Nine finalists for Made of More challenge

Saturday, September 12, 2015

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THE Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge presented by the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship -- Caribbean (BCoEC) and Arthur Guinness Project -- has been narrowed down to nine finalists vying for a slice of a specially created loan fund to propel their businesses forward.


The finalists are: Tamia Harker, This is Jamaica; Allison Harrison, Factory 75; Hellen French, Mt Pleasant Chocolatiers; Carol Lue, CaribShare Biogas; Marie Wilson, DejaFrut; Jovan Evans, Aqua Flow Products Ltd; Mervin Kerr, Island Integrators; Mark Laird, Strictly Events; and Patria Kaye-Aarons, Sweetie.


The loan fund was launched in 2013 when BCoEC's founder, Richard Branson, made a personal loan of US$10,000 each to three participants in a live 'Pitch to Rich' competition. Arthur Guinness Project, which has been a strong supporter of the BCoEC since its launch, has picked up the baton and donated US$400,000 to further develop the Centre's loan offering. The donated amount will be dispersed in installments of $130,000 per year for a three-year period, with repayments going back into the loan pool for entrepreneurs in the future. The loan, the centre says, has very low interest payments and does not require collateral.


The loan disbursement and collection is facilitated by Jamaica National Small Business Loans.


"JNSBL continues to extend a special facility to us and, as a result, we are able to make the loans available to our entrepreneurs at terms never before seen in the local entrepreneurial space," stated Melissa von Frankenberg, Partnerships & Communications Manager at the Branson Centre.


"This is a game-changer and we are excited to show that high-potential entrepreneurs can and will pay back their loans and show significant growth in their businesses."


The semi-finals, which took place at Red Stripe, included 13 entrepreneurs who each gave a live five-minute pitch to a panel of four judges from the BCoEC and an audience of other Branson Centre entrepreneurs.


The winners were selected based on how well they demonstrated how the funds would enable growth in their businesses, how it would increase their businesses' social impact, and their ability to repay.


They will present their live pitches in the finals on September 25.


The group of pitch participants represent an array of businesses including alternative energy, information technology, fashion, and agriculture.


LeVaughn Flynn, Senior Communications Manager for Red Stripe, said: "What you're seeing is great collaboration to boost local entrepreneurship. The finalists are all fantastic and bold visionaries who reflect the genius of Guinness' founding father, Sir Arthur, and we look forward to helping them on their journey of achieving more."


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