“If cash is the lifeblood of a business, then SME are the lifeblood of most economies. These are the creative spaces in which innovation, new technologies, sustainable solutions and development are nurtured.”
Good Morning! And thank you all for being here as we launch GEW 2017.
The ‘game’ is changing globally. It is not easy to stay positive, open and focused on the opportunity against a backdrop of continuing global volatility and disruption – that 73 million young people around the world are unemployed, and 156 million young workers live in poverty; that youth unemployment in the Caribbean is running at about 40%. It’s a real struggle to remain focused on opportunity with the distraction of increasing national uncertainty and doubtful outlook for short-term economic recovery. The challenges faced by young people to find meaningful work, to access support for starting up and scaling up, to channel their frustration into positive change rather than social unrest; and to learn from others – are escalating not diminishing.
The fact that quality interventions to support young entrepreneurs are needed more than ever makes our contribution, and that of others like YBTT, more relevant and urgent. YE’s continue to need support in starting, growing and sustaining their businesses.
This is the context in which we’re seeing “Entrepreneurship as The Game Changer” and YBTT and the other organizations that support Youth Entrepreneurship, through their coordinated and collaborative efforts, the facilitators, catalysts and empowerers.
But why is this all so important and urgent? Entrepreneurs open the businesses that comprise the SME sector and, in time, become the nucleus for the development of much larger firms. Entrepreneurship is itself changing. Social entrepreneurship and global entrepreneurship, for example, are being recognized as major contributors to society, as well as economic development.
If cash is the lifeblood of a business, then SME are the lifeblood of most economies. These are the creative spaces in which innovation, new technologies, sustainable solutions and development are nurtured. Further, these are the suppliers of inputs into the supply chain of large firms. On average, around 95 percent of companies in the developed world are SMEs accounting for up to 60 percent of the employment and contribute significant proportions of their countries’ GDP.
In the next few minutes, I’ll explore how YBTT has been and will continue to contribute to the game.
We launched in February 2000 with a Mission to Nurture the Business Spirit in Youth and a Vision to play a leadership role in developing a culture of entrepreneurship among young people in establishing sustainable businesses in Trinidad and Tobago.
Initially, our focus was on providing loans to Young Entrepreneurs who “would not otherwise have the opportunity” – we provided loans and mentorship to numerous candidates, some of whom, survived, scaled up, created employment and are now successfully running their own businesses.
The game was changing, though. For our part, we realized that we needed more and different players – there was a broader definition of ‘under-served’ – there were growing numbers of young people becoming interested in entrepreneurship who were ill-equipped for the challenge. Also, there was a national and regional conversation emerging around entrepreneurship, and, youth entrepreneurship.
Over the last 3-4 years we made four key areas our operational priorities: (i) To improve and scale our suite of financial and non-financial support services; (ii) To build strong and effective partnerships and increase our influence as a support organization through advocacy – working with policymakers and others in the ecosystem to create a more enabling environment for entrepreneurship; (iii) To increase awareness of the YBTT Brand and (iv) To enhance our internal capacity to both strengthen current performance improvement and future sustainability.
Today our support services include:
1. Providing business capital without collateral and at comparatively low-interest rates and repayable over a period of up to forty-eight (48) months. This is a valuable resource for young entrepreneurs who generally do not own property against which they can leverage capital.
2. Assigning experienced business mentors to young entrepreneurs to provide the guidance and support needed to address challenges encountered in managing their businesses. YBTT recruits and trains these volunteer mentors from the private and public sectors from among persons who have business acumen and experience. This approach is tried and tested and businesses are more likely to survive when an experienced mentor is assigned to assist them.
3. Training or providing training opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the skills they need to successfully manage their businesses. This includes life skills, financial management and business planning. Our programmes are being continually refined based on feedback and evaluation from both trainers and trainees.
4. Providing networking opportunities such as mentor mixers and business clubs to afford young entrepreneurs the opportunity to share experiences and exchange ideas with their peers and mentors and to be motivated by successful and experienced entrepreneurs. Research continues to show that entrepreneurs learn from interacting with one another, particularly at the early start-up stage. We encourage and support our YE’s to continuously strengthen their connectivity by investing in their relationships, building their networks, and sustaining strong partnerships.
Within the last two years, and through one of our major projects made possible through Shell, YBTT supported 300 YE’s, some of whom had their own businesses and 30 of whom started their own; 4 have closed. In the words of Lyndi Jordan, Dina Ramnarine and Michael Parris – all YBTT Entrepreneurs, in the agricultural sector, we are helping them to “take the leap”…”equipping you with the support”…“throughout your business to become really independent”….”learned how to plan”…”a lot of good training” (taken from the video on the YBTT website).
The key results that YBTT delivers today and our ability to overcome the major challenges we face as the game environment, players, rules continue to evolve, are dependent on the engagement and talent of our people. Our strength lies most significantly in their talent, focus, dedication and resilience.
Further, as an NGO, YBTT’s progress and sustainability are dependent on the collective contributions of the internal and external stakeholders with whom we work and collaborate to support Young Entrepreneurs (YE’s) in realizing their life ambitions of personal and financial independence.
In addition, as a member of Youth Business International, YBTT seeks to achieve the required standards of governance and operation through the accreditation process and to continually strengthen its relationships throughout the network.
YBTT, however, must sustain its relevance by matching our suite of products and services as well as our delivery methods to their needs and preferences. In addition, we must utilize increasingly robust, evidence-based methods of measuring and reporting on our work and its impact. Our relevance and our ability to prove our impact are the foundation on which we will continue to build a compelling brand story that widens our reach and expands the opportunity to explore non-traditional revenue streams.
For YBTT, the future is in influencing and accelerating the game – support the building of new industries rather than merely the creation of jobs. Move beyond collaboration with our partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to co-creating with them the enabling environment in which we can all play our part. Create networks rather than individual partnerships…. “Leading for the future as it reveals itself”.
Thank you all.