Determined to overcome the hurdles of business to ensure success along her entrepreneurial journey is Keishel Joseph-Lalite, who together with her 20-year old daughter, Zhana Joseph have been operating D’Lourie Boss at Booth #8, Arima Promenade, Hollis Avenue, Arima, where you can find some of the finest blends of accra and pholourie and sahena and pholourie! Though the business has been in existence for the past four (4) years, Keishel realized that she needed expert advice as she was experiencing some challenges.
As she puts it “accessing finance coupled with other aspects of needs for young entrepreneurs have always been challenging and change happened when I approached YBTT seeking a mentor.”
Keishel lauded YBTT for pairing her with Rachel Renie, Founder of Market Movers who mentored her for approximately one (1) year. According to Keishel “Rachel showed me how to diversify my business and expand it to create new revenue streams; she also shared various strategies to properly manage my cash flows and expenditure.” Keishel still maintains her connection with Rachel who is always happy to assist.
Keishel describes mentorship as a “must-have” for all entrepreneurs! She adds “the greatest benefit is that your mentor is still accessible to you even at the end of the relationship.”
“I’ve been setting my eyes on mentorship from very early in my career; by having someone to mentor me helped tremendously in my career and so I wanted to share that experience with younger persons” said Surren Maharaj. Surren admits “being a Training Facilitator led me in becoming a Life Coach; coaching strengthens mentorship and also helps in understanding the world of the mentee.” He believes that mentors should be sounding boards for young entrepreneurs to provide guidance to improve their psyche and their business. Currently Sherette Almandoz has been benefitting from the expertise that Surren offers.
Surren commends YBTT highly for the introduction of the Group Mentoring initiative which has been happening weekly since March 2020. As he puts it “group mentoring has shown to be more beneficial as opposed to the traditional one-to-one arrangement; it helps the mentees to connect with several other mentors and mentees in a safe and confidential electronic space.”
Given the current turbulence posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Surren is of the view that mentorship is critically needed at this time. “The importance has doubled or even tripled now more than ever as young entrepreneurs need someone to be their sounding board; the expertise and networking capability possessed by mentors would definitely help in strengthening relationships with their mentees.”
Surren views YBTT’s Mentorship Program as a wonderful initiative that would evolve in a way to help mentees engage in critical thinking and become solution-oriented; it’s also an avenue to assist them in navigating through uncertain times. Looking ahead, Surren would like to see more young entrepreneurs taking a step forward and be risk-takers, as opposed to worrying about failure; they need to be thirsty for knowledge and be action-oriented.
In describing the STL experience, Surren notes “it’s a very easy platform to navigate; however in terms of enhancement, notifications should be automatic which is a work-in-progress.”
The global environment has changed and continues to evolve apace; the COVID-19 crisis has created a greater push towards becoming a digital world; changes in behaviour and mindsets must be strategically aligned and adaptable to effectively bridge the digital divide. Feedback from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development maps the renewed digital landscape since the last major global calamity, the 2008/09 financial crisis which looked at how a digitally-enabled world is working for some, but not equally.
Fortunately, some elements of the entrepreneurial community had been in transition mode long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and so, have been enjoying some amazing experiences most of which have proven that physicality can sometimes be absent from the equation of success. Many may have thought that restaurant dining was a far-fetched reality about a decade ago, but that has changed as Singaporean Restaurant – Virtual Saint Pierre recently launched their dining with the serving of exquisite meals in lacquered bato boxes and delivered by the restaurant’s suited staff to be enjoyed by friends and loved ones over a zoom conference using a link provided by the restaurant!
According to one of the world’s most powerful business tycoons, Bill Gates “as new software innovations emerge, things will continue to change – What is a virtual courtroom? He asked; What is a virtual legislature? How do you create logic? In some ways, you can create something that’s actually more efficient and better than what was there before.” He also cited Microsoft as having gone the way of virtual shareholder meetings even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Gates argued, “as many companies begin to follow this model, there is little doubt that they’d want to return to in-person meetings.”
SHARING THE SHELL LiveWIRE EXPERIENCE: Anthony and June-Ann Henry, Cohort 2
The second cohort of the Shell LiveWIRE programme started with a bang in January 2020 with fourteen (14) entrepreneurs benefiting from this exhilarating experience! Anthony and June-Ann Henry, a unique husband and wife team trading as AJ’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream were sold on the program as soon as they applied and became successful. With a voice of unison they stated “we were both seeking ways to grow our business from a financial standpoint and the LiveWIRE programme was the ideal response to our needs.”
