Pitching From the Judge's Eye
Financing Earlystage Entrepreneurs
Welcome Message Made of More I’ve always believed that Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs are ‘made of more,’ and this year we gave them the opportunity to ‘bring it’ through our first annual Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge presented along with our partners, the Arthur Guinness Project. From the community of entrepreneurs in the audience to the pitches that were presented, I felt an immense sense of pride about the significance of this event. We were finally able to give some of our most promising entrepreneurs a platform to really show what they’re made of and provide access to financing that will move their businesses along a growth trajectory that we’ve been eager to see them achieve. As a result, five Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs were awarded loans at 4% interest rate with no collateral requirements – terms unheard of in the world of start-up financing in Jamaica. That’s why we felt that this issue of B Inspired should be dedicated to our Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge, and most importantly, the entrepreneurs who were a part of it. Whilst not everyone received funding, both the semi-final and the final events showcased impressive pitches from some of our most promising entrepreneurs. We feature three of them in our regular “3 to Watch” segment. They’re eager to scale and continue to lay the groundwork necessary to access the funding that they seek to make it happen - something that isn’t easy to achieve in the local financing market. But, why? Lisandra Rickards, Branson Centre’s Entrepreneur Programme Manager, paints a full picture of how entrepreneurs must ‘pound the pavement’ to get what they need. She brings the struggle to life in her article titled “Pounding the Pavement: Real Stories of Financing Struggles of Early Stage Entrepreneurs.” And, what about the judges? They played a critical role in evaluating the pitch 2
contestants to determine who they felt would achieve the greatest impact. Hear directly from one of the judges about what the experience entailed in our special feature “From the Judges Eye.” Then we have our newest cohorts – Cohorts 8 & 9, who are comprised of twelve new Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs. They’ve joined a strong community of changemakers, many of whom turned out to support their fellow Bransonites who were pitching in the Made of More events. This network of collaboration, camaraderie and healthy competition is critical to making the inevitable ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey just a little bit smoother. Real stakes, real support, and real impact that’s what the Branson Centre is all about!
Lisa Lake Chief Entrepreneurship Officer www.bransoncentre.co
Content 4 8
3 to Watch
Pounding the Pavement
Real Stories of Financing Struggles of EarlyStage Entrepreneurs
The Little Things that Make More
Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge Story
From the Judge's Eye
Global Goal 8
Tackling Economic Growth Through Entrepreneurship
20 Welcoming Cohorts 8 & 9 A Word to the Wise
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3 To Watch
Keep Your Eye on These Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs
The semi-finalists and finalists of our Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge, a business pitch competition that took place over August – September, are all high-potential entrepreneurs in their own right. They have that special something we look for when we accept new entrepreneurs into the Branson Centre or Entrepreneurship – Caribbean’s Official Entrepreneur programme. They all went through our rigorous business skills and investment preparation training, in order to perfect the skills they need to attract financing to grow their business. In this feature, we highlight three of them who are on the cusp of something big and are, without doubt, worth keeping an eye on as they grow or launch their businesses. 4
Ayanna Dixon - Designing for Success ASD Clothing Ayanna Dixon wasn’t ready to come home. She was a dynamic young talent from Jamaica, educated at the Art Institute of New York. She was fresh out of an interning stint at some of the most reputable fashion houses in the world. She dreamt of launching a career in fashion design in the city that never sleeps. She was on the cusp of greatness—her story was just beginning. But in the wake of the economic crash of 2008, it seemed to be at an end. “I was offered a lot of jobs, but when the economy crashed, most fashion houses were under hiring freezes. I had to come home and I was devastated. Jamaica didn’t have a real fashion industry. All I could think was, ‘how am I going to make it?’” Ayanna is the owner and founder of ASD Clothing, a line that covers apparel, swimsuits, illustrations, greeting cards, mugs…pretty much anything that she can get her hands on. “I saw someone had painted on a mug, I think it was on Pinterest. And I just thought, ‘I could do that!” It was that “I can do” mentality that took Ayanna from a high school fashionista to a high-flying entrepreneur. Upon her return to Jamaica, Ayanna took a job at the Lifestyle desk of the Jamaica Observer. While supervising the Observer’s take on “Fashion’s Night Out,” Ayanna took the opportunity to connect with the players in the fashion industry—store owners, models, fellow designers—the people who would inspire her to get back to the goal of launching her own line. Shortly thereafter, she got a call from an aunt who suggested she try out for the television program Mission Catwalk. Her designs took her to second place, and catapulted her onto the international stage with
