“I didn’t come here to win. I came here to tell everyone that people in Sierra Leone are doing something great. My mindset was: let the world hear what I’m doing”. Immanuel Bundor is one of those inspirational entrepreneurs that makes us believe the world is going in the right direction. He won the Get in the Ring competition in Freetown last November with his solution to prevent malaria and is now ready to make a global impact.
Immanuel was a winner way before being recognized as one. Born in Sierra Leone, he was forced to leave his country due to a civil war that lasted for 11 years. He grew up in the Gambia and there he got in touch with a mentor who taught him how to make his own silicone wristbands.
During his years in the Gambia, his cheerful and determined personality won many hearts, including one of his teachers, Mr. Amara Fortune, who was quick to send Immanuel a message as soon as he heard about his victory. “For about fifteen good years I’ve not set my eyes on him, I’ve missed him a lot but I’m not surprised to hear about his success. He’s willing to learn, he’s eloquent, he’s never intimidated by one’s status and his humility is another exceptional quality”, told Mr. Amara.
Back in Sierra Leone, Immanuel sought an education, but he was unable to enroll in University. “I’m from a poor family. I started selling wristbands for students on campus until I had enough money myself to enroll”, he tells. Immanuel’s business, a silicone wristband company, Cynosure Armariums, started 10 years ago, selling mostly to fraternities on campus and institutions who wanted to use them for marketing purposes. Little did he know that side business would turn into a career.
The shift came when he realized he had the power to make a difference. “Mosquitos are killing people in Sierra Leone. Kids are dying. I saw that problem and I thought, how can I be part of the solution?”, tells Immanuel. He is referring to malaria, a deadly disease, spread by mosquitos and that affects mostly children under the age of 5. According to a report by the World Health Organization, nearly 80% of all the malaria cases in the world were concentrated in only 17 countries, Sierra Leone among them.
Immanuel found out how to make mosquito repellent wristbands by watching a YouTube video and after a lot of research, he started making his own out of natural ingredients. During rain season, he sells more than one thousand wristbands. They can be used from 5 pm to 6 am, and last up to four months. The wristbands are also very affordable, they cost approximately 1,20 dollars.
Cynosure Armariums also produces aromatic wristbands, which act as a perfume, leaving a nice aroma in the wrist. “I want to allow people to have perfume with them throughout the day, because there are people in Sierra Leone who can’t even buy a perfume”, explains Immanuel. These are also quite affordable, and cost around 2 dollars.
More than just a wristband
In the end, for Immanuel, this is about much more than just a wristband. It is something that can help save lives, make people feel better about themselves and bring the country together. One of Immanuel’s proudest moments is when he sees people wearing his wristbands during the Sierra Leone Independence Day, on the 27th of April.
“What can I do to make sure that, as a country, we can be together? Sierra Leone is divided by so many sentiments, religion, tribes, political ideologies, there is a lot of hatred. But on our Independence Anniversary, millions of Sierra Leoneans come together and celebrate using my wristbands. They are together regardless of everything”.
After winning the Get in the Ring local startup competition, Immanuel wants to expand his business. Right now, he is active in three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia. But due to the lack of proper equipment, he cannot expand. Immanuel’s goal is to produce more than one million mosquito repellent wristbands and he hopes to find investors during the Global Meetup 2019.
“I am looking for people that will teach me and train me on how to produce a good product that can compete in the world market”, says Immanuel.
Do you want to meet Immanuel and other inspiring innovators and participate in an event with 150 startups from all over the world? Then join the Global Meetup.