GEW Media Launch – Keynote – Mrs. Indera Sagewan-Alli, Executive Director, The Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness (UWI)(OCT. 28TH, 2015)

 Moving from Entitlement to Empowerment


GEW Media Launch - GEW Media Launch - Keynote - Mrs. Indera Sagewan-Alli, Executive Director, The Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness (UWI) (OCT. 28TH, 2015)


Good morning ladies and Gentlemen. Let me start by thanking the organisers of this year’s T&T chapter of “Global Entrepreneurship Week” Youth Business T&T (YBTT) for inviting me to share with you, at this inaugural media launch, some thoughts on “Entrepreneurial Opportunities in our current Socio-Economic Landscape; particularly as it pertains to Young people.”


From the outset, I want to place on record that ours is an economy that is employment not entrepreneurship driven. Since independence, successive governments have implemented a singular “state led dependency model of development”.


Our people whether college graduates or high school dropouts, have an expectation of finding a job almost as an entitlement. And, with the largest contributor to our GDP (energy) generating employment for only 3 percent of the labour force, and other productive sectors not realising sufficient growth, people have looked increasingly to the state to provide employment. Papa state has not disappointed.


Yes there have been verbal articulations on the importance of private sector investment, diversification and in more recent discourses; creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. But we have done little more than played children’s hop scotch with these things.


And so, courtesy state intervention in the labour market, we boast an official unemployment rate in Trinidad and Tobago of approximately 4 percent. Notwithstanding, youth unemployment and underemployment is closer to 20 percent, with female youth unemployment even higher.


And, of the 600,000 plus persons in the labour force, approximately 200,000 are employed in government “make work programs”, according to UWI economists. With youth featuring heavily in this figure through programs such as OJT, YAPA, MUST and even URP and CEPEP.


Economic good fortunes via oil and gas got us here.


Where will be one year, two years from now? Given:

  • That the current declining fortunes from oil and gas
  • Contraction in other labour intensive productive sectors; manufacturing, agriculture, tourism
  • Employment cuts in the energy sector
  • The negative recovery prognosis for oil and gas
  • Lethargic growth in the global economy


All of this translates into a reducing capacity of the state to sustain its efforts at employment generation. Sadly, there are little expectations that employment opportunities will be readily available in other sectors, largely because we have not prioritised economic diversification beyond oil and gas.


The question then is, wherein lies the hope for the Youth of our nation? Is it in self-employment? Youth-Business? Youth- entrepreneurship?


Caricom Secretariat Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque has expressed concern about the rising levels of youth unemployment. He concludes and rightfully so “that this shows a mismatch between the skills set that are necessary, and those being taught.” He goes on to offer a solution;  that we must

“broaden offerings within our general education system to promote creativity and innovation,” Easier said than done.


Ambassador La Rocque is but one of a myriad of leaders-  local and regional-, mouthing these very sentiments, but none of them have moved beyond words to creative and I dare say necessary intervention! And so, the youth is left to intervene on its own behalf.  Youth Business T&T is clearly one such intervention. I salute you.


You see, youths, better than their elders, understand that it is more than educational reform to promote creativity and innovation and a matching of skills training to labour market needs that is required. They know that that will only get you a job when what you want is to be the generator of jobs!!!


In effect, education reform has to do more than capitalise on catch phrases made popular elsewhere, it has to start with the end in mind. If we want a different expectation from graduates then we have to set the required goal at the outset. To illustrate, you cannot train persons “to find a job in the labour market” and at the end of the training say, “go forth and be creative, be innovative, be an entrepreneur, start a business, when the training he received did not prepare him for such action” The natural born entrepreneur is a minority, a gem as rare as diamonds. The majority must be trained to become entrepreneurs. An innovator is not an entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is the one who sees the commercial value in the innovation and has the risk taking mind-set to press forth, prepared to fail and try again or hit the jackpot and try again with other ventures.


It is no wonder that Trinidad and Tobago has one of the lowest rate of new business start- ups in the world.