a showing at Miami Fashion Week. As accolades and opportunities began rolling in, Ayanna knew she had to face her fears and force herself to learn the business side of the industry she loved. That’s where the Branson Centre came in, although, according to her, it took some convincing on her part. “I didn’t get in at first—they told me I was too advanced!” She laughs, recalling how she all but begged to be admitted. The experience with the Branson Centre, she said, was an eye-opener. She was a registered business for nearly five years before the Centre got involved, yet there was still so much to learn: the jargon, discerning her “real vision” for the business, business strategy and accounting, networking— all these skills that she says those who are business savvy may take for granted. Branson Centre gave her the foundation she needed to really take ASD to the next level and meet her challenges— funding, sourcing material, marketing—head on. Today, ASD is Ayanna’s life. She’s given up the 9-5, and is focusing all her energy on building the business. She’s in the midst of major design collaborations, distribution deals, building an online store, and even sourcing manufacturers in Thailand. Ayanna might not have been ready to come home, but she’s happy she did—and it seems home has a lot in store for her.
Tarik Kiddoe - Tourism Innovation Zealioz Adventure Energy What do aviation, adventure tourism, and biofuels have in common? You might say nothing—but Tarik Kiddoe wants to change that. With Zealioz Adventure Energy, Tarik has conceptualized a business model that takes locally made waste, turns it into fuel, and then uses that fuel to power yacht and aviation tours along Jamaica’s North Coast. It’s a bold—not to mention unique—venture, but that full-steam-ahead attitude has been Tarik’s trademark since he can remember. “In high school, I took to entrepreneurship—I was always doing my own thing. I used my creativity to find ways to make money on campus, and I became known for it. Plus, that income exceeded what most people made from summer jobs.” Even while studying for his degree in architecture, he was “designing for hire” while equally pursuing other passions, one of which is aviation. He got his pilot license and couldn’t seem to shake the aviation bug even after he graduated. He closely watched things unfold in the region’s aviation sector and when Air Jamaica was sold in 2010, he started to wonder what could be done new or differently to fill the gap. His thoughts turned to the industry’s chief expense: fuel. And so, the concept of Zealioz – an adventure company that make it’s own fuel - was born. There are a lot of “adventure” companies out there, but Zealioz will maintain its competitive edge by producing his own bio-fuels to power yacht and aviation tours. His initial strategy to get the idea off the ground was ambitious, to say the least. He began meeting with investors and asking for US$2.5 million in start6
up funding. It wasn’t a successful endeavor in terms of actually getting the money—but there was certainly a takeaway. “You don’t learn anything by playing small. I put myself out there and got audiences with people who had access to that kind of capital. I made contacts and got feedback. But I went to the Branson Centre because I knew that if I was really going to deal in millions of dollars, I had to humble myself and be willing to learn. To start from scratch.” For Tarik, one of the best things about the Branson Centre is the camaraderie. “You have certain things in common with every other entrepreneur that others may not understand. You encourage them and they encourage you.” That encouragement was a big part of Tarik’s participation in Made of More. He was the “youngest” of the participating Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs, in that he was only a few weeks into the training program. His business is still in its concept stage, but in his words, “you can’t sharpen the knife if it’s sitting in a drawer.” He had never done a live pitch, but he challenged himself to enter the competition, which he says helped him really find the focus of his business, and how to turn an idea into a viable business model. “The odds of failing were high, but the odds of learning were higher—so I came out a winner.” His focus now is bringing the business to fruition. To eliminate waste in a way that is environmentally friendly and good for the economy is the ultimate goal—and it doesn’t hurt that he gets to have fun doing it. “It’s an adventure business first. With the yacht and aviation tours, I envision something iconic, that locals love just as much as tourists. Life experiences. That’s what I want to create.”
