Building Markets Liberia

Building Markets Liberia

LiberiaOttawa, Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We help entrepreneurs in developing countries expand their business by putting them in touch with consumers and providing training, matchmaking, tender distribution services, advocacy services and market research.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Entrepreneurs are responsible for creating 86% of jobs in the developing world, yet many small businesses miss out on opportunities to expand their businesses. Building Markets connects entrepreneurs to help them create jobs by harnessing the spending power of international buyers operating in fragile states.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

At Building Markets we provide a variety of services that are aimed at helping connect buyers and local businesses. We provide procurement training to build local business capacity, as well as maintaining a local business directory, which is updated regularly to maintain quality of information available. We conduct market research that would be too costly for individual businesses to conduct themselves, manage a tender distribution service - collecting and distributing tenders to registered local businesses. We host matchmaking events, allowing entrepreneurs to network and meet like minded individuals. Among these are specific events for women entrepreneurs, who are essential in empowering women in society. Finally, we finance advocacy campaigns stressing the importance of buying local. To date, Building Markets has helped local businesses win over a billion dollars in contracts, with many success stories in Haiti, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and, most recently, Liberia.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

When a $450,000 shipment of lobsters rotted due to a malfunctioning refrigerator, Haitian-American businessman Ernst Charles faced a financial meltdown. Little did he realize that it would provide an opportunity for him to take his business in a brand new direction. In 2009, a local fisherman had shown him a box of slimy, smelly sea creatures called sea cucumbers. He didn't give them another thought until a year later, when another fisherman presented him with the same strange echinoderm, explaining that good money could be made exporting them to Asia, where they are a delicacy. Supposedly an aphrodisiac, they are prized for their health benefits. Building Markets played an essential part in the next step. By becoming a registered business on Building Markets' Business Directory, Ernst gained the credibility needed to apply for tenders to Asia. With a little help from Building Markets, he linked up with distrubutors who now export around 10 metric tons of sea cucumber to China a month. His business now helps provide income for nearly 5,000 Haitian men and women, through the fishing, processing and packing of the foodstuff. Local business like this has a knock on effect for the whole economy, for example, for every 10 tons of cucumber, a ton of salt is required. With organisations like USAID awarding only 0.02% of contracts to local firms in Haiti, businesses like Charles' are essential to rebuilding the economy, and this is something that can work the whole world over.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Building Markets connects supply and demand, therefore we consider our peers to be all of the businesses and organizations that operate in fragile states. Our success is based on enabling successful business transactions and establishing strong business relationships. We have a network of over 15,000.

Founding Story

Scott Gilmore had an epiphany while advising the United Nations mission in Timor-Leste, when he saw his landlord become an employer. He looked out his window one day and saw his landlord using his rent money to hire young people in the neighbourhood to repair burnt buses. Scott learned that his landlord would later sell the buses, generating income for families, rebuilding local economies and reshaping the transportation infrastructure in Timor Leste. Amazed by this business and frustrated with the inefficiency of the aid industry, Scott knew he had to quit his job as a diplomat. He believed, and saw with his own eyes, that the biggest social impact he could create would result from creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs in emerging economies to access bigger markets.
About You
Building Markets
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Building Markets

Organization Country

, ON, Ottawa

Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to talent, Access to supply chains, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We have directed over 1 billion dollars of contracts to local businesses, helped small businesses create 65,500 full-time equivalent jobs, and distributed over 9,000 business opportunities to a network of over 15,000 entrepreneurs

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

By 2015, globally, we hope to have launched our 8th marketplace initiative, extend our network to 30,000 entrepreneurs and help small enterprises win over $2 billion in new business in post-conflict and fragile states.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

There are many barriers that prevent small businesses from access opportunities. Our suite of services is designed to address these. They include lack of knowledge about how to access tenders, limited understanding of procurement processes and lack of connectivity.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Establish a new business trade fair

Task 2

Connect over 1,000 entrepreneurs

Task 3

Communicate success stories and market information about the event

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Expand network of entrepreneurs in countries of operation

Task 2

Train 500+ businesses to increase their capacity to win contracts

Task 3

Distribute 100 tenders to Liberian businsesses

Tell us about your partnerships

Our project partners participate in business matchmaking, special events and our tender distribution service. In Liberia, they include:

Ministry of Commerce and Industry
National Investment Commission
Liberia Chamber of Commerce
Liberia Business Association
Humanity United
and BHP Billiton

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list