From Anthony’s perspective the programme is very educational and informative whilst June-Ann describes it as a mechanism to gain useful and practical information that can be applied both at a personal and professional level. In the eyes of the duo, the LiveWIRE team including the facilitators have been very helpful ensuring that the participants understand the information and knowledge that is being disseminated from beginning to the end. Some of the major takeaways thus far for this exuberant couple are the Introductory Program in particular the DashBoarding principle; the Leadership Training Series and the Coaching Sessions. June-Ann was deeply impressed by the training sessions in Branding, Export and Finance facilitated thus far.
In describing their entrepreneurial journey, Anthony stated “we started our business from nothing with a folded table, icebox and four little bowls of ice cream in a car park on the Caroni Savannah Road”; he further stated that they remained in that space for approximately six months until they acquired a truck back where goods can be transported. In February 2018, the couple moved into a store front with a freezer and some plastic chairs on loan; the space has now been converted into a full-fledged ice cream shop, and the business has since evolved into the acquisition of a second location in the Couva district.
Determined to keep the flames of success burning, Anthony and June-Ann captured the “Most Progressive Entrepreneur of the Year” awardthrough their success in CARIRI’s Business Hatchery Programme and Unicomer’s Broadening Your Horizons initiative in 2017/2018; they also earned TTMA’s “Small Manufacturer of the Year” awardin 2018.
With the LiveWIRE programme as their beacon of hope, this uniquely poised duo expects to capture at least 25% of the premium ice cream market in Trinidad and Tobago within the next two (2) years!
The world has literally crashed before our very eyes in split seconds…Deemed the invisible enemy, Covid-19 displayed its mastery by plunging into every corner possible. But the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel offers some amazing opportunities including the need for increasing networks and becoming more involved in support groups. A number of young entrepreneurs often complain of their inability to get help when in fact they’re refusing to extend themselves and do the work that needs to be done to get them to their desired point.
Networking at this time can also be useful informally; a search on “Meet-Up”, a platform that allows people to connect with others of shared interest found more than one thousand “Work-At-Home” groups. Research has further proven networking to be a fabulous quench to one’s thirst in building more capacity for themselves and their businesses. Dr Rosina Racioppi, CEO of professional development program provider, Women Unlimited, believes that social distancing amidst the coronavirus can be the catalyst for increased online networking.
Echoing similar sentiments was Dr Jo Webber, CEO of social networking app – “Pod” – “utilizing spare time whilst in self-isolation to network online is a way of laying a foundation for future growth for when this pandemic ends.” Dr Webber also argued that expanding professional networks is excellent for creating greater visibility particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.
Jump Out Your Comfort Zone
Connecting with people virtually may at times be intimidating as there’s no guarantee of blended chemistry. Dr Racioppi stressed the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone at every given opportunity; she further recommended that individuals attempt to network with potential mentors with opposing backgrounds to their own, as she believes that would assist in better understanding how individuals think and operate across different functions especially in the current environment which is extremely challenging.
SHARING THE SHELL LiveWIRE EXPERIENCE: Lyndi Jordan, Cohort 2
Lyndi Jordan, Production Director at Aurora Bitayson Limited, boasts of her success as one of the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of the Shell LiveWIRE programme since January 2020; in describing her experience, Lyndi cited some of the valuables “from the beginning it has been extremely wonderful and I am eternally grateful to Shell Trinidad and Tobago and Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago for this life-changing opportunity; every single training session offers a wealth of information; in fact, I think the programme is too rich in content.” She believes that the conversations coupled with the self-learning and self-awareness aspects are incredibly useful as they focus on both the entrepreneur and the business.
Lyndi expresses deepest gratitude for being able to gain important insights around brand awareness and brand positioning as she states “the LiveWIRE programme has provided me with learnings to better understand these areas because for the past year or so, I have been casting products in too wide a net which resulted in wasted time and effort.” She also noted the importance of “Capacity Building” and “Financial Planning” which according to her, revealed different perspectives including reconfiguration of business models and strengthening relationships with suppliers.
Aurora Bitayson Limited, a successful family business, spans across three (3) generations with her grandparents who started the business in the 1950s; the business continues to grow phenomenally and has now evolved into the production of wines, syrups and jellies. Because of the learnings gleaned from the LiveWIRE programme, Lyndi expects to be able to scale up within the next year or so, something she has been struggling to achieve. She believes that “every entrepreneur who has been in business for at least two (2) years should get a taste of the LiveWIRE experience.”
Moving forward, Lyndi’s trek towards diversifying her business is apace with the cultivation of extra coconut plants and other crops as well as production of new products. Lyndi is strongly convinced that SMEs must become more vigilant in scanning the environment; she also believes that having sustainable contingency plans in place is a must.