Marc Laird - A Bright Future Strictly Events It’s no secret that Jamaicans love a good party. But after the food is served, the last song is played and the partygoers return to their lives, what then? Some nights, that’s when business began for Marc Laird. “I rented tents in college and even afterwards as a way to earn extra income. I worked in offices, calls centres, and hotels, and there would be nights when, after a late shift, I’d go tear down tents after parties. It was exhausting.” Marc soon realized that his exhaustion wasn’t from waking up and staying up in the wee hours. His fatigue came from the hours between 9 and 5 where he was working to the bone for someone else. “I like my freedom and being able to do things on my own terms. I finally decided to try my hand at running a business. I figured if I’m going to work my butt off, I might as well do it for myself.” Getting Strictly Events—his full-service event execution and equipment rental business—off the ground took Marc through all the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. He recalls fighting with his mother as the lowest point— the classic scenario of a parent worried about where there child’s non-linear path will lead. When Marc came across the product that would become his niche however, it all started to come together. “I came across the LED furniture online, and nobody had it in Jamaica. To purchase one piece was US$300, and that was before import fees. So I did my research, put together a kit, and built a few pieces.” Today, those “few pieces” are part of Jamaica’s largest inventory of LED-
illuminated furniture. That flagship product has opened many doors for the company— they come for the lights, and they stay for the equipment rental, tents, event coordination services, and all the other services in Marc’s arsenal. Strictly Events has a regular roster of customers, has partnered with some of the island’s biggest brands, and is on the cusp of expanding into other markets. Much of this, he says, is due to the knowledge and experience he gained through the Branson Centre and the Made of More event. “Self-doubt has always been a challenge in my life. Branson gave me that positive reinforcement, but also pushed me out of my comfort zone. With Made of More, at first I said no—I’m terrified of public speaking. But I overcame that, and did extremely well with the presentation. The judges even commended me on it.” Marc’s focus now is to continue dominating his niche market. His priorities are increasing inventory, expanding into the Caribbean, and creating opportunities for others. “The unfortunate thing about the event industry is that people get paid little to nothing for physical labour. I’ve built a team I can trust, but I’m not stopping there. It’s important to me to be able to pay above industry standard and keep the work coming, so that the people I employ can make a living.” Between company events, trade shows, weddings, and of course, parties, Strictly Events shows no signs of slowing down. The future looks bright for Marc Laird and his company—and it’s not just the LED lights. 7
Pounding the Pavement
Real Stories of Financing Struggles of Early-Stage Entrepreneurs By: Lisandra Rickards Entrepreneur Programme Manager, BCoEC
Mervin Kerr, CEO of Island Integrators, was using three credit cards to fund his businessâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growing operations - a personal credit card that attracted a 49% interest rate, a business card at 22% interest, and a credit card in an employeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s name, also at 49% interest. In 2014, he requested a J$5 million revolving credit facility from a commercial bank, but was approved for a J$2.5 million facility instead. He soon found out that he had to pay a processing fee of J$100,000, hold J$280,000 in escrow to guard against non-payment, and pay an annual interest rate of 25%. He knew that there was an 8-12 month lag between designing a proposal for a client and getting paid, so he would have to incur interest charges for using the line of credit to cover that lag. He ended up paying approximately J$540,000 per year in interest charges. Without these high borrowing costs, Mervin believes that he could have saved enough money to buy a small pickup truck so that he could transport more teams to project sites and be able to take on more projects. All five winners of the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge have stories similar to 8
Mervinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. They each tried various methods of funding their businesses, but came up against significant costs, heavy collateral requirements, or rejection from a conservative lending system. The partnership between the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean (BCoEC) and the Arthur Guinness Project helps solve many of these problems for the entrepreneurs, offering loans of up to US$40,000 collateral-free and at a 4% interest rate. Thanks to the Made of More loan, Mervin will be able to buy two small pickups, accept more projects, grow his revenues, and hire more people. The other four winners also shared their experiences. Hellen French, CEO of Mt. Pleasant Farm Chocolatiers and the first-place winner of the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge, had spent the past year and a half trying to get a loan on favourable terms. She bemoaned the delaying tactics used by some banks, who gave a list of requirements, which even when fulfilled, led to another list of requirements that were then followed by others. For example, she had planned to use her house as collateral for a J$3.5 million loan. First the bank required a
