Developing talent

I’m very excited to announce that the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation is about to launch the third annual $20 Challenge competition. The reason I am so excited is that this year we have a partner with us in Columbus or Flow (as you may be more familiar with). Columbus so believes in developing young entrepreneurs that the company has donated $20,000 to the $20 Challenge competition in addition to gifts for the Ambassadors, internships for the winners and assistance with the technological aspects of the competition.

We had a great kick off meeting with a number of the Ambassadors last week. Ambassadors are members of the business community who either run their own businesses or are in leadership positions and have a desire to help to encourage young entrepreneurs. They therefore volunteer their time to work with the students for the duration of the competition by providing mentorship and encouragement to create and run a business in the four weeks allotted with the $20 they are loaned.

This year we were fortunate to have one of last year’s winning teams at that session and they were able to share what the competition meant to them and how it changed their perspective about their future. The team was Josie Griffith, Tarah Payne and D’Shonna Callender who were students of Deighton Griffith School last year. Their winning project, a magazine for teens called I.K.R. (I know right?) included study tips, health tips, clothes, hair and beauty advice and a lot more. The magazine was an innovation for the $20 Challenge since many students tend to buy and sell snacks or bake cookies etc. What was also impressive was that the girls sold advertisements in the magazine and made more than enough money to cover their printing costs before they even sold one magazine. Sales were therefore icing on the cake.

Running a competition such as this is not easy, especially if there is resistance from schools or refusal to participate or there is a shortage of ambassadors. However, what makes it worth the effort is the day of judging when you hear young people stand up before a panel and judges and speak confidently about their business. What was particularly encouraging for me last week was when someone asked the I.K.R. girls how the competition changed their lives and they said that before they were thinking along the lines of working for someone else but after taking part in the competition they see themselves as potential entrepreneurs, running their own business. They have all gone on to further their studies with a view to developing the areas of expertise that they brought to the project.

We’re only at the tip of the iceberg. My desire is for the competition to get bigger each year and for there to be such an excitement about it that schools are calling us to find out how they can get their students to enter rather than us having to actually beg some schools to open their doors. There have been numerous articles and speeches on the importance of entrepreneurship to our economy but unfortunately the light has not yet dawned for everyone, but we are confident that this will change and more students will begin to see entrepreneurship as a viable career option.

The great thing is that we are not limited to Barbados. What’s to stop the girls from creating an I.K.R. magazine App and selling it on the Internet to teens all over the world? I am mentoring a designer who has over the last two years created a brand called Evolve. At present he only offers T-shirts but his vision is to evolve into all kinds of other clothing and accessories and compete in the street wear market. The T-shirts are of the highest quality and he uses word art to share conscious and empowering messages. I believe that he is on track to compete with the major brands that our teenagers buy from the US. At the moment Facebook is his main marketing tool which is great because it is free, but the potential for this business to go global through other web marketing initiatives is huge. I’ve seen comments from customers as far as Europe and even one on active duty in Saudi Arabia connecting with him through Facebook and sharing how much they love the T-shirts and asking how they can get more.

We need to begin to encourage our youth from the time they are in school to dream big, think outside of Barbados and find innovative ways to compete in the market, recognising that they are not limited to Barbados but the world is theirs. We also need to teach them the importance of passion, productivity and perseverance. These will bring whatever else they need.

*Donna Every is a business and motivational speaker whose passion is to help individuals and organizations fulfill their purpose. She has written five books and has recently released her second novel, The High Road.

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