Twenty-nine youth from various secondary schools across Barbados were celebrated and awarded at the closing ceremony of Empower Youth International’s Teen Entrepreneur Programme which was funded by the Global Environment Fund Small Grants Programme and The United Nations Development Programme.
The purpose of the programme was to educate, train and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs (TeenPreneurs) to become civic-minded leaders with integrity who would make a positive difference in the community through their innovation, creativity and purposeful enterprises.
This year, directors Franz Harewood-Hamblin and Troy Hamblin decided to focus on agriculture. “The agricultural sector is one of the most crucial sectors for mankind and with an exponentially increasing population and scarcity of resources, [it] is under constant strain.
“In light of our current global realities such as climate change, rising fossil fuel prices, ecosystem degradation and water and land scarcity — all of which are making today’s food production methods increasingly unsustainable, we challenged the youth in our programme to create sustainable agribusinesses that were eco-friendly, enhanced food security and made responsible use of natural resources in their environment,” explained Mrs Franz Harewood-Hamblin, director of Empower Youth International.
She continued, “Our ultimate goal was to unlock the potential of this next generation of entrepreneurs and expose them to the broad possibilities of the agriculture sector as a source of viable income. Moreover, we wanted to reduce the stigma associated with agriculture as a no-win occupation full of drudgery and to highlight that indeed, agriculture could be cool. Believe me, these young people here today proved that they can play a critical role in transforming this sector and it is never too late to think big, creative and innovative.”
The participants received training from outstanding entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, agri-entrepreneurship, finance, business planning and much more. In just one week they created an agri-business and presented it before a panel of judges.
According to finance director of Empower Youth International Troy Hamblin, “Their agri-businesses were impressive and many of them worked long hours with guidance from their mentors to present businesses worthy of sustainability.”
United Nations Development Representative David Bynoe also stated that as one of the judges, he was impressed by the students’ work and planned to buy some of the jewellery one of the teams created.
Their ventures included an organic skincare company, an organic floral business, a website design company for agricultural businesses and a jewellery business using natural materials from the environment and much more. Many of the judges were inspired by their professionalism and creativity. Moreover, several of the young entrepreneurs were enthusiastic about continuing their businesses even after the programme ended.
At the award ceremony, Team Natural Divinity won first place and Most Creative prize for their jewellery created out of mahogany, seeds and other natural resources. Second place and Most Innovative prize went to RDGS Graphix Inc. for their creation of a website design company to host predominantly agri-businesses. Third place went to Naturalz for their detox and organic smoothie idea while Belfiore won the Best Teamwork prize.
Principal of the Barbados Community College (BCC) Annette Allyene who has worked with the organization in their youth development programmes lauded the work that Empower Youth International has done behind the scenes for many years. She stated that BCC students have also helped to develop the entrepreneurial skills of youth enrolled in the programme and encouraged the participants to continue to follow their dreams.