recent survey of the property from one of their approved surveyors, which she did. Then they required her to insure the property for the full value, which she also did. Then a new requirement was added: J$200,000 in cash to guarantee the loan. This was in addition to the loan commitment fee and the loan processing fee. Then she was told that the equipment she was purchasing to expand her operations would also be used as collateral - her house was not enough. Jovan Evans, CEO of Aquaflow, applied for a J$700,000 loan from a government funding agency, and believed that with his fully-owned car valued at J$1,000,000, he had sufficient collateral to be approved. He was disappointed when he was rejected because the asset to loan ratio was too low - he would have needed two or three times the amount instead. The 20% interest rate being offered was also a shocker, and he decided it would be a better bet to self-fund his operations. He had recently left his 9-to-5 so he could work full-time on his business, and so he ended up using his pension fund payout to launch his company. Marie Wilson, CEO of DeJaFrut, had grown up in New York to Jamaican parents, and, along with her twin sister, had moved back to Jamaica to start the company. Without professional work history in Jamaica, she did not have sufficient local credit history to obtain an unsecured loan. Like Jovan, she also had problems meeting collateral requirements. She approached a few banks looking for J$1 million for working capital, and tried to use the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s freezer van as collateral. It was too old. She then tried to use the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s freezer equipment, but it was not on the banksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; list of approved collateral. Finally, she tried using
account receivables to collateralize the loan, but the amounts were too small for the loan requested. Patria-Kaye Aarons, CEO of Sweetie Confectionery, tried to get a loan of just US$10,000 from a commercial bank. She submitted her business plan, but was told that the bank would not be comfortable giving an unsecured loan to a business with less than one year of operations. Imagine her surprise when she was told that the business plan she had created through BCoEC was being used by the bank as training material to help their Business Loan Officers identify what a good business plan should look like. These stories illustrate that despite great progress made over the last few years, it is still very difficult for early-stage entrepreneurs to access funding. BCoEC strongly believes that early-stage entrepreneurs can catalyze growth in Caribbean economies, if they get the support they need to grow their businesses and create jobs. Capital is a key part of that support. We could no longer be passive observers as our Official Entrepreneurs tried to get funding with limited success. We had to act. The Arthur Guinness Project understood our mission and stepped up to the plate to the tune of US$400,000 - allowing us to act much faster than we otherwise could. We hope that this partnership will help to change the funding landscape in Jamaica and the Caribbean for early-stage entrepreneurs, and that lending institutions will join us in making financing more accessible to early stage entrepreneurs with the potential to change the economy.
The Little Things that Make More When we’re young and impressionable and dreaming impossible dreams, that’s what the influencers in our lives encourage us to do. Think big. Dream big. Dream bigger. Live large. Think outside of the box, colour outside of the lines. Shoot for the moon so you’ll land amongst the stars. These are all iterations of the same message: aspire to more. Push yourself to earn the things you want, the life you want. And when you reach your goal, set a new one. Think big. Yet on September 25th 2015, the final day of the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge, the winners had something in common. It wasn’t just their shared participation in the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC) training program. It wasn’t their fervor for the competition or their determination to sell their dreams and themselves to the panel of judges. It wasn’t the long hours, the restless nights, the highs and lows, and the loneliness that are often part and parcel of starting and running one’s own business. No, what they shared was something small. For Patria Kaye-Aarons, it was candy—or rather her little niece’s love of it. For Jovan Evans, it was his daily shower. Marie Wilson just wanted a cup of her favourite sorbet. Hellen French loved chocolate. And for Mervin Kerr, it was his love of gadgets. These are small things. Everyday things. Who hasn’t indulged in sweets, or chocolate or sorbet? Who hasn’t basked in the glory that is a hot shower at the end of a long day? Who hasn’t experienced frustration with electronics? Most of us do these things without a second thought. But for these five, it was the little things that led them to the winners’ circle. Little things that sparked nagging thoughts. Nagging 10
