Startup Mongolia Blog

Start-up Weekend: Inspiring Youth Interest in Mongolian Fibre

Although Mongolia is the second largest cashmere producer in the world, after China, the Mongolian fibre sector is facing challenges in growth — one of the key constraints being the dramatic decrease of newcomers to the workforce in recent years. 

In 2015, 65 percent of the fibre sector workforce was under the age of 35 — some even working as executive directors of leading companies. However, fewer graduates enter the industry each year as they get drawn to higher-paying jobs in construction and mining. Interest is not the only concern: training in schools does not adequately prepare youth for the new technologies used by Mongolian fibre processors and major producers, and few companies offer internships to develop students’ practical skills.

Learning and innovating for business development

An inspiring weekend of innovation and competition, brought together fifty young engineers, students, and entrepreneurial youth in Ulaanbaatar to develop and pitch their ideas of new, locally made fibre products to top local processing companies. The weekend workshop was initiated and funded by WUSC and CECI through the Uniterra program, and was organized in partnership with Startup Mongolia; a local accessories brand Nomadd; and the American Culture and Information Center. In preparation for the competition, participating youth learned about turning an idea into a business, the current status of development opportunities in the fibre sector, and insights on the latest, fully automated knitting technology. They also received step-by-step mentoring on international approaches for innovation with the support of MUST, Mongolian University of Life Sciences; Mongolian and Korean Polytechnic College; and Shima Seiki Training Center.

New opportunities for youth in a traditional industry

MUST’s project on wool-knitted office accessories was the final winner out of nine teams, and the team was given the opportunity to market their product through local chain store, Evseg Cashmere. Silver and bronze teams “Organic Chameleon” and ”Bubble Think” were also recognized by the judges for their creativity in using nanotechnology-based smart fibre in garments and recycled fibres in modern furniture. As a result of the weekend-long boot camp, two to three new businesses have started in the fibre sector within half a year.

What we learned: interdisciplinary inspiration

While WUSC and CECI focused on involving youth of all backgrounds, from high school students to trained youth in post-graduate institutions, the participation and advice of specialists from relevant disciplines, including chemists, physicists, nanotechnologists, and legal experts provided interdisciplinary inspiration for the fibre prototypes proposed by young entrepreneurs.

SDG Wheel The results of this project contribute to SDG: 4 Quality Education,
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth and SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 5: Gender Equality SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

About the Uniterra Program

Uniterra is a Canadian volunteer cooperation and international development program that is jointly operated by WUSC and CECI (Centre for International Studies and Cooperation). The program supports inclusive economic development to benefit women and youth in 14 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Uniterra works with key private, public, and civil society partners to facilitate growth and change in markets that have the greatest impact on marginalized people. 

About the volunteers involved in this initiative

Dzuy Tran, Policy Support Volunteer for Research and Development, and Waqas Youafzaid, Policy Analyst Advisor, supported the partners and youth in preparatory meetings, the vision and needs for a start-up and enabling partners to have supports in place for ideas and entrepreneurs that were motivated by the event.

Jessica Finders, Research Officer, assisted with youth inclusion and tying the Startup weekend with the partners’ project, allowing rural you to diversify their income streams. 

Baiglamaa Gankhuu, National Partnership Advisor, helped build linkages between the project’s business, academic, and Chamber of Commerce partners.

Vivian Chiu, Communications Advisor, worked with the local media students to help film, edit and disseminate the start-up weekend video.

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WUSC works to create a better world for all young people. To learn more, start here or subscribe to get highlights straight to your inbox. Interested in volunteering internationally? View our current opportunities. Looking for a new career opportunity? Check out our current job openings. Or show your support for our cause by making a donation.


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