Career & Education

Vincent HoSang UWI venture competition 2017 launched

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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SINCE the inception of the Vincent HoSang University of the West Indies Venture Competition (UWIVC) in 2002, 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.

This year, the outcomes are expected to be even more impressive as finalists will get the opportunity to learn at the feet of multi-millionaire Jamaican businessman Vincent HoSang, for whom the competition is named. HoSang is President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Bakery and its affiliate Caribbean Food Delights, two of the biggest Jamaican-owned companies in the Caribbean community in the United States.

At the launch of the 2017 competition at the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) two Wednesdays ago, Acting Executive Director Michael Williams said the competition has served as a launch pad for many of its students, and has enabled them to turn their ideas into “real, operational businesses” that 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, chair of the Joan Duncan Foundation which has been a major sponsor for the past four years, expressed the foundation's pride in supporting the competition and said it would continue to support the entrepreneurial eco-system and its importance in Jamaica.

“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 said.

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) also sponsors the competition.

JCAA Director General Nari Williams-Singh said the authority has partnered in order to create sustainable and long-term paths to strengthen the skills of the youths and to meet the demands of the global and regional industries.

This year's competition will culminate with the announcement of the winner at the finals and awards ceremony in November 2017 and January 2018 , respectively.

The top three teams receive monetary prizes from the private sector, as well as a place in the Vincent Hosang Entrepreneurship Programme, where they get an opportunity to convert their business plans into actual businesses. The prize package now includes a five-day all-expense-paid trip to New York for a business and cultural experience for the winning team. During the week, students will get the chance to tour the Royal Caribbean Bakery and Caribbean Food Delights facilities. The winners will also be given the opportunity to meet successful Jamaican business people in the diaspora whilst getting a cultural introduction to New York City.

HoSang's support of entrepreneurship has its genesis in his own story. The eighth of 10 children, he was born in Springfield, St James. His parents migrated here from China in the early 1900s and operated stores selling everything from groceries, hardware, raw materials for making clothes, and liquor.

In February, 1968, he moved to the Bronx, New York, and started assembling attaché cases at a briefcase factory, earning US$1.60 an hour, and taking home US$49 per week after taxes.

In 1974, HoSang met the love of his life, Jeanette Leefatt, from Spanish Town, Jamaica. They were married in 1976 and started their family in April of 1977.

In February 1978, Jeanette and Vincent bought “Kingsbridge Delight” a fast food store in the West Bronx, New York, selling fried chicken, shrimp, ribs, and French fries.

In 1980, HoSang bought a small bakery and opened a full-fledged Jamaican bakery he named Royal Caribbean Bakery. Four years later, he expanded the bakery into a 15,000- square-foot facility, adding a frozen food division, which he named Caribbean Food Delights.

Three years later, in 1987, both companies expanded into a 20,000-square-foot-facility in Mount Vernon, New York, and in 1993 he purchased a 73,000 square-foot building on 10 acres in Tappan, New York, and brought his two companies under one name — Caribbean Food Delights.

Today, Caribbean Food Delights is the largest manufacturer of Jamaican frozen foods in the United States. It produces a variety of Jamaican cuisine, including Jamaican-style patties as well as a variety of buns, cakes and pastries.

HoSang established the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation 13 years ago as a means of giving back to the community and educating future entrepreneurs.

In addition to funding full scholarships for six students studying entrepreneurship at UWI each year, the foundation is involved in a range of philanthropic projects, like serving over 4,000 meals to student athletes at the Penn Relays in Pennsylvania every year, and donating US$250,000 to Father Ho Lung of Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica to build a place of worship, a food pantry, and entertain other community activities.

HoSang has received an honorary doctorate of laws from the UWI and the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government.

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