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Youth entrepreneurship project bubbling in Clarendon

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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MAY PEN, Clarendon – First launched in June 2016 to help lift young people out of poverty using small business, the Clarendon Youth In Business (CYIB) training programme is being numbered among the more progressive assistance ventures anywhere in Jamaica.

Dozens of young entrepreneurs have so far been trained under the programme which was designed and is being led by the Clarendon Municipal Corporation.

Support in terms of execution and funding comes from a range of public sector bodies including the training specialists HEART Trust, the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Ministry of Local Government and private sector partners — among them commercial banks and leading retailers.

During the most recent graduation ceremony in late May at the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, 25 young entrepreneurs fresh from four months of training and guidance in business practice received certificates and $150,000 cheques. The monetary grants were intended to provide support as the new-minted entrepreneurs step forward in business.

In an impressive exhibition immediately after the graduation ceremony, the young business people showed off products and services in areas of garment manufacturing/fashion design, food processing, agriculture, and innovative welding services.

In late January, at the launch of the latest training exercise, Damion Young, local economic development officer of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation explained that back in 2016 the corporation recognised the need for action to help lift Clarendon youth out of hopelessness.

Crime, he pointed out, is having a crippling effect on Clarendon. Small business establishment, with the potential for growth and employment, was seen as one way to enable vulnerable young people to lift themselves, Young said. “Against that background we recognised if we were going to play our role in Vision 2030 we (municipal corporation) had a moral and socio-economic opportunity and responsibility to design a programme that could impact youth in our parish. So what we set about was to design the Clarendon Youth In Business project …” he said.

According to Young, it was very evident that many young entrepreneurs lacked know-how.

“We recognised they were struggling because of a lack of marketing experience. They were struggling because of how they were presenting their products, how they kept paper trails, kept documents.

“They were struggling in how they account for their income and expenditures in their business. They were struggling in how they carry out business practices and also their various trades. And so, we designed a project that would look at a number of angles in business, inclusive of improvements in marketing, bookkeeping, finance management and also improvements in how they develop their products. So we touched base with JBDC (Jamaica Business Development Corporation) who assisted us with product development, touched base with HEART Trust — they assisted us with traning in entrepreneurship. We touched base with the Business Entrepreneurship Empowerment Project which also assisted with finance management and at the end of training which lasted nearly a month we were able then to provide them with small grants which they would use to enhance business activities in acquiring raw materials, tools and equipment, so that they could better enhance their capacities and capabilities in doing business.

“That is how Clarendon Youth in Business project was born, and that was the mandate that ushered it into existence,” said Young.

Testimonials from those who have benefited are numerous. In January, Jervis Thompson told how he and business partner Peter James started Creative Tailoring, making men's, women's and children clothes. They decided they didn't want “to settle for only clothes” so they started doing an assortment of bags including lunch bags and water bottle holders. They realised they had found a niche and the business has taken off since then.

Thompson, who was part of the Clarendon Youth in Business training in 2016, said it helped “to enhance and streamline” the approach at Creative Tailoring. Back in January, Thompson and his business partner employed three people and business was “growing”.

Also in January, Jason Hinds of Spalding, northern Clarendon told the Jamaica Observer how he formed his company Glasswork Design using recycled glass to make a range of products, including wine glasses, pencil holders, and craft items. While he made “good money' selling to customers across Jamaica including north coast hotels, he did not know how to keep track of expenditure and profit until he did the youth in business training in 2016.

“At first I never used to do bookkeeping [But] when I started the training it show me that book keeping important: mi sey, 'Yow mi a mek whole heap a money but mi never really know',” Hinds said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Donovan Spencer, owner/manager of Innovative Stitch in May Pen, was inspired to make baby clothes by watching his mother, who was a dressmaker. “I grew up with the business at home and developed a passion to expand it and when I left high school. I continued that dream of continuing my mother's legacy,” he told the Sunday Observer. Having done the training course earlier this year, Spencer — who employs two people at Innovative Stitch — now has plans to grow “to a level where baby clothes will be available in great quantity”.

Speaking at the May Pen graduation function in late May, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie hailed the Clarendon Youth In Business programme as an example of the relevance of local government in modern Jamaica.

Also, he said, it demonstrated what could be achieved when well-led communities set out to help themselves.

Noting that the training programme was started in 2016 when the municipal corporation was led by the People's National Party (PNP) under then mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell and continued under the current Jamaica Labour Party JLP-dominated council led by current Mayor Winston Maragh, McKenzie said it exemplified the advantages of “political continuity”.

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