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Turning an impossible dream into a fruitful career –Belal’s story

Belal longed to have a business and be his own boss, but without start-up capital or the right expertise, he couldn’t get his ideas off the ground. The Empower Youth for Work entrepreneurship training proved a turning point –and gave Belal the tools and confidence to fulfil his dream.

Belal Hossain lives in the Puthia sub-district of Rajshahi in Bangladesh, where it can be difficult for young people to find decent work. The 25-year-old wanted to continue his studies after high school, but sadly his family couldn’t afford to support him. Belal got a job with a renowned food production company, and later worked as an assistant to a fruits and vegetables producer. He then became a dealer, sending vegetables and seasonal fruits to the capital city, Dhaka.

Belal’s breakthrough

Although Belal had an income, the pay was poor and he found the work unsatisfying. What he really wanted was to find land and start producing fruits on his own, but he lacked the funding or the business know-how to get started, leaving him frustrated and depressed. At last, a breakthrough came when he heard about the EYW project. In November 2018, Belal took part in the soft skills training, followed by the five-day entrepreneurship course run by EYW. He considers this an important turning point because it gave him the tools to start a business.

Thanks to the training, Belal learned about planning, analysing the market and demand, as well as pricing and other business essentials. With his confidence boosted and his business plan laid out, Belal took out a loan of 100,000 BDT from Grameen Bank and received cash support of 15,000 BDT from the EYW project, which enabled him to lease 11 acres for fruit cultivation. He started small, and then ploughed his profits back into new varieties. Today this aspiring 25-year-old produces a wide range of fruits including guava, dragonfruit and jujube, a type of date. Belal sells his fruits at the local market and also to fruit dealers in Dhaka.

Rising to the challenges

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Many businesses big and small, worldwide, have been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and sadly Belal made a huge loss when his usual outlets closed and fruit prices dropped dramatically. But he had come too far to just give up. With the expertise he has gained over the last five years, Belal started cultivating vegetables and selling pesticides and organic fertilizer. Monthly profits are healthy, at around 15,000 BDT, allowing Belal to save while still investing to expand the business, and he now plans to grow several other fruits including passion fruit, avocado and durian. He is proud to be able to employ five other young people full time. Belal has worked hard and come a long way in spite of the challenges. He is setting an example and already several other young people are following in his footsteps and becoming entrepreneurs.