of the conviction that sustainable growth and development of any modern economy is hinged on a vibrant MSME sector.
“The quality of business ideas and the huge number of entries received by the bank is a strong testament of business versatility among Nigerian youths, which to him, should be harnessed to grow and develop the economy.
“We had over 500,000 applications and after several screenings, were pruned to the final 15; this is just to show how creative Nigerians are. We decided to support small businesses because we know how difficult the business environment is, and it is the only way we can guarantee sustainable economic growth and development in this country”, he said.
However, the BET, which started over five years ago, is collaboration between Diamond Bank and the Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan Atlantic University. With the BET initiative, every year, the Bank trains 50 entrepreneurs in a six months development programme at the Pan Atlantic University and gives investment grants to the five most outstanding with a strong mentorship programme within the business year.
Dozie further stated that each year, the BET programme has become more and more exciting with diverse innovative ideas emerging, stressing that the business environment in Nigeria was a tough one and needed lots of commitment and support for one to succeed.
In a similar vein, Director, Enterprise Development Center, Mr. Peter Bankole, disclosed that it was another milestone that has been attained by the Bank because it means a new set of five winners will be joining the other 20 winners, not forgetting the 50 entrepreneurs who were engaged in six months of intensive training.
“A lot of banks screamed about supporting small businesses but none plays like the way Diamond Bank does. And BET is one of the many ways they ensure they support small businesses and that goes a long way in helping these entrepreneurs achieve their goals,” Bankole stated.
One of the winners, Okiedesan said he was amazed to have won because he was lucky to be a part of the final 15. According to him, his first final presentation was a disaster but he was able to pull himself together at the second session. He also thanked Diamond Bank and EDC for giving him and others the opportunity to learn and interact.
Earlier, Ubong Effiong, a BET Season One winner, told the audience that the knowledge gained was invaluable as it continually guides one in running and managing the business.
“BET goes beyond the money won. The knowledge gained and most importantly the relationship formed in the academy is very valuable, it cannot be quantified in monetary terms.