thoughts that became ideas. Ideas that became visions. Visions that became vocations. Made of More was about celebrating those visions, and giving entrepreneurs the chance to acquire the kind of capital injection that would really take their business to the next level. A partnership between the BCoEC and Diageo’s Arthur Guinness Project, the competition took place over two months and took the entrepreneurs through various rounds of pitching and refinement before five winners were announced. The Arthur Guinness Project donated US$400,000 towards the initiative that would be disbursed over a period of three years, offering this year’s finalists a collective US$130,000 in collateral-free, low interest Loans. Hellen and Averell French of Mount Pleasant Farm Chocolatiers took home the top prize—a loan of US$40,000, as well as a US$10,000 grant for winning the
Sir Arthur Guinness Social Entrepreneurship Award. “At the beginning, seeing how great everyone was, I thought ‘maybe this isn’t the best thing to do.’ It was a challenge, and we saw it more as a training ground for the next opportunity. We weren’t even looking to win!” Hellen hails from Uganda and was raised on coffee and cocoa farms. In Jamaica, she and her husband saw an opportunity to boost the cocoa farming and production industry, introduce fair trade practices and open up new possibilities for export. Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers grows and manufactures its own product, farming cocoa and making it into chocolate and chocolate products, as well as cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and even a line of cocoa-based beauty and spa products. Above all else however, Hellen sees her business as a social enterprise—a fact that she wanted to make clear to the judging panel. 11
“It’s about social impact. It can be hard to get work in the rural areas so we want to create work. We also want to show how farming and processing can be one unit. It’s achievable and profitable, but it takes a lot of commitment. We want people to see what goes into making fine chocolate, and fine produce, from the beginning.”
“This money will do even more than the judges thought. It won’t just help me; it’ll help another business grow. It’ll help me double my product offering. That’s what I wanted to show the judges, what all Jamaican entrepreneurs could do with that little bit of support and funding. We can do a lot with a little, so imagine what’s possible with more.” Patria also couldn’t help but gush about the support shown by her fellow Branson Centre entrepreneurs who did not participate in the competition. “You feel like you can do your best when a whole busload of Branson entrepreneurs makes the trek for no other purpose but to root for you and cheer you on. That makes you feel amazing.” It was a sentiment shared by Marie Wilson, co-founder of DeJaFrut, the island’s first producer of all-natural sorbet. “It was great to see our cohort members who weren’t even participating be there to support us. With the distance, it can be hard to catch up so it was like a homecoming.”
That resolve to have a social impact was a common thread among the finalists. When Patria Kaye-Aarons started Sweetie Confectionery, she wanted her four-yearold niece to have sweets in flavours she recognized—but when she saw Jamaica’s US$7.5 billion import bill for candy, she realized she had a bigger job to do. Today, Sweetie is making waves at home, and exports twice a month to the U.S. Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom. There’s also a new flavor in the works, Sweetie Paradise Plum. What excites Patria most however, is a partnership that’s in the works with another small business in Jamaica. 12
Marie is of Jamaican heritage, but she was not born and raised in Jamaica. While some entrepreneurs have found the island’s relatively small market a challenge, for Marie and her sister Maria, it was a blessing in disguise. “We’re from New York, and they have everything under the sun there. We would have been a guppy in that ocean. Here it was new, and we could be the first. We could knock on doors and make those connections face-to-face. Plus, our focus was to make it on the island - use local local ingredients and create a community of farmers. We wanted to show that a high-quality product can be farmed, manufactured and purchased right here.” DeJaFrut has big plans for the US$35,000 loan that they’ve been awarded. They’ll be introducing a smaller 3-ounce container, as well as gallon tubs for hotels and restaurants.
“We aren't just recruiting employees, we're creating them. We want to open those doors."
