On Sunday, February 6, 2022, Chemonics awarded a team of young problem-solvers with funding and in-kind support to assist in the further development and scaling of their innovative solution for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for Gender Equality. Chemonics’ President and CEO Jamey Butcher announced the award during the closing ceremony of the UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab’s Plus program, a six-month incubator for early-stage social impact ventures that address the SDGs. This year, 113 teams from around the globe participated in the virtual program, which ran from August 2021 to February 2022. Throughout the program, participants completed online learning modules on business modeling, engaged in peer-to-peer learning, and received direct support from world-class experts across a range of business topics.
In the program’s final pitch event, the “Dragons’ Den,” Chemonics awarded its $20,000 commitment to Wander Woman, a Bangladesh-based travel platform dedicated to breaking the stigma for female travelers in South Asia. This platform provides unbiased recommendations, connects like-minded travelers, and curates on-demand trips to ensure that any woman can safely, affordably, and comfortably travel. Wander Woman plans to use these funds to develop an automated booking platform, hire female developers, and launch two new travel hubs in Bangladesh. Wander Woman also received a $2,500 Dragons’ Den award from Acrobator Ventures.
“Joining UNLEASH Plus was the best decision to refine our business model and receive guidance from experts, mentors, and peers across the globe.” explained Sabira Mehrin, Wander Woman Founder and CEO. “These groundbreaking awards from Chemonics International and Acrobator Ventures have not only encouraged us to make travel accessible to women worldwide, but also inspired thousands of women out there to believe in their vision to create a wonderful world.”
Mr. Butcher served as one of four judges for the livestreamed event, during which the top 11 teams participating in UNLEASH Plus pitched their solutions in the hopes of earning cash and in-kind awards. Each of the 11 teams in the Dragons’ Den had three minutes to pitch and three minutes to answer the judges’ questions. The judges evaluated each team across four criteria: validated solution and prototype, clear impact potential and scalability, long-term feasibility, and strength of the team.
“Each year, I continue to be blown away by the creativity and passion of the social entrepreneurs that make it to the UNLEASH Plus Dragons’ Den,” said Butcher. “Wander Woman stood out with a proven and scalable business model that is making a unique impact on gender equality. I am excited for Chemonics to support Sabira and her team in their journey to significantly expanding that impact to more women around the world.”
Tourism is the third-largest industry in the world, and Chemonics is excited to connect Wander Woman with its experts who have worked on successful tourism programs around the globe. Chemonics’ will also provide a year of in-kind mentorship to the team to help further refine their business strategy, impact measurement, and scaling approach.
UNLEASH accelerates positive change toward the SDGs by mobilizing young talented people in community-leadership positions, helping them learn and apply design-thinking approaches, and enabling the launch and scale of social and environmental solutions. In support of this larger mission, the UNLEASH Secretariat and Chemonics co-design and co-run the UNLEASH Plus incubator for early-stage social impact startups.
“We’re now in our third year of UNLEASH Plus, and we’ve learned so much about how and when to deliver critical leadership development and business modeling activities that accelerate growth for teams throughout the six months we work with them.” said Chemonics’ Senior Advisor of Innovation and Investment Lauren Behr. “We see huge potential in our ongoing mentorship with Wander Women.”
For more information about UNLEASH, visit www.unleash.org.