Thirteen Caribbean Young Entrepreneurs Advance In Entrepreneurship Challenge




Thirteen young  entrepreneurs have advanced to the next round in the keenly contested Caribbean Call to Action Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The  challenge, which is an initiative of the Global Leadership Coalition(GLC) in collaboration with 1M1B Foundation – A Million for a Billion (1M1B) and the Caribbean Center of Excellene for Sustainable Livelihoods (coESL) brought together 26 young people from the following Caribbean countries:  Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.    Twelve  young Caribbean entrepreneurs were selected after  presenting their ideas on the evening of Sunday, 3 May as the three-day Caribbean Young Leaders Entrepreneurship Bootcamp came to a close in Barbados.  A thirteenth, coming from Haiti, will join the semi-finalists.

Those chosen to move forward to the next stage of the challenge: Devin Odlum of Antigua & Barbuda; Joshua Forte and Nikele Davis of Barbados, Jenell Pierre of Guyana; Willan Mark of Grenada; Janice McLeod and Shamoy Hajare of Jamaica; Magaran Joseph of St. Lucia; Vincent Polak of Suriname; and Josanne Arnold, Vijay Dialsingh and Korice Nancis of Trinidad & Tobago..

Over the weekend, the participants got advice and guidance from trainers and volunteer mentors about how to turn their ideas into viable businesses. On Sunday, they were required to present their projects to judges James Husbands, Leslie Walling, Jean Lloyd, Marcia Brandon, Hashim Ruan, and Mark Ifill in the Bresmay Conference Room at Infinity on the Beach in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church.

Walling acknowledged that it was tough choosing the top performers; so much so, that the judges had agreed to advance more of the participants than originally planned,.  .

“It’s very clear that each of you put a lot of work into this. We know this because you made our job very hard. We had to look very carefully at the presentations and it was such a tight race that there were a number of draws, so instead of 10 we will have 12 people going forward,” he said before announcing the winners to an expectant gathering of entrepreneurs, mentors, facilitators and donors.

Addressing the closing ceremony, UN Women Deputy Representative for the UN Women MultiCountry Office – Caribbean, Tonni Brodber, said she was impressed by the projects.

“What I have seen here is bold thinking and bold movement and that’s what we need for economic empowerment in the Caribbean,” she said.

“Nine Caribbean countries have debt that is over 100 per cent of their GDP. So everything that we create and work for is going to paying our debt. That is why we need you. That is why we need entrepreneurs that are changing and innovating our economies and our way of thinking about how we take care of ourselves and our communities.”

She further advised those who did not advance in the challenge not to give up on establishing businesses.

Brodber encouraged them to continue working on their ideas, but to accept that they may eventually have to move on to something different.

“Sometimes you may have to say goodbye to the idea and think about something new because on one path you realize ‘maybe I should have gone this way instead, because this is really where the need lies and this is where my comparative advantage is with that need’,” she said.

Continuing with advice to all the entrepreneurs, the UN official added: “Don’t lose your passion, but don’t be completely overtaken by your passion. Allow your skills to inform your passion and your passion to inform your skills. Don’t let the circumstances around you define you.”

Over the coming weeks, the chosen  semi-finalists will refine their proposals, prepare action plans and implement their projects and participate in an online course on entrepreneurship basics and will be required to log in every week for mentoring sessions, explained Co-founder of 1M1B, Manav Subodh.

GLC co-founder Mary Symmonds said a network would also be created to allow those who did not make the cut to keep in touch with each other and have their entrepreneurship queries answered.

The others who participated in the challenge were: Kevin Turton, Risa Downes, Asha Stoute, Satya Collymore and Waynelle Collymore-Taylor of Barbados; Dionne Cush of Guyana; Kengthsang Louis of Haiti; Wilton Jeremie of St Lucia; Mickia Mills of St. Kitts & Nevis; Semesha Corea and Lenford Foster of St. Vincent & the Grenadines; and Jessie Cooper, Shemille John and Sean Aberdeen of Trinidad & Tobago.

Louis was unable to attend the boot camp in Barbados due to unforeseen circumstances, but will be given the opportunity to attend a similar boot camp in New York in mid-May, after which she will join the chosen 12 for the online training and mentoring.

All the participants in the Caribbean Young Leaders Entrepreneurship Boot Camp were chosen from more than 70 entrepreneurs, aged 18 to 29, who submitted innovative proposals to the Caribbean Call to Action Entrepreneurship Challenge.

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