Are you fearful? or thinking of life and business post-Covid-19? Answers to both questions should be infused with a futuristic direction complemented by sprinkles of passion, innovation and determination! The greatest advantage that sits in the laps of young entrepreneurs, is their ability to think beyond the norm and keep the “what if” conversations at the tip of their tongues.
Because entrepreneurship was built on the pillar of finding solutions to fill gaps in the environment, the Covid-19 experience offers a unique opportunity to wear sustainable caps and begin searching for those gaps which no doubt can springboard into viable businesses.
Entrepreneurs are well poised at this time to demonstrate the invaluable contribution of entrepreneurship towards the world’s GDP..”Now more than ever, is the time for businesses to think about innovation” says Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia Founder and CEO; VaynerrX Chairman and VaynerSports CEO, USA. He added “crises can also present innovation and positive change if you use the time to think outside the box and stop asking yourself “why” and instead question “why not.”
Entrepreneurs you are now challenged to change the narrative and allow ENTREPRENEURSHIP to occupy its significance along the global landscape!
Following our Webinar, Innovation and Navigating the Digital Landscape, participants had a quick Q&A with Tamara Mon Louis.
The digital space has a lot of noise, what would be a strategy to rise above all the noise and stand out especially now since there would more focus on operating in a digital space.
What are you doing? How are you making the difference? What does your target audience want from you? It may be educating them, it may be providing them tips. Find something that adds value. Look at what you have given your customers in the past, and see how you can add more value. Is it a video tutorial? Is it a PDF downloadable that they can utilize? People who have restaurants are facilitating cooking classes because it’s fun, but these people are building a bond with their customer base and providing value, because they’re helping people to cook while they’re in quarantine! Focus on how to add value, and that value moves you away from the crowd.
It’s said that Instagram is targeted for the younger crowd and Facebook for the older crowd. What are your thoughts on this?
If you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out on people. Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook are all owned by Facebook. Facebook is where, chances are, and the people spend more money because they are older but is Facebook the right demographic for you? Instagram has a younger audience but does that younger audience have that revenue to buy your products? You can use these platforms to build a pipeline for these customers later on while engaging your current customers.
For those customers who are fearful about the economic future, how do we approach them?
People that are fearful about the not economics future, I think it’s a matter of forcible you may to be really empathetic of start the conversation off by understanding their plight. It’s crazy what’s happening right now but I think we started with empathy and then starting to help them shift into a mindset, it’s a mindset shift. Even though they’re fearful, we’re seeing customers and we’ve had customers reach out to was that are panicked and they want to stops our customers fit into three categories at this point right. You see people that are like “oh my God, no more stop, everything, I can’t do it”. There are people that say “there is so much opportunity here, let us take advantage of this opportunity, let us move forward”, and there are people that because their product or service may be impacted by another country they are just kind of like Hey let’s stay steady the course. They’re all right in some respects but it’s about really starting to help those people that are fearful shift their mindset. Today I had a call with a client who wanted to stop so I sent out an email probably 2 days ago saying here are 5 reasons why I believe we can’t stop. You probably don’t need to do everything we’re talking about but now there’s an opportunity for you to become an authority figure in your industry and share information that nobody else is sharing. She got the E-mail and she’s just like “let’s jump on a call” and got on a call we talked it through. By the end of the call we were able to move her from a place where she’s not stopping anymore and we’re getting her to a space where she’s actually continuing with probably half of the contract at this point. Now to me that was a win and she actually said to nice thank you for thinking about at this way. Digital is the new way. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the pandemic goes away, this is how things are going to be done going forward. I believe its spending time, being empathetic of them, finding a strategy that can work for them, sharing that strategy and letting them know that you’re thinking about each one of your customers in an individual way and really giving them the love to get them to that next place.
How can you ensure that your page etc is listed higher when persons search for your services, let’s say on google.
