Two young Barbadian entrepreneurs have advanced to the next round in the keenly contested Caribbean Call To Action Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Joshua Forte, who presented his Red Diamond Compost’s creation of organic soil enhancers for farmers, and Nikele Davis, who pitched a natural hair styling app for women that would be offered by her company Moca Hair Designs, were among 12 young Caribbean entrepreneurs selected, after 24 had presented their ideas last Sunday as the three-day Caribbean Young Leaders Entrepreneurship Boot Camp came to a close in Barbados.
The others chosen to move forward to the next stage of the challenge –– which is an initiative of the Global Leadership Coalition (GLC), A Million For A Billion (1M1B), and the Caribbean Centre Of Excellence For Sustainable Livelihoods (CoESL) –– were Devin Odlum of Antigua and Barbuda, 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 and Tobago.
Over the weekend, the participants got advice and guidance from volunteer mentors about how to turn their ideas into viable businesses. 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 ten, 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 Women Multi-Country 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.”
Brodber further advised those who did not advance in the challenge not to give up on establishing businesses. She 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.
The United Nations official further advised all the entrepreneurs: “Don’t lose your passion; but don’t be completely overtaken by [it]. 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 12 will participate in an online course on entrepreneurship basics and will be required to log in every week for mentoring sessions, explained 1M1B co-founder 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; Kensihsagn Louis of Haiti; Wilton Jeremie of St Lucia; Mickia Mills of St Kitts and Nevis; Semesha Corea and Lenford Foster of St Vincent and the Grenadines; and Jessie Cooper, Shemille John and Sean Aberdeen of Trinidad and Tobago.
Louis was unable to attend the boot camp in Barbados, but will be given the opportunity of attending a similar one 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 had submitted innovative proposals to the Caribbean Call To Action Entrepreneurship Challenge.