Thursday, 26 November 2020: The Loden Foundation sanctioned interest and collateral-free loans for 14 new entrepreneurs selected through the 2020 fall call for business proposals. This was the third call for business proposals this year to support more entrepreneurs during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the past, only two calls were made each year. This year, Loden has supported 30 entrepreneurs through various funding windows in response to the challenges caused or worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Realizing the need to boost local entrepreneurship at this crucial time, Loden supported more startups and existing businesses this year. Loden announced the first Loden-UNDP Covid-19 Response Fund I in spring this year. Applicants were encouraged to come up with business ideas that directly addressed challenges caused or worsened by the pandemic by tackling new needs using innovation, technology and nature-based solutions. Of the 95 business proposals evaluated in a month, six agriculture businesses, one face mask production, one vegetable logistics company, one quarantine waste collection company and one online education portal for school students were selected. In a span of four months, these businesses created a total of 56 jobs. One of the entrepreneurs supported is Sangay Needup, who started the vegetable delivery service, Vegetables on Wheels, which helped the Thimphu Thromde deliver vegetables during the lockdown. 

Soon after, Loden held another round of business proposal selection in August. Six entrepreneurs, spread across four Dzongkhags, were supported in diverse sectors ranging from information technology to waste management. One of the entrepreneurs, Tandin Dorji, started eLaYog – an online job service portal that aims to digitize the recruitment process by connecting jobseekers with potential employers online. Entrepreneurs were supported through the Loden general funding window and Loden-UNDP Bhutan Climate Change funding window. 

“Launching this venture in the time of Covid-19 pandemic has been a very difficult journey. The Loden Foundation has been very helpful in keeping my business going through their interest free loan. While I have no doubt about the long-term sustainability of this venture, receiving this support has helped me continue my business during this harsh economic situation. For that, and other support to entrepreneurs, I’m very grateful to Loden Foundation.”

-Tandin Dorji, Founder of e-LaYog

After the selection in August, Loden made another fall call for business proposals that ended in November. A total of 14 additional businesses in sectors ranging from agriculture labour service to construction were supported across eight Dzongkhags. Three entrepreneurs were funded through the Loden-UNICEF Bhutan funding window; one through the Loden-Hazelnut Programme funding window; Five through the Loden-SSB funding window; and five through the Loden-UNDP Bhutan Covid-19 Response Fund II. Sonam Dorji, one of the selected entrepreneurs, will be starting a construction company called Eco-Sense Renovation and Construction. Sonam will also receive support from the Build Bhutan Project under the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources. Another entrepreneur, Sangay Lhamo, will start an onion and tomato farm to meet the rising local demand for vegetables while reducing imports. 

Loden worked closely with donors and partners like BAEyul (Bhutan Association of Entrepreneurs), UNDP Bhutan, Youth Center Division of the Department of Youth and Sports and UNICEF Bhutan, Moutain Hazelnut Ventures (MHV), Society Switzerland Bhutan (SSB), Bhutan YDF and RENEW to ensure that our intervention was not only impactful but also efficient and timely. Priority was given to business proposals that aligned with the overall efforts of the government such as working on food security, import substitution, export promotion, job creation, and agriculture promotion.

“We realized that a quick and timely response was needed from CSOs to supplement the government’s efforts. As such, we forged new partnerships during these trying times by opening different funding windows and supported as many startups and existing businesses that we could while keeping the national priorities in mind.”

– Phuntsho Namgay, Executive Director of the Loden Foundation

Since 2008, Loden has funded 205 business ventures, of which 72 are led by women entrepreneurs, across 18 Dzongkhags.