The Sandals Foundation and The School of Business Entrepreneurs (TSOBE) have recorded tremendous success in its EC$60,000 undertaking dubbed ‘Business Enthusiast (BE)’.
The program, which kicked off in April 2016 is poised to end in January 2017 and targets young entrepreneurial minded Saint Lucians.
These youngsters are provided with the necessary tools in business planning, financial management and direction from seasoned trainers and business professionals from across the island.
Some 119 of the desired 180 youth from 10 communities across the island have so far been reached and successfully completed the program.
“We hosted the program in the town of Vieux Fort and Castries, however had participants from Choisuel, Soufriere, Micoud, Vieux Fort, Baboneau, Castries, Gros Islet and Anse La Raye,” said TSOBE Project Manager Janelle Sealy.
She explained the key focuses of the Business Enthusiast program which included the development and maintenance of an “Entrepreneurial mindset.”
Sealey said this was achieved through a series of conditioning approaches that included Temperament and Personal Development, Business Plan Development, Market Analysis and Competition and Plan, Business Finances and Business Registration & Licensing.
Understanding and mastering these fundamentals, the project manager asserted, were key to the success of any business and, most importantly, business-minded individual.
Director of Programs for the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke, has reaffirmed the Foundation’s continued commitment to supporting programs like these that target young men and women and directly impact individuals, families and ultimately communities.
“This is our third undertaking with TSOBE and we are very pleased with the successes thus far. We have seen and heard from the participants themselves and most have gone on to develop active and thriving businesses at all levels. We couldn’t be more proud,” Clarke said.
At least five eight-week training sessions have so far been conducted in several communities in the north and south of the island. During the program, likeminded participants find themselves in groups or teams and are tasked with conceptualizing a business from planning to implementation.
Each session wraps up with a business plan presentation where each team is required to pitch their business plan before a panel of judges that include a Sedu Development Officer, a Ministry of Youth and Sports Officer, a TSOBE Representative, a Sandals Resorts Manager and a senior Business Person. The panel would applaud or critique the details, viability and profitability of the execution of the presented business plans. The winning business pitch and plan also receives a small seed capital towards the start of the business.
Among the most successful of graduates and businesses include Hester St. Clair, a 28-year-old university graduate who is now running a youth development program catering to at least 35 children between the ages of 3 and 12 years old.
St. Clair was like many unemployed graduate Saint Lucians who believed the path for professional growth must begin with the average job. Her exposure to the Sandals Foundation/TSOBE program opened her eyes to a different path.
“The important thing that stood out for me was the mindset that finding a job was not the only avenue for growth. But being an entrepreneur not only empowers me, but those around me. I realized that if I put my mind to it, I can be successful doing what I love. It was a lot of work but well worth the challenge,” she said.
Talisha Decembre, 25, is another such candidate who embodies the concept of an ‘entrepreneur at heart’, having stumbled upon the Sandals Foundation/TSOBE program in a Google search with keywords entrepreneurship courses.
Decembre, who now runs a pastry kitchen, said, “My whole idea of business is where we teach our consumers and not only produce for them. Clients can also learn to do baking for themselves.”
She said the program has helped her to not only plan for the start of her business but also to lay the right platform for sustained business growth.
“Business is not only to make money, it’s like giving life to something. Creating something is more important. Having a business that surpasses your lifetime is what entrepreneurship is all about, in my mind. I want my business to contribute something to society. It’s an outlet of me and is more or less like having a child.”
The Sandals Foundation/TSOBE Business Enthusiast program draws its curtains in January 2017.