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Spurring business!

UN Habitat start-up grants make a difference

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 27, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Last month, entertainer Rohan Lee, who goes by the stage name Lee'tal, received a US$500 grant under a Youth Entrepreneurship Project (YEP).

With the modest cash injection, Lee speedily began a marketing initiative for his recording studio, using print advertisement and a local town crier service.

Already, he claims, the initiative is reaping dividends.

"I have seen results, it brought back some of my old clients," he said.

The recording studio is just one of several services provided by Lee's company, Inflowmatiq.

He assists recording artistes with writing and producing music and also provides marketing and event planning services. Clients can also be taken through the process of professionally packaging audio (radio) advertisements for their businesses.

Prior to the print advertisement and town crier service, Lee said he had mainly engaged in 'guerilla' marketing - 'hitting the streets' and promoting his business with no budget.

Just six months since he took his previously home-based company to the town of Mandeville, the young businessman has expressed appreciation for the recent financial boost as well as the business training and mentorship that comes with being involved in the Youth Entrepreneurship Project.

Lee was one of 14 young entrepreneurs receiving US$500 each through the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund.

The Youth Fund is a part of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) to support youth in developing countries.

"This Fund promotes the poverty reduction aims of Millennium Development Goals and the Habitat Agenda for better, more sustainable and equitable towns and cities throughout the developing world," said the organisation's website.

Every year thousands of projects are reportedly submitted by youth organisations in developing countries seeking support from the Fund.

The Mandeville-based Young Women/Men of Purpose (YWOP/YMOP) was one such organisation in 2012.

Founded by former Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Festival Queen for Manchester, Lanisia Rhoden, YWOP/YMOP provides moral support and mentorship to young women and men, age 13-25, mainly in Manchester.

Shamoy Hajare is project manager and co-founder of the Youth Entrepreneurship Project (YEP) -- an initiative of YWOP/YMOP for which the grant funds was provided.

According to Hajare, it is the first time that a Jamaican organisation is receiving a UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund grant and persons age 18-32 were specifically targeted for this particular project.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Project, which was launched in August last year, provided training for 46 young people -- down from an initial 50 -- over a three-month period.

Training was conducted by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and training space provided by the National Council for Youth Development (NCYD) Information Centre in Manchester.

Hajare said that the second cycle of the YEP initiative, which mainly involves business mentorship through an incubator process, began this month and will last for six months.

As part of the mentorship, she said, participants will receive monthly coaching sessions from successful entrepreneurs in Mandeville.

Lee said that he hopes to build on the remaining grant funds to build his business.

Among his long-term plans is to relocate from the small space at Baptist Road in Mandeville, to a bigger facility which will allow him to expand and enhance the services currently offered in Jamaica and internationally.

Other participants who already have their grants in hand include Javin Williams of Herboo Enterprise (a herbal company which uses only plants/herbs to make cosmetics such as shampoo and body wash), Keila McKenzie of Kiky's Sweet Tooth (personalised desserts, dessert-scented candles and dessert gift baskets) and Wayne McLaughlin of Greens Lawn Care JA, a landscaping and lawn cutting enterprise.

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