MSMEs are the bedrock of sustainable growth in most economies (In Trinidad & Tobago, SMEs numbered 18,000 in 2010, contributing nearly 28% to GDP and employing 200,000 persons (approx. 30 percent of the labor force). Of the total, 91% MSMEs in T&T, 75% are micro enterprises. We are not doing sufficient to grow this important business sector.


MSMEs suffer significant constraints; most notably financial. In Trinidad and Tobago only 11% of MSME start-up funding comes from the banking Sector while 70% comes from personal savings. The financial market is characterised by:

  • high commercial bank interest rates,
  • risk aversion by banks,
  • perception of MSMEs as “high risk” and “unbankable”,
  • investment costs higher than market costs,
  • “buy and hold” culture in shares market,
  • paucity of financial/accounting information on SMEs creating difficulty for banks to assess credit worthiness,
  • high administrative or transaction costs of lending to SMEs due to small volumes and lack of economies of scale,
  • a failed venture capital model,
  • a heavily bureaucratic process to access Institutional guarantees and funding and
  • a legislative model that is large business focused.


What do we do then? Throw our hand in the air in despair? I imagine many have done so. But choosing to be hapless victims is not the gumption that characterises entrepreneurs. So, as Trinidad and Tobago gets ready to participate in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week”  : the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators who launch start-ups and bring ideas to market,” let us bring some ideas to market on how we can move the Trini-psyche from employee to employer, on how we can truly build an entrepreneurial economy:

  • Education for entrepreneurship– Entrepreneurship education from secondary to tertiary level.
  1. developing sound business models
  2. studying the markets

III. assessing the risks involved their plan

  1. designing and implementing business continuity plans
  2. Leadership


  • University reform; from pure research to applied research and commercialization
  • Corporate venture capital initiatives (Social Corporate Responsibility
  • Public venture Capital Fund managed by experienced entrepreneurs with strict accounting procedure
  • Public crowd funding platform


These are but a few suggestions if implemented could go a long way in building a truly entrepreneurial society, thereby giving hope to our young people and incentivising them to be the champions of industry and sustainable economic development.

GEW Media Launch: Remarks Mr. Julian Henry, CEO, NEDCO




On behalf of the Board of Directors and Management of the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited, I am pleased to congratulate the YBTT on the successful launch of another instalment of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO) is delighted to once again partner with you as we launch the GEW 2015.


As you know, NEDCO is charged with the development of our citizens by empowering individuals and communities to attain financial independence through Entrepreneurship, with special focus on the small business owner. We recognise the importance of organisations like the YBTT and the Global Entrepreneurship Week programme in providing additional support to local entrepreneurs.


NEDCO remains committed to this partnership as we believe there is an opportunity for effective synergies among all the players in the local Entrepreneurship landscape. This will serve to cement the desire to harness the still largely untapped creative potential of our citizens and develop a sustainable sector which can be a viable alternative revenue stream to our national economy – especially given the present environment of decline which the market is currently facing.


This I believe is now the most important mission for Trinidad and Tobago.


We must understand how important it is to diversify our economy and create new industries that will replace the oil and gas sector as the main revenue earner for our economy. Now is the time to develop entrepreneurship.


We also need to appreciate that this is one of, if not the most important missions for Trinidad and Tobago for the next ten to fifteen years. That is, to discover and develop the next “big” industry.


In order to achieve this we must as a nation, create a clear pathway, with a clear starting and end point, through which each new entrepreneur can follow, without confusion, uncertainty or the lack of proper information or guidance about where to go and what type of service he/she should receive.


To create this pathway, we must therefore coordinate all the components; and they already exist; NEDCO, YBTT, i2i, CARIRI, UTT, Arthur Lok Jack, YTEPP etc, into a singular, instructive, non-competitive, seamless entity that delivers – in the proper sequence and proportions – to the Entrepreneur.


The only challenge or limitation to the developing, eager young entrepreneur should be the level of creativity and hard work that they are willing to put into their business idea.


NEDCO has a very clear vision for Entrepreneurship and is serious and focused on service and development of quality products and quality clients.