That’s a great question so that’s really search engine optimization. SEO that’s where you optimise your website for those keywords. Google has a thing called keyword planner and there are a few other keyword planners that are online. They’re all free tools. What you can do is you can have a clear understanding of how people are searching for your service. Say for instance, one of the clients we worked with and we did SEO for in Trinidad actually, Azalea health services, so we did their SEO and one of the things I had them optimized for was best gynaecologist in Trinidad. Now they rank from that. It took about 3 months for it to happened but we understood that they were people searching for that so Google gives you are overview of how people have been searching in your country so if you’re doing business in the US, if you’re doing business worldwide you can have a clear understanding of how people are search it in that country and then you take those keywords and you optimize your website for those keywords. There’s a little bit of technical back end but what you want to do is you want to make sure that the keywords show up in the back end, it also shows up in your content and also if you haven’t broken mortar store you make a focus on Google my business listing. Google my business is for brick and mortar stores is really the number 1 tool that you should be tying with any SEO that you’re doing. Google my business, if you have a location you actually get to the page where you can share information about your dates/times that actually shows up 1st when people search for your service. You add keywords there, you can add images, you can add posts there like your outing on social media and then you can get people to give you reviews. What happens with Google is Google is all about relevance so they actually start showing you people that search, they show them the reviews first, so it’s important to leverage that conversation marketing, get people to fill out those reviews on Google my business and then it helps your rise to the tops. It’s really about the keywords. If you’re a brick and mortar store, then it’s about utilizing Google my business listing all the way through and I think that’s how you start ranking. The other option is if you do have a budget leveraging paid advertising so Google paid advertising so that you show up first and that’s a great way to supplement while you’re building your SEO strategy out because again it takes 3 to 6 months for an SEO strategy to go full force where you’re showing up 1st on, but the Google my business listing helps. For those in the coverage that has brick and motor stores, with Google my business listing you actually have to have it mailed to you. In the US you make a phone call they’ll give you a code. In the Caribbean they will send you it you fell out it and then they will actually send the code to your house or to your business I should say, and then you’re able to add that code and optimize and set up the Google my business listing.
Do you have any tips for starting a website for the T&T market?
Yeah the biggest barriers in the T&T market is getting be the backing piece. Is the business operating in T&T only or is it operating outside and in the US and looking to sell send there? If it’s just T&T specific the problem is the banking peace once you get that worked out one of the companies and Trinidad that we work with its doing a really great job of e-commerce is destination T&T so they sell tours to places like osprey caves and so they do a lot of purchases online and people in Trinidad are looking to buy it online. The first step is understanding the best platform for you which could be something like a shopify because shopify is already set up in a way where the functionality is there, they know what works, so it’s all best practices and then once you get the banking peace set up then you should be in a really good place and then it’s leveraging TTPOST to get people in that mindset of “hey this will come to you via mail.” One of the things with e-commerce in Trinidad is education. I mentioned the gynaecologist to you so she has a bit of an ecommerce because her bookings happen online. So because websites have not been the been in Trinidad, they’ve been getting better, the trust is low so you have to do a lot of building to say this is safe, this is convenient, you could do this, you can buy this online, and really getting them to not place so understanding that because e-commerce it’s becoming more and more. People applying on Amazon but they are just not necessarily buying in Trinidad so doing some education to get them to a place where they feel comfortable, but again I think looking at places like shopify and then one of the partners that we have that we work with in Trinidad, Sightfactory, they’re really good at e-commerce sites. Feel free to check them out and speak to them and they can help.
For brands that don’t have a tangible product, such as bloggers or writers, how can we create and build brand recognition as it won’t be looking for sales necessarily but following and re-sharing of content.
Yeah so you do have a tangible product it’s just education and you’re re-purposing content. I think that’s even better. There you have an opportunity to really focus in on personality and authenticity and I know about word ‘authenticity’ is often used to death, really stepping out to build that engagement with folks and sharing what they need. It comes back to, if I can get value I’m going to go there. What value are you providing with the content that you’re sharing. What are you blogging about? Who is your target audience? Who are your readers? Is it a mommy blogger situation? Because mommy bloggers have a perfect example of just taking all, and not necessarily having a tangible product but what they did was they built a base of people that now people with products can actually go to and they pay them to then advertise for them, influencer marketing. Looking to build yourself as an influencer is great for walking into writing but it’s key, who’s your target audience? Who do you want to read your information? What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to come back and read it again next month? It’s definitely going to be about the value that you share with them and then building that follower and then looking to see how you add more value. So partnerships with business, partnerships with new businesses. I always tell my customers all the time is there looking for influencers. Before they go to the influencer who has two hundred thousand followers and has to pay them $500, why don’t go to an influencer or someone who’s building and influencer brand who has 900 followers but 900 engaged followers or 500 really engaged followers and start partnerships with those people. Something that would be great would be to look at businesses who are also in that, come up were you are and then starting to highlight what they’re doing or highlight their service or product is. One of the people we’re mentoring right now, they have a gluten free pancake mix. That’s something if your target audience is in that lane then that maybe having a cooking show or were you show the gluten free pancakes so adding value and getting products in front of those people along with what you’re writing can also help.
If you update your Google SEO, does the ranking take 3-6 months for the Caribbean as well or does it take longer?
