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Entries open for Vincent HoSang UWI Venture Competition 2017

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

This year's staging of the Vincent HoSang The University of the West Indies (UWI) Venture Competition was launched at the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) in Kingston on Thursday.

The competition was first held in 2002 with the objective of harnessing the talents and skills of students within the UWI community, and facilitate the development of their ideas into fully-fledged businesses.

It is also viewed as an initiative to develop valuable graduates and citizens in the Jamaican community.

Since its inception, many participating teams have been able to successfully transition their business concepts into commercially viable entities. Several teams have also moved on to represent the UWI, Mona, at the National Business Model Competition, placing in the top four each year.

Of special significance has been the competition's success in building tangible connections between the academic foundation students receive and the practical demands of starting and operating a business.

Commenting on this year's competition, acting executive director of the MSBM, Michael Williams, said that over the years the competition has served as a launch pad for many of its students, and it has enabled them to turn their ideas into “real, operational businesses” that then go on to contribute to the Jamaican economy.

“It is my hope, even for those who don't qualify as finalists, that they will take valuable lessons from the competition, and continue to work on their concepts to make them into viable businesses,” Williams said.

Patricia Sutherland, who chairs the Joan Duncan Foundation, a major sponsor for the past four years, expressed the foundation's pride in supporting the competition.

She said that the Joan Duncan Foundation is a proud partner of this competition, and will continue to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem and its importance in Jamaica, through the Vincent HoSang UWI Venture Competition.

“We have instilled the need for entrepreneurs in Jamaica and, as such, many Jamaicans are eager to start businesses in Jamaica. However, they require guidance, and we therefore need this competition to provide the guidance in a very practical way,” she continued, adding that the stakeholders share a responsibility, as good corporate citizens, to support the youth of the nation.

According to Nari Williams-Singh, director general of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), the JCAA chose to build together and succeed, together with the Vincent HoSang Competition, in order to create sustainable and long-term paths, to strengthen the skills of the youths, and to meet the demands of global and regional industries.

“The game-changing and successful business-navigation ideas that are propelled through this competition will expose and express the need for them in our Jamaican industries,” he said.

In addition to the monetary prizes that will be awarded to the top-three competing teams, the winning team in this year's competition will receive an all-expenses paid 5-day trip to New York, during which they will be exposed, to relevant business and cultural experiences, in addition to meeting with and learning from several successful Jamaican businesspeople.

While in New York, the winners will also be given the opportunity to tour the Caribbean Food Delights factory and Royal Caribbean Bakery, courtesy of the competition's main benefactor, Vincent HoSang.

The Joan Duncan Foundation will also present an award to the team in competition, which will fulfil the Best Corporate Social Responsibility component of their partnership.

The Vincent HoSang UWI Venture Competition 2017 is supported by proud partners, including the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation, Caribbean Food Delights and Mona School of Business and Management. This year's main sponsors are the Joan Duncan Foundation and the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, who are platinum sponsors.

Other corporate sponsors are: Development Bank of Jamaica; Mona Business Support Services; Ingenuity; and Jamaica Biscuit Company.

The engagement of the private sector is not confined to sponsorship as, since inception, members have served voluntarily as team mentors, providing students with advice and direction on how to refine their business ideas, and also assist them to broaden their professional networks.

The members of the private sector will also serve in the capacity of judges at the finals.

The Vincent HoSang UWI Venture competitions have impacted over 500 university students, faculty members and partners since their inception, and have had projects spanning a range of industries, including gaming, food and beverage, micro finance, biotech and computing.

Applications for this year's competition are now open and will close on October 18. The grand finals will be in January 2018.

After having 20 student-led groups compete in 2016, the competition hosts have set a target of hosting 30 or more teams this year.