Marie says a part of the money will go towards repairing the DeJaFrut freezer vans, which will be back on the road as part of a partnership with the Wisynco Group. What’s most important, says Marie, is to really make
this money work for the business. “We know we have a great product, but no access to funds just stymies the whole effort. Our high season, the tourist season is coming so we need this capital. Still, it’s a loan; it’s a debt that has to be 13
repaid. So wherever we put it, we want to see at least double the return.” “Return” means something a bit different for Jovan Evans of AquaFlow. When he initially developed his Pump ’n’ Spray device, it was just so he could take a shower during water restrictions. Seeing his neighbours facing the same plight, and recalling the lack of water access during childhood visits to his grandparents in rural St. Mary, Evans came to understand that he had hit upon a solution to a problem that was much bigger than himself. “At the time I thought to myself, ‘it’s 2013, why haven’t we solved this problem? I realized I had something that would help the community, that helps people. It helps with water conservation, improves sanitation and quality of life—clean people are generally happy people! And it will help the environment.” Jovan also pointed out that Goal 6 of the UN’s recently unveiled Global Goals is Clean Water and Sanitation. It’s yet another indicator of the potential for his product to have a global impact. So while of course he wants to turn a profit, he’s looking at this loan as a way to make the Pump ‘n’ Spray more accessible for those who really need it. “Jamaica is just the beginning. I want the real impact to be in places like Africa and Asia. I originally gave myself three years to get the product into Africa, but I’m already in talks to break into that market. I think about how handy this could be in disasters where access to water becomes an issue. This money will help extend the business and help us maximize our potential a lot faster.” Mervin Kerr is all about maximizing potential. His company is Island Integrators, providing audio/visual solutions for presentation spaces and working towards giving customers full control of whatever environment they are 14
interacting with. Mervin is an IT practitioner by trade and worked in a government job for over ten years, but he says the entrepreneurial spirit has been with him since the age of four. As much as his participation in Made of More was about showcasing his business, Mervin said the event was really about giving an international panel a taste of what Jamaica has to offer. “It was really a chance for Branson to show that we are here doing great work. We don’t need outside influences to come to Jamaica and spend our tax dollars to tell us what’s wrong here. As entrepreneurs, we know. This was about proving that given the opportunity, Jamaican people can solve our problems.” Mervin is passionate about opening up opportunities to people from marginalized communities. His loan will go in part towards starting an apprenticeship program that will take participants through technical training and certification in audiovisual installation leading up to employment with the company. Mervin thanks the Branson Centre and his mentor Tyronne Nel for their support and encouragement, and only wants to do the same for someone else. “We aren’t just recruiting employees, we’re creating them. We want to open those doors.” The Branson Centre, Made of More, all the entrepreneurs that participated and those who won—they are all opening doors. More than the entrepreneurial spirit, more than the prized loans, more than Branson training, this is what they share: an understanding that this initiative, and their example can only inspire. That thinking big often starts very small. That Jamaican entrepreneurs... Made Of More Jamaican people are made of more.
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Discover what’s possible
From the Judge’s Eye By: Anna Jones, Director of Entrepreneurship at Virgin Unite/Director, BCoEC
A few weeks ago, I headed to the Caribbean to sit on the judging panel for the finals of the “Made of More” Entrepreneurs Challenge, presented by the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC) and the Arthur Guinness Project. From the moment I got off the plane, I could tell the Caribbean was a special place and I loved seeing the drawings from children in the local schools lining the walls of the airport. The trip also offered the chance to meet the centre’s amazing team face-to-face rather than speaking to them on the phone as I usually do. Virgin Unite’s connection to the island goes back to 2011 when we partnered with Virgin Holidays to set up the BCoEC. It’s now a thriving training and mentoring home to many inspiring entrepreneurs. Starting a small business anywhere in the world is hard enough, but in Jamaica getting finance to grow is a massive challenge. It’s not enough to have a great business plan. Many entrepreneurs are asked by banks for 100% collateral for the loan. As Branson Centre CEO Lisa Lake puts it, “to borrow the money, you have to prove you already have it.” It’s Richard Branson’s mantra to “screw business as usual and just do it”, so the BCoEC and the Arthur Guinness Project decided to get out there and tackle this huge problem, forming an incredible partnership that distributes US$130,000 in low-cost, collateral16
free loans to Branson Centre entrepreneurs each year. My job was to sit on the judging panel for the finals of the business pitch competition and help to select from eight entrepreneurs who would receive financing to grow their businesses. Credit is due to all the finalists who worked exceptionally hard to get there, working through multiple rounds of pitch competitions and close scrutiny of their business plans and financials. After listening to the pitches, here are my top “winning pitch” tips:
1. Bring Your Story to the Centre
Start your pitch with a short personal story about why or how you started the business. This tactic relaxes you, sticks in the judges’ minds and shows authentic passion. Patria-Kaye from Sweetie engaged us immediately with how a conversation with her niece about “blue raspberries” prompted her to start her own business focused on hard candy with local flavours.