We shall continue to work together with the YBTT on this and any other venture where we can share NEDCO’s expertise in the area of Training, Business Advisory, Mentorship and Financing to the Small and Micro Entrepreneur.


Once again I will like to thank you for extending an invitation to NEDCO to be part of this Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015 and wish you every success.


I thank you.



GEW Media Launch: Remarks from Mrs. Laughlin, Chairman, YBTT



Good Morning!  It is a great honour to officially launch Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015 – an event hosted by Youth Business Trinidad & Tobago (YBTT) that will be celebrated from November 16th to 22nd, 2015 in more than 160 countries around the world.


“There has been a global explosion of interest in helping nascent entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas – but they need stronger ecosystems to help them unleash those ideas; through better co-ordination and collaboration, we are empowering the next generation of game-changing start-ups with the ability to scale globally.” These words of Jonathan Ortmans, President of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, which leads GEW each year, give context to YBTT’s plans as we host GEW for a sixth year. One year ago, we brought entrepreneurs together with the major stakeholders in the support ecosystem and the challenge to “Get Connected…Act Now”.


This year our GEW theme is “Building Our Connectivity”! Research continues to show that entrepreneurs learn from interacting with one another, particularly at the early start-up stage. Our theme thus calls on our local entrepreneurs to continuously strengthen their connectivity by investing in their relationships, networks, and partnerships.


There are a couple of new dimensions to GEW this year.  One is our National Survey, “Public Perception of Entrepreneurship In T&T” in which we seek to discover how the wider national community perceives the services currently being offered by the support ecosystem stakeholders and to find out what additional needs exist. Our plan is to compile the results of this survey into a working document that we will then present to each stakeholder so that we can address the issues and gaps identified.  Let me at this time extend sincere thanks and appreciation to the Unit Trust Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago who has agreed to support us in this initiative.


At the core of GEW 2015, though, is a series of activity-based events that give entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect, learn and use the skills needed to grow their businesses.  We start next Friday, November 6th, with “GEW On The Promenade”, a Connectivity Event that brings entrepreneurs and support organizations together to show and talk about their products and services.


On Monday 16th November we celebrate the official start of GEW with our Opening Ceremony and Youth Symposium, “Entrepreneurs Linking Entrepreneurs”, to be held at the Radisson Hotel.  This event is designed to reveal


the many opportunities for creative entrepreneurship that this sector offers, particularly to young entrepreneurs and will give particular focus to the Fashion Industry, 3D Animation and our national instrument, the Steelpan.  Fifth and Sixth Form students from selected secondary schools across T & T will join us for this Symposium.  We are privileged to have as our special guest speaker, Lisa Wickham, CEO of Imagine Media International Limited and one of the EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year finalists in the T&T Chamber’s 2015 Competition.  In addition several of YBTT’s own creative entrepreneurs, including Joshua Mangroo and Brian Benoit as well as one of YBTT’s Mentors, Alicia Charles, who will facilitate a “Creative Entrepreneurship” workshop.


I hope that this preview of some of the GEW 2015 events excites you to attend and to help us spread the word.  All of this becomes possible through the generous support of our dedicated stakeholders, some of whom are here with us today.  This year we acknowledge in particular the contribution of our GEW Platinum Sponsors, BG Trinidad & Tobago Limited and USAID.  In addition we recognize with gratitude First Caribbean International Bank and the Unit Trust Corporation as well as our long-standing GEW partners including

  • UTT
  • The Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business
  • Junior Achievement T&T
  • Launch RockIt
  • And welcoming this year PLOTT, the Powerful Ladies of Trinidad & Tobago as well as the Rotary Clubs of Maraval and St. Augustine.


We at YBTT intend to continue the entrepreneurial conversation beyond November 22nd and into 2016 as we celebrate our fifteenth year as an NGO.  Our message to T&T’s young entrepreneurs is that we believe in you.  Your creativity, innovativeness, passion, determination and courage are the qualities that will make you successful as entrepreneurs. YBTT’s role as a support organization is to join with policymakers and others in the ecosystem to create the enabling environment that supports your efforts.


