Growth & Jobs | Get thirsty! Young entrepreneurs from inner cities urged to innovate
Speak to Victoria, a mother who related her story recently at a forum in the inner-city community of Seaview Gardens in St Andrew, and you'll recognise just how natural innovation comes to many Jamaicans.
The savvy mother, who was marginally employed, found an interesting way to "churn" her own income, after she bought a washing machine on hire purchase to assist with her household chores, but was not entirely sure how she would pay for it.
"I trust a machine from Courts, and I'm here now saying, 'how am I going to pay for this machine?' I need some money to come in and help to pay for it," she said, as she pondered one day at home.
And, then she had an epiphany, "It just popped in my head: 'Why you don't take in other people's clothes and wash them?'" She told her story to a group of some 30, mainly young, people, who recently participated in a forum organised by the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights, with support from JN Small Business Loans Limited and LASCO Distributors, to motivate members residing, or attending school in inner-city communities and surrounding areas.
Victoria quickly acted on her impulse, and sold the idea to her partner, whom she described as being more sociable than she is, and influenced him to sell the idea to his friends.
Her idea was a success! She started her home-based business with her single washing machine, earning the money she needed to finance the hire-purchase agreement, and, was considering purchasing another machine at the point when she disclosed the information.
... Be innovative
Communications and client services manager at JN Bank, Jacqueline Shaw Nicholson who led the entrepreneurship focus of the forum, encouraged young people to be innovative by identifying activities that will fill gaps. She further advised them to assess the ideas and determine where there is a demand, rather than simply setting up shop, or embarking on "feel-good" ideas, which, in the final analysis, may be of little value and not competitive.
"You need to ensure that as you innovate, you're solving a problem. Ask yourself: 'Are you making things easier for someone?' Are you helping them achieve their objectives?'" she advised.
Pointing to the impending ban on single-use plastic bags and styrofoam utensils in January 2019, she said it may be useful for young entrepreneurs to begin to think about how they could fill the emergent needs, for example.
"Challenges often pose opportunities," she encouraged the young people as she took them through practical exercises to help them to better understand the intricacies of preparing a concise business plan, and the basic elements of operating and marketing a business. They were also immersed in financial empowerment and job etiquette by representatives from JN Bank and Rotarians.
"As you try to identify ideas for businesses, begin to examine the challenges you face in your communities, challenges existing businesses may face, or your experience engaging for various activities elsewhere. consider what the pain points are, what bothers you, what areas you believe something can be done, what would really help. These are sources of ideas for businesses," Shaw Nicholson said.
Speaking earlier to the young people, regional director for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information's Region One operations, Dr Kasan Troupe, charged the young entrepreneurs to think and dream big, despite their circumstances.
"You can bring people to the water and get them thirsty enough to drink it," she said, borrowing a quote from an unnamed motivational speaker to underscore the immense talent of her young audience.
"You can become what you want to become. You can blossom where you are planted," she encouraged them.
The educator herself rose from a rough upbringing in the community of Greenwich Farm and attended Trench Town High School, both located in the inner city in underbelly of south-western St Andrew, to become a celebrated turnaround principal and, currently, a government technocrat.
As a child, Dr Troupe failed her high-school entrance test, the Common Entrance exams, which in 1998 became the Grade Six Achievement Test, and is to be replaced by the Primary Exit Profile. Her father, whom she never met, was a gunman and community don, she related, and her mother was not always present.
Young Kasan was raised by her grandmother, and, for a time, she was a troubled teenager who had to be placed in rehabilitation.
"My yard was a ganja yard. Everything around me was designed to bring me down," she related to her young charges; but, with the help of her teachers, she said, she found confidence and persevered.
"I started to do my homework, I started to read whatever I could. I listened to my teachers and I wanted to do well," she related.
"You are not what happened to you, you are who you choose to become," she quipped. "You might be delayed, but your God-given right to shine is just delayed, not denied," she said, reminding the participants that similar to them, she benefited from regular primary and non-traditional secondary education. however, she grew up to compete with and outshone several colleagues, who attended the best preparatory schools and sought-after traditional high schools.
She urged the young adults to take advantage of the opportunities now provided to them, such as the five core Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects paid for by the state, which, she said, can help to launch their dreams.
"You might not be attending a traditional high school, you may not be where you want to be, but you can blossom, you can shine, and you can choose to maximise your education," she said in inspiring them.