2. Be Clear
Tell your audience clearly what your ask is then break it down and explain what the money will bring to the business. The most compelling ask for me was when Mt. Pleasant Chocolatiers said that US$40K would enable them to buy a new machine that would increase their production from 30 to 3,000 chocolate bars per week.
3. Avoid the Pitching Pitfalls
Don’t ask for money to pay salaries. Judges and investors will know that you will have the same problem next year. You need a line of credit not a loan. Showing savings is a better idea. For example, Mervin Kerr from Island Integrators, asked for funding for a van so that he could bring an outsourced team in-house, bringing long-term savings to his business.
4. Show Market Demand
Help people understand why people want your product. One idea is to hand out free samples; like the delicious hibiscus sorbet from Marie Wilson of DeJaFrut or use pictures and testimonials to show how your product or service is valued. There were cries of recognition when Jovan Evans (AquaFlow)
talked about the frustrations of not being able to take a shower during Jamaica’s frequent water lock offs.
5. Reveal Your Big Picture Vision
Don’t be shy. Share your bigger dream for the business. What’s the purpose beyond sustaining an income? Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers was set up with the purpose of fundamentally changing the economics for local farmers through fair trade practices.
When you’ve crafted your pitch don’t forget to practise as much as you can and tailor the focus and story to the audience you are talking to. Good luck to next year’s entrants!
A big thanks to all of our Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge Judges
(from left to right)
Tony Hart; Mark Anderson – Virgin Holidays; Anna Jones – Virgin Unite; Mark McIntosh – Portland Holdings; Marcus Richards – Greystone Capital Partners; Blandine JnPaul Reid – Diageo; Dianne Ashton-Smith – Diageo
Global Goal 8
Tackling Economic Growth Through Entrepreneurship By: Lisa Lake, CEO, BCoEC
On Friday September 25th, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC) with our partners, the Arthur Guinness Project, hosted the first ‘Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge’ at the ATL Automotive Showroom in Montego Bay, Jamaica. On the day that the United Nations launched 17 Global Goals, five Jamaican entrepreneurs received US$130,000 in collateral-free, low-interest loans to provide the growth capital needed to transform their businesses. A relatively small amount of capital can have a transformative effect on entrepreneurs from emerging markets, leading to true, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. As such, I’d like to share with entrepreneurs and organizations, three strategies that you can use to attack Global Goal 8: sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. 18
1. Break down the problem to find its root,
then apply innovative solutions In Jamaica, founders of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were finding it difficult to get funding due to two main factors. Firstly, banks and investors felt that they were not being presented with business plans that showcased a viable investment opportunity. Secondly, businesses with ‘bankable’ plans were not able to get financing because they lacked the required collateral. Once we created a community of Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs with bankable businesses, we worked to address the collateral problem. We created a pool of funds from donations that could be lent to the entrepreneurs collateral-free and created a sustainable fund for other entrepreneurs to borrow from in the future.
2. Test then scale
In 2013, Richard Branson provided loans to a select group of Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs who participated in a pitch competition at the Centre in Montego Bay. This provided a perfect opportunity to test what would happen if we supported the entrepreneurs to create scalable and sustainable business models, whilst taking away the collateral requirement so they could finally access funds to grow. The result for us has been transformative growth of the entrepreneurs and their businesses with a 100 per cent repayment rate to date.
3. Build long lasting partnerships
Don’t try to do it all alone. Share your experience with partners who have the same objectives as you and collaborate with them to amplify the impact. The BCoEC was lucky to find such a partner in the Arthur Guinness Project (AGP). AGP first
supported the BCoEC by donating funds to build out the Centre’s home in Montego Bay. They have subsequently committed over US$400k to support Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs to access the funds necessary for growth. The Global Goals are grand, and can at times seem daunting. We urge all global citizens to take an issue, break it down, think of a new solution, test it, and find others who share your motivations to do it with you. At the BCoEC, we act on our commitment to Goal 8 by supporting our entrepreneurs to scale. By 2030, the Global Goals target year for achievements, we may very well find that the solution to the big growth debate didn’t come from economists, but rather from entrepreneurs!
