All it took was a ride in an electric car to convince Denell Florius of what the next move in his professional journey needed to be. Since then, he’s been immersed in a world propelled by green energy. He’s even started his own green energy-saving and service company, Eco Carib Inc, with his business partner, Zaina Pamphile. Notably, the company was nominated in two categories for the 2016 Saint Lucia Business Awards, namely, the ‘Green Award’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.
According to Denell, the ultimate goal of Eco Carib is to provide the Caribbean with solar energy technologies, and to help people ‘go green’ and save money. Eco Carib offers financing solutions for solar technologies such as solar lighting and pumps. Currently, the company focuses on both residential and commercial projects implementing over 100 kilowatts of solar in Saint Lucia thus far, with its eyes set on expansion!
HOT DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR THIS BUSINESS?
Denell: It was actually the first time I got a ride in an electric car. Basically I knew this was the future from the time I got that ride – it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. We’ve since studied renewable energies from all around the world; trends in the market as well. Knowing the Caribbean has some of the highest energy costs on the planet, we had to do something.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND?
Denell: I’m a science guy. I went to Saint Mary’s College and, from there, went to A Level. I’ve recently been doing some studies online as well, in engineering and technology. I started my career in engineering as an engineering manager, at the age of 19. From there, I moved into the energy space at 22. It’s been a remarkable journey. I must commend my team as well, for helping us along this journey.
HOW DID YOU GET THE BUSINESS OFF THE GROUND?
Denell: The process was fairly simple and straightforward. We had some help from the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) and they really helped us in starting up the company and pushing things forward. With regards to development of the business, we had to leave Saint Lucia to get help. We’ve been to Trinidad many times, also Jamaica, and many other places throughout the Caribbean just to get the support we need to grow the company. We’ve realized that things are really improving in Saint Lucia in that regard. I must commend SEDU, in particular, and the Chamber of Commerce as well, for helping in the development of small and medium sized businesses on the island.
WHICH ORGANISATIONS HAVE ASSISTED YOU?
Denell: We’ve worked with The World Bank, Caribbean Export, the OECS, the Caribbean Research Industrial Institute, Start Up Jamaica, Branson Centre, Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurship programme, Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre, and plenty more. We’ve been putting ourselves out there to receive this kind of assistance, and it’s necessary. A lot of the time people say they want to be in business but they come in with one foot in and one foot out. You have to just jump in and do it because that’s where you get the support and respect from the NGOs.
IS YOUR COMPANY SEEKING INVESTMENT?
Denell: We are. We’ve already reached out to a bunch of investors. There is a lot of money available in this area. The only issue is getting access to it – you have to be able to show the ability to be credible within the NGO space, and to execute. That’s what the investors want to see, that you have a track record and you have a strong team; that’s very important.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON LUCELEC’S SOLAR FARM?
Denell: We love the idea that LUCELEC is going green. From a personal perspective we understand it is imperative for them to do so, and to make the strides to do so, and we must commend them on that. With regards to the price of energy going down, it’s yet to be determined, but we love what LUCELEC is doing. They are the biggest player in the energy space and, like we all know, we cannot go against LUCELEC. We choose to work with them in developing Saint Lucia’s renewable energy framework, and also to develop the country to basically take full advantage of the smart energy future.
HOW CAN SAINT LUCIA’S ENERGY INDUSTRY DEVELOP?
Denell: One of the things we’ve noticed that is missing in Saint Lucia is the incentives to small energy companies. In other places around the world you have zero-rated tax incentives for companies. You also have things like discounts that run from the government’s side of things, and it makes a major difference for us, the smaller energy companies. LUCELEC currently gets discounts on imports, and one thing we have to notice is, LUCELEC is a castle. The government needs to understand that you cannot build a wall around the castle, and expect other small emerging energy companies around this space to help Saint Lucians as much as possible. We need the support that LUCELEC is getting, and I think that’s something that is necessary – for us to develop the policy framework on the island.
HOW EASY IS IT TO DO BUSINESS IN SAINT LUCIA?
Denell: One of the major things I would change is basically access to investment. You shouldn’t have to leave Saint Lucia to get access to investment. Most of the investment has been happening in Trinidad and Jamaica, and the rest of the region has basically been at four percent, where Jamaica has been at almost 60 per cent. We really need more access to finance. I think Dominica rolled out something similar to help out small and medium enterprises, by investing in them directly. I think from a perspective of investing in Saint Lucia, as opposed to investing mostly in the expats, government needs to help the small and medium enterprises in the island to get investment and grow their businesses to help everyone.
Readers can get in touch with Eco Carib at email@example.com or www.ecocarib.com