With his own plan to lower landfill waste and curb unemployment through the use of a paper recycling centre, Grenadian Willan Mark has advanced into the next round of the Caribbean Call to Action Entrepreneurship Challenge.
The event was hosted by the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihood (CoESL) at Christ Church, Barbados and ran from May 1-4.
Mark was among 12 young Caribbean entrepreneurs selected after 24 presented their ideas on May 3 as the three-day Caribbean Young Leaders Entrepreneurship Boot Camp came to a close.
The other finalists moving forward in the challenge, which is an initiative of the Global Leadership Coalition (GLC), A Million for A Billion (1M1B), and the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (CoESL) are: Devin Odlum of Antigua & Barbuda; Joshua Forte and Nikele Davis of Barbados, Jenell Pierre of Guyana; Magaran Joseph of St Lucia; Vincent Polak of Suriname; and Josanne Arnold, Vijay Dialsingh and Korice Nancis of Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaicans Janice McLeod and Shamoy Hajare.
The participants in the Caribbean Young Leaders Entrepreneurship Boot
Camp in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, Barbados, were chosen from more than 70 entrepreneurs, aged 18 to 29, who submitted innovative proposals to the Challenge.
As part of the programme, volunteer mentors gave participants advice and guidance over the weekend on how to turn their ideas into viable businesses.
The participants on Sunday were required to present their projects to judges James Husbands, Leslie Walling, Jean Lloyd, Marcia Brandon, Hashim Ruan, and Mark Ifill.
Walling said that it was tough choosing the top performers, so much so that the judges had agreed to advance more of the participants than originally planned.
“It’s very clear that each of you put a lot of work into this. We know this because you made our job very hard. We had to look very carefully at the presentations and it was such a tight race that there were a number of draws, so instead of 10 we will have 12 people going forward,” he said before announcing the winners to an expectant gathering of entrepreneurs, mentors, facilitators, and donors.
Addressing the closing ceremony, UN Women Deputy Representative for the UN Women Multi-Country Office– Caribbean, Tonni Brodber, said she was impressed by the projects presented.
“What I have seen here is bold thinking and bold movement and that’s what we need for economic empowerment in the Caribbean,” she said.
“Nine Caribbean countries have debt that is over 100 per cent of their GDP. So everything that we create and work for is going to pay our debt. That is why we need you. That is why we need entrepreneurs that are changing and innovating our economies and our way of thinking about how we take care of ourselves and our communities.”
Brodber encouraged the participants who did not advance to not give up on establishing businesses.
Brodber also suggested that the participants should continue working on their ideas, but to accept that they may eventually have to move on to something different.
“Sometimes you may have to say goodbye to the idea and think about something new because on one path you realise ‘maybe I should have gone this way instead, because this is really where the need lies and this is where my comparative advantage is with that need’,” she said.
The UN official added: “Don’t lose your passion, but don’t be completely overtaken by your passion. Allow your skills to inform your passion and your passion to inform your skills. Don’t let the circumstances around you define you.”
The 12 chosen entrepreneurs over the coming weeks will participate in an online course on entrepreneurship basics and will be required to log in every week for mentoring sessions, explained co-founder of 1M1B, Manav Subodh.
GLC co-founder Mary Symmonds said a network would also be created to allow those who did not make the cut to keep in touch with each other and have their entrepreneurship queries answered.
The others who participated in the challenge were: Kevin Turton, Risa Downes, Asha Stoute, Satya Collymore, and Waynelle Collymore-Taylor of Barbados; Dionne Cush of Guyana; Kensihsagn Louis of Haiti; Wilton Jeremie of St Lucia; Mickia Mills of St Kitts & Nevis; Semesha Corea and Lenford Foster of St Vincent & the Grenadines; and Jessie Cooper, Shemille John and Sean Aberdeen of Trinidad & Tobago.