Let me end by saying a big thank you to you all.  We are all partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem sharing a common goal to support our young entrepreneurs to start-up, scale-up, strengthen and sustain. Let us continue to collaborate to ensure that more and more young people know that the support ecosystem exists, see it as relevant to their needs, have a quality experience every time they access it and have a steady supply of success stories to motivate and empower them. 


To the members of the Media this is a special thank you for your support in telling our story. At the end of this event, we will provide you with a comprehensive list of the GEW 2015 stakeholders and their schedule of activities.


Thank you all.




Conec's managing director, Jennifer Gibbons-Joseph

Conec’s managing director, Jennifer Gibbons-Joseph

Money is considered to be the most pivotal element for women who manage their own businesses, hence for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015, there would be a special focus on female entrepreneurs and the various methods of approach used in managing their business finances. Conec Professional Coaching Services, an active GEW partner for the past five (5) years, will be facilitating “After Budget – Money Management”, a workshop aimed at assisting female entrepreneurs to review their operating costs and expenditure as a result of the 2015/2016 budget presentation.

According to Conec’s Managing Director, Jennifer Gibbons-Joseph, “a common mistake made by entrepreneurs is the handling of income and expenditure.” She added “there is also the problem of over-spending, not keeping proper records, and using one account for both businesses expenses and personal/family needs.” Specific areas which would be covered at the workshop include budgeting, asset protection and allocation of funds.

At the end of the workshop, female entrepreneurs would be better able to manage their earnings, and design a post-budget plan to run a profitable business to assist in achieving their objectives. Participants would also gain a better insight into broadening their funding horizons and networking capacity.

Gibbons-Joseph is a Certified Professional Life and Financial Coach and a YBTT facilitator in the areas of Financial Management and Analysis of Your Business Model. For more information on this workshop visit Conec’s Facebook Page at or email  


By: Sandrine Rattan

Project Co-ordinator – Stakeholder & Media Relations (YBTT)


Published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on Thursday, October 29th, 2015


Global Entrepreneurship Week carded for November 16th – 22nd, 2015, has been attracting a wide cross-section of stakeholders who, though they may not be actively involved in entrepreneurial development, have all agreed that that Entrepreneurship would definitely be a value-added element to the economic diversification process in Trinidad and Tobago.

One such stakeholder is Rotary Clubs of Trinidad and Tobago, which have not only leaving an indelible mark on the lives of many, but have also been making enormous contributions towards global development. Consisting of business professionals who collectively volunteer their time and efforts to assist communities through the facilitation of various types of projects, the roles of Rotary Clubs has been evolving to effectively widen their base support.

Recognizing the pivotal role of entrepreneurship in this country’s economic diversification process, the Rotary Club fraternity has been engaging in different types of entrepreneurial activities. For GEW 2015, there would be a collective thrust in interest, as the Clubs have decided to celebrate entrepreneurs by showcasing successful entrepreneurs at their meetings scheduled for hosting in November.

Aimed at demonstrating the many levels at which entrepreneurship can build our society, this initiative will indeed be a start of moving entrepreneurial development to another level. It is also hoped that other business interest groups would collaborate with Rotary Clubs, in not only celebrating entrepreneurs, but also contributing towards nurturing and continuously enhancing the nation’s start-ups and existing entrepreneurs.


By: Sandrine Rattan

Project Co-ordinator – Stakeholder & Media Relations (YBTT)


Published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015


Entrepreneurship remains an important staple in the global socio-economic diet for many economies, including Trinidad and Tobago. Global Entrepreneurship Week which will be celebrated worldwide this year from November 16th -22nd,  provides a rewarding opportunity for many of our creative and innovative minds to demonstrate their entrepreneurial prowess!

