“There is hope for our country. There is a future for every boy and girl. For we know change is coming and we can make a difference between you and me” The tune of this well known jingle, came to mind whilst at the Diaspora Youth Connect (DYC) Project’s Inaugural Business Plan Competition on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at the Mona School of Business and Management, University of the West Indies Mona. As I watched five youth from the inner-city communities of Mountain View and Trench Town present plans for their business ventures, I felt a sense of hope.
Jamaica has a high unemployment rate, which helps to further amplify the problem of poverty in the society. When examined closely, statistics show that a significant percentage of unemployment is comprised of youth, which is even more prominent in vulnerable communities. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica, STATIN (August 2014) reported that youth unemployment rose to 38.5 in April 2013 from 34.1 per cent in April 2012.
Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI) in collaboration with Cuso International work through the Diaspora Youth Connect (DYC) Project to tackle the issue of youth unemployment in eight vulnerable communities in Jamaica through youth entrepreneurship. The Business Plan Competition is directly linked to the Business and Entrepreneurship Development component of the DYC Project.
This first Business Plan Competition under the DYC Project was facilitated by the work of two Cuso International volunteers from the Diaspora, Donna Gabbadon and Shayna Atkins, who were placed in community-based organizations in Mountain View (Mountain View Community Development Council) and Trench Town (Boy’s Town), respectively. These community-based organizations are partnering with the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI) on the implementation of the DYC Project.
Through training and coaching sessions from the volunteers, five young persons took the first steps towards achieving their dream of starting their own businesses by developing their business plans. These business plans form the blueprints for developing their businesses. By going through the process of a competition youth were encouraged and motivated to refine their business plans to a competitive level.
The top three positions in the competition went to: Delano Campbell in first place with “This is Anfield” a community game shop and internet café; Jovan Ottey in second place with his very “Innovative Bamboo” furniture business; and in third place was Nekesha Gayle with “Nick Royalty Photo Studio”. The other contestants’ ideas were just as innovative: “Reggae Rabbits”, rearing rabbits to supply rabbit meat and other related products from Renee Atkins and “J n G Recycled Glass Beads & Craft” from Jodine Gray.
In this competition, everybody is a winner! Not only have the youth benefited from the process of creating their business plans, but through the competition they were privy to the valuable feedback from established entrepreneurs and business professionals, which will be utilized to refine their plans.
The judges in the competition included: Dr. Indianna Minto Coy, Deputy Director of Mona ICT Services at the Mona School of Business and Management, University of the West Indies Mona; Mrs. Bronhil Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of HRM Options Group International; and Ms. Keera Walters, Business Development Officer at the Jamaica Business Development Cooperation (JBDC).
Spectators and judges were quite impressed with the business plans and ideas. Professor Neville Ying stated that he was “impressed with the level and quality of the presentations that were made. Ms. Keera Walters, in her judge’s feedback comments, stated that the contestants should be “proud of themselves because they all did a good job”.
“It was an inspiring event, and the business plans were well thought out and enthusiastically presented,” said Erin McLeod, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Cuso International.
Through the competition, key connections were made with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation through Ms. Keera Walters who highlighted that the JBDC would be willing to assist the competitors in further developing their business ideas.
Mr. Ricardo Dystant, Business Development Manager at the Jamaica National Building Society was especially interested in the Rabbit Farm business idea presented by Renee Atkinson.
One contestant commented that seeing the professional layout of the event, he realized that he had to up his game.
One of the aims of the Diaspora Youth Connect Project is to strengthen the engagement of the Jamaican Diaspora in development initiatives for Jamaica by focusing on youth entrepreneurship development. Through the Business Plan Competition, the Jamaica Diaspora Institute was able to partner with a registered non-profit organization located in the United States of America. Tremendous support was received from JALAWELO, which means Jamaica Land we Love which was founded by Jamaicans in the USA to assist projects in Jamaica through Crowd funding JALAWELO was instrumental in assisting in the drive to raise funds for prizes for the event.
The organization was represented by Mr. Robert Linton who emphasized the fact that JALAWELO was born out of a need to play a part in the meaningful development of Jamaica. He also reinforced the fact that JALAWELO is committed to supporting youth entrepreneurship in Jamaica. Hence, the seamless partnership with the DYC Project provides a platform for the organization to accomplish the goals related to JALAWELO’s entrepreneurship program.
“The Jamaica Diaspora Institute and Cuso International are proud of all the competitors in the DYC Project’s Business Plan Competition. Thanks to the judges that took time out of their busy schedules to volunteer. Thanks to the Cuso International Volunteers for their hard work in preparing the competitors. Special thanks Allison Harrison of Factory 75 who volunteered to video the Competition. She is one of our mentors from the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship- Caribbean who has partnered with us to provide mentors for the youth in the project. Thanks also to JALAWELO for its support and all the donors on their crowd funding platform that saw this cause as being worthy of financial support. In a world where limited access to scarce resources is a hindrance to many, every small contribution makes a big difference in the life of someone in need, said Miss Melesha Manderson, Executive Assistant/ Project Coordinator, Jamaica Diaspora Institute.
Thanks to the Mountain View CDC and Boys Town who are two of the community-based organizations that have partnered with the JDI and Cuso to implement the DYC Project. Other organizations include Mona Social Services University Township Project, RISE Life Management, and the Social Development Commission (SDC) in St. James.”
The Business Plan Competition is just one more important step on the road to self-actualization for these youth. They will move into the next stage of refining their business plans and seeking funding for their ventures. The Diaspora Youth Connect Project welcomes any support that Jamaicans and Friends of Jamaica at home or abroad would like to provide to help us help our youth. Every business venture that the youth are planning to implement needs funding. There is also need for volunteers from Jamaica and the Diaspora to work with youth in the eight target communities in developing their business and entrepreneurship skills, leadership skills, and business development and/or expansion. The youth need mentors and coaches who are entrepreneurs and business professionals that can guide them in the right directions towards realizing their dreams of becoming the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
This is an open invitation to “BE A CHANGE MAKER!”
Visit the DYC project website: http://dyc.jamaicadiasporaconnect.com and get involved TODAY.