Inspired by teens

Last week was the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation’s Summit – Be Inspired – and I must say that I left really inspired.

As part of the Education & Talent Development team, I was particularly pleased to see the winners of the $20 Challenge accept their awards. For those of you who don’t know, the $20 Challenge is a competition open to fourth and fifth formers where we lend each participant $20 and challenge them to come up with a business for four weeks, either by themselves or as a group.

This year we gave out seven awards, two of them to individuals. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of a situation like trying to get schools to come on board with the competition or trying to get volunteers to help with the students, you begin to ask yourself: Why am I doing this? But when you hear the kids report on their business and their experiences during the judging, it makes it all worthwhile.

The businesses of the finalists were all so diverse and the stories so encouraging that it was almost impossible to choose just three winners, so all were given awards. We had two individuals — one who was given an award for resourcefulness because, recognising that it was golden apple season and he had a tree in his back yard full of golden apples, he went in to juice production, bought bottles and spices and marketed his product in his neighbourhood and beyond.

Our other individual created scented candles from both candles around her house as well as cheap candles she bought and added various scents to and wrapped them in colourful cellophane. Incidentally she was one of last year’s winners as well, when she was in fourth form.

The Social Entrepreneurship Award went to a group that made and sold bracelets and key chains for cancer awareness month, featuring the pink ribbon and went everywhere selling them. The Innovative Award was given to a group, Stringly Business, which brought back in string art and made quite a profit from their innovative designs.

Other outstanding projects were the Smoothie Explosion group who learned a lot of business lessons on the job and the VB Treats with a team of 10, who really understood the meaning of teamwork by the time they finished raising about $1,800 from their initial $200.

Another group created a teen magazine, called IKR (I know Right) Magazine and wrote their own articles, created advice columns, give self-esteem and health tips and did their own photo shoots. They also got ads from businesses which gave them quite a good revenue stream even before they sold the magazines to their peers and teachers.

Not only was I impressed by the business ideas but I was really encouraged to hear the students share what they learnt in the process and especially by those who realise that entrepreneurship is a viable career choice.

One student did not really fully complete his project submitted a scrap of paper that said he made about $78 from his $20 in one day and he realised that he could be an entrepreneur. However, as was wonderfully said at the conference by Baroness Floella Benjamin, perseverance and determination are also essential elements of being an entrepreneur. We trust that we will see him next year, having embraced those characteristics.

So these teenagers, and many others, successfully answered the challenge and certainly challenge me to step up my game, so taking a leaf from their books, we in business know that we need to try to sell our products and services in as many places as we can, that we need to be persistent, we need to be creative and innovative and work as a team if we have others in the business with us. Once we do all those things, we will be successful. The only remaining challenge now is to get back the $20 from the students who haven’t yet turned it back in.

* Donna Every is a motivational and business speaker and the author of the books What do you have in your house?, The Promise Keeper, Arise and Shine and now the recently published novel, The Merger Mogul. She has a degree in Mathematics, is a Chartered Accountant and has an MBA. She is the Project Manager for the Education and Talent Development Pillar of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation.

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