Launch RockIt, a non-governmental organization established to support entrepreneurship at varying levels as well as an on-going GEW partner, will be hosting “eVent”, an initiative with a difference! Wantrepreneurs, New Entrepreneurs and Business Men and Women, would gather in a single space on November 14th, 2015 to continue this very important conversation in a celebratory fashion. According to Launch Rockit’s CEO, Gerard Thomas “the infrastructure for an entrepreneurial eco-system already exists in Trinidad and Tobago; what is needed now is the continuity of the national conversation among the major players to make things happen in a co-ordinated way.” He added “despite the fact that an optimum entrepreneurial structure is still work in progress, we have much to celebrate and eVent is the start of a larger celebration.”

Notably, this initiative is a double celebration of both victories and failures. As Thomas puts it “no matter what the situation, every experience whether positive or negative assists in the growth of an entrepreneur; eVent will be an annual celebration where entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs can attend and celebrate, have fun and network at the end of a brutally long and exhausting year.”

For this the first year, Launch Rockit is aiming to target entrepreneurs at all levels. Prominent individuals within the business community would also be present to share their business experiences, which would no doubt redound to the benefit of the younger entrepreneurs.

Business partners would also get an opportunity to showcase their products/services and brands, to a concentrated group of focused and eager entrepreneurs, who are all willing to take new and calculated risks. “Trinidad and Tobago is at the tipping point for entrepreneurial transformation, and there is a critical mass of local interest in entrepreneurial development. This event is one of the many opportunities available for organizations to become a lead supporter of entrepreneurial development and innovation in your particular industry” said Thomas. Get more information about eVent at



By: Sandrine Rattan

Project Co-ordinator – Stakeholder & Media Relations (YBTT)


Published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on Thursday, October 15th, 2015



Graceson John – Dominica and Andew Julien – Trinidad and Tobago

The process of regional integration has been an important conversation among local and regional business captains since inception in 1968. However, despite the challenges, the process has evolved and has also been demonstrating a steady growth path. Given its significant contribution to world economies, entrepreneurship has been identified as critical to strengthening that Caribbean bond necessary for the overall success of youth entrepreneurship.

Starting this renewed process is the Caribbean Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, a new platform created for entrepreneurs and policy makers to collectively build a better future for business in the Caribbean.  As an incentive to  motivate young entrepreneurs, special awards were presented at the Summit held recently in Barbados, to a number of creative and innovative young entrepreneurs, who, through their determination and foresight, are set to break traditional barriers in their respective fields.

Copping the award for the Caribbean Regional Social/Environmental Entrepreneur,  was Trinidad and Tobago’s Andrew Julien, one of YBTT’s success stories! Trading as Blue Earth Recycling Technology Limited, Julien provides an unparalleled recycling, collection and transportation service to selected recycling agencies throughout Trinidad and Tobago. The company’s primary focus is the collection of glass bottles, as well as supplying other recyclable waste materials including copper, aluminium and scrap iron for resale and reproduction of new items.

Dominica Youth Business Trust has also produced their own success stories who shared in the C-YES experience! Graceson John, trading as Big G’s Pepper Sauce was the proud winner of the award for the Caribbean Regional Start-Up Young Entrepreneur. John currently has 17 flavours of pepper sauce on the supermarket shelves in Dominica, including Coconut, Coffee, Sorrel, Cinnamon, Pumpkin, Garlic just to name a few. His innovative thinking continues to expand as he has a total of  21  pepper sauce recipes, 2 salad dressings and 2 seasoning sauces. His vision is to take his business to regional and international levels, thereby creating a household name!

Elias Dupuis trading as 365 Group Inc., also from Dominica, is determined to renew the face of the media production industry in Dominica. Winning the award  for the Caribbean Regional Technology Young Entrepreneur, was definitely an inspiration to Dupuis, who together with his business partners, continuously apply the latest technology to provide top-quality services  to clients such as video production, photography, motion graphics, compositing and web/graphic design services.

The door to capacity building for the CARICOM Region would definitely be unlocked by the creativity and innovation that resonate in the hearts and minds of young entrepreneurs!


By: Sandrine Rattan

Project Co-ordinator – Stakeholder & Media Relations (YBTT)


Published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on Thursday, October 1st, 2015