Welcoming Cohorts 8 & 9 A Word to the Wise
(from left to right)
Jordan Dawson – Dawson Trading Co.; Nick Davis – One One Cacao; Tarik Kiddoe – Zealioz Adventure Energy; Heneka Watkis-Porter – Patwa Apparel; Brian Stanford – Impressionz Media; Shelli-Rai James – Straight From Yard Ask any Branson Centre Official Entrepreneur about the experience of coming through the program, and they will pause. There will be a few moments where they gather their thoughts and search for words, and eventually they will find them. But in every case, you get the sense that words are not enough. That the experience is just that—an experience. One that has to be felt, and lived, and immersed in to truly understand just what it means to live your dreams and entrust someone else with the task of helping you build them. Because really, that’s what the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean (BCoEC) is about—refining dreams for real-world profitability. So what is it about BCoEC that really sets them apart? Where in the training do Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs, like those in its newest cohorts – Cohorts 8 & 9, get that 20
edge, that something that really elevates their concept and business model? Well for starters, there’s the rigorous and multi-faceted training that every “Bransonite” goes through. There’s the online training platform which has really become Branson’s calling card, their “gold star.” There’s a strong focus on finances, accounting and marketing, and everyone who engages with the online platform comes out with a very solid business pitch deck, something that is real and valuable even if you don’t advance into the Official Entrepreneur programme. Once you submit your business pitch deck, you’re scored based on a rigorous set of criteria, and anyone scoring over 70% is invited to become a Branson Centre Official Entrepreneur. And there, the work really begins. For those who do enter the programme, they receive mentorship and coaching - one-on-one support and guidance for fleshing out the business plans developed in
training and preparing them for execution, and if they want to participate in access to finance activities, like the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge, they undertake rigorous “investment preparation sessions”. Other programs leave entrepreneurs somewhat on their own to bridge that gap between that first proposal and a final product. BCoEC offer’s realistic financial counseling as well as evaluations and feedback—suggestions on how to really make their ideas shine. As of this year, BCoEC offers more than just suggestions on how to make ideas shine. This year’s inaugural Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge gave Branson participants a stage on which to present their business in all its glory. Between the training, the mentorship, the evaluations, and the next Made of More event, these incoming cohorts have a lot of work ahead of them—and much to look forward to. This year’s Made of More Winners offer the “newbies” some words of advice for the coming year:
“Connect with your cohort members. Here you have like-minded people, which can be difficult to find— utilize it, and enjoy it!” —Marie Wilson, DeJaFrut
“Everything Branson asked me to prepare, I’ve used in the outside world. If Branson tells you to do something, just do it!” —Jovan Evans
“Recognize this as a journey and be very open-minded. Your niche is your business: Branson’s niche is creating great entrepreneurs.” —Mervin Kerr
“Welcome to the family! We’re a close-knit group. We struggle together and we celebrate together.” —Patria Kaye-Aarons
“Learn. Put the teachings into practice. If this is really what you want, you need to grow mentally. Think like an entrepreneur—think big!” —Hellen French
(from left to right)
Dean Morris – The Vinelist; Latoya West-Blackwood – iPublish Consultancy; Sheresa Dixon – Eventuality Tours; Gale Peart – Caribbean Fortress Limited; Kaiel Eytle – Reelvibez Studios; Ricardo Berris – MI Group (Not in picture) Denneisha Blair – Unique Bridal & Tux (not in picture)
in association with
Think Beyond Today A series of practical, high impact workshops for entrepeneurs. World-class training that influences business growth, and is led by savvy international and local facilitators. For more details, email:info@Bransoncentre.co
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Igniting Businesses to transform the world!
Data as of June 2015
Team: LISA LAKE
MELISSA VON FRANKENBERG
Chief Entrepreneurship Officer Entrepreneur Relations Manager Operations Manager
Partnerships & Communications Manager
Entrepreneur Programme Manager Relationship Manager
Communications Coordinator Accounting Manager
Entrepreneur Development Manager
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