Young entrepreneurs awarded in Total’s startupper challenge

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SEVERAL young entrepreneurs have been rewarded by Total Jamaica and are now being positioned to further implement their ideas for greater economic success.

Under the 2018/2019 ‘Startupper of The Year’, by Total Challenge, the youth have been compensated with more than $3 million and with coaching for the innovative nature of their projects, as well as for the social and community impact, feasibility, and development potential.

Their ideas were presented to the final assessors, comprised of experts in the business industry.

Brittany Singh, who is founder and chief school guide at Spark Education Limited, has been conferred as the Top Female Entrepreneur.

She will benefit from a one-week business incubation in Paris, France, and 40 hours of coaching spearheaded by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC).

“I am very excited about the opportunity to go to Paris, and to get international support and coaching,” she told the recent awards ceremony, held at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in St Andrew.

She added that all those who participated in the programme are winners, and “we are all pursuing our dreams and following what we are called to do”.

The initiative was open to Jamaicans no more than 35 years old who have been operating a business in any sector for less than two years. Along with the Top Female Entrepreneur, three other top winners received cash prizes valued at €12,500 ($1.93 million); €7,500 ($1.1 million) and €5,000 ($775,000) as well as six months of business mentorship from the JBDC.

In her speech, read by principal director in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, Fitzroy Vidal, portfolio minister Fayval Williams said she is pleased that a section of the awards was focused on women in business.

The minister also noted that the time is ripe for entrepreneurs to be “strategically positioned”, so that they can become an active part of the start-up arena and to “turn their start-ups into big businesses, thus earning global recognition”.

Pointing out that traditional jobs are changing and declining, she said ways must be found for “game-changing” opportunities to meet the new and unique digital age.

“The more opportunities that exist for young entrepreneurs and the more investments they receive will enable them and Jamaica to become more competitive on the global scene,” the minister said.

Head of JA Bioplastic Limited, Jordon Freeman, who emerged as the first-place winner, said the programme is “fuelling” youth for the future, and creating entrepreneurs who will make businesses “much more viable”.

“What we have in Jamaica is the brain, and if we can continue to innovate from here, what we will be able to do is to be producers to supply the world,” Freeman said.

For her part, chief executive officer of the JBDC, Valerie Veira, who was part of the evaluating panel for the initiative, said the jury saw the “most innovative ideas”, and that the initiative exposed “young people with good ideas”, offering solutions to some of the issues affecting the country.

She said the agency has “opened itself to provide the kind of mentorship that they need to move into implementing those businesses”.

For managing director of Total Jamaica, Chris Okonmah, the competition offered young Jamaicans an opportunity to tell them how they could help with their business ideas, and with over 300 entries received, and four top winners, “we expect that they will grow and employ labour. So it is an opportunity that we are giving the youth”.

The Total Startupper offers entrepreneurial opportunities to youth in 55 countries across the globe. The three top winners from Jamaica are eligible to enter the regional competition for prizes and additional business support.

Also, the winners will be part of a communications campaign sponsored by the company to publicise their projects, which it sees as an affirmation of commitment to support social and economic development in countries where it does business.

Head of PreeLabs Limited, Yekini Wallen-Bryan, got the prize for second place, while third place went to Tickkiz-School Behaviour App innovator, George Henry.

Total Jamaica offers a range of petroleum products to the retail, commercial and industrial markets.

The JBDC, which is an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, helps businesses through the provision of advice, consultancy and training, among other services.

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