The Caribbean is sweeter but it depends on where you are. If a country in the Caribbean is not optimized if they’re not SEO savy and a lot of countries and just starting to focus in on SEO, then you have an opportunity. Two years ago when we worked with Azalea health services, no gynaecologist or doctors were really doing search engine optimization so we had an opportunity to get the best word and start racking for them very quickly so I think I’m ranking 3 to 6 months sometimes in the Caribbean’s actually be faster but I still like to give back industry standard gauge but it could definitely be faster.
What about stores that are interested in selling hand-made items to the Caribbean and even US markets?
I think first and foremost it’s about raising visibility for your product and service. In the US market it’s about the platform that you look at so is LinkedIn a platform for you because that really takes you international. Another person I was mentoring she just wrote a book and launched it yesterday and she had this digital party and she had so many people internationally as well as in Trinidad on her digital book launch a talking about her book. She’s been able to build an International network leveraging LinkedIn. If you have handmade items, I think first of all it’s about talking to the quality of the items, letting people know that it is just as great a quality as whatever brand you’re comparable to. For instance, I know I get all of the products in Trinidad a where I’m like oh my God this is like Gucci. It’s understanding what you’re comparing yourself to and then starting to get yourself out there by leveraging again.
Below is a letter received from BYBT Supported Entrepreneur, Ms Christine Roberts, and the Support received from YBTT Volunteer Mentor, Mr Reggie Ramlochan. Reggie has been mentoring Christine as part of the Youth Business Caribbean Support System, where support goes beyond borders.
Christine has had a passion and love for children since before she can remember. It was this passion which motivated her to enter the U.W.I Cave Hill Campus S.E.E.D Business Plan Competition in which she placed second. The S.E.E.D competition helped Christine to follow her dreams and passion. Chrisy’s Care, a child care facility catering to children with special needs from age 2, is the realization of that dream, a dream to help kids with special needs realize their full potential so that they too can one day achieve their dreams.
Friday 20th March 2020
Members of the Barbados Youth Business Trust (BYBT), Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago (YBTT) and all persons of interest. In light of what is going on around us with the outbreak and widespread of COVID–19, I want to take this time to reflect and show appreciation for what your organizations have done for me and ultimately my business for we are not promised tomorrow but I can let you know the impact you made on me today.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” When I joined the sky is the limit and I was paired with my mentor Reggie Ramlochan, I did not know what to expect but I was prepared to work hard to develop my business, Chrisy’s Care. Chrisy’s Care is a Childcare facility catering to children with special needs in Barbados and its mission is its commitment to providing a higher level of childcare services in a way that promotes both physical and psychological development, while ensuring that the children in our care are achieving their developmental objectives. My mentor helped me to stay true to my vision for the business 100%.
A business mentor is not just someone who advises and guides you, they are someone who understands and knows your vision and is also committed to the development of not just the business but the mentee as a person from a holistic view. During my mentor partnership, I was able to accomplish a number of things with the dedicated support of my mentor and the support of both BYBT and YBTT. Below is a list of my accomplishments for my mentoring period 2019 to 2020:
❖ Hosted a Special Needs Fun Day 2019 ❖ Won a business pitching competition and received a grant 2019 (Entrepreneurship Week) ❖ Become a successful member of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation 2019 incubator program ❖ Won Toastmaster Speech Competition 2020 ❖ Employed 1 full time and 2 part-time employees ❖ Obtained 3 new students into the school program ❖ Operate the business while overseas 2019 to 2020 (Independent of Owner) ❖ Plan another Special Needs Fun Day 2020 ❖ Register to home school Special Needs Children ❖ Register as a Private Primary and Secondary School ❖ Create a social media and branding presence (Instagram and Branded uniforms) ❖ Enrolled in Rehabilitation Therapy Technology Program to become a Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapist ❖ Appear on several talk show programs as an expert on the Barbadian Special Needs Community ❖ Visit a Special Needs School in Trinidad (Princess Elizabeth School on Port of Spain) ❖ Volunteered and became a member of Variety a Children’s Charity in Barbados ❖ Created an online classroom platform to reach more parents and students.
This all became possible because my mentor, Reggie was more than a mentor, he was a LIFE Coach that helped me to develop myself in a holist way. He was able to help me to think and problem-solve through many challenges that came my way by showing me how to step back and look at things from various points of view and most importantly he encouraged me to seize every and any opportunity for my personal, professional and business development.
The program is indeed useful and has many benefits not only for entrepreneurs but for many persons in today’s hard economic times in knowing that entrepreneurship is a possibility.
I wish to recognize the passion for helping and commitment to mentees and the program by Mr. Reggie Ramlochan and to say a heartfelt THANK YOU. Positive mind, positive vibes positive life.
Thank you for all that you have done for me and Chrisy’s Care.