Citi Foundation injects new funds into local start-ups
Seven young Jamaican entrepreneurs are set to benefit from new injection off funds into their start-ups from the Citi Foundation and The Trust of the Americas, both of which were sponsors of the Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA) Lab programme.
Candice Gordon, proprietor for Shevielle Naturals – a hair and skincare product company; Akime Edwards of Global Hub Learning Solutions; Aaliyah Campbell, founder of The Eco Store; Miguel Francis, the owner of I Want to Make, a do-it-yourself website; Godiva Golding, entrepreneur of Steam House Network; and Collin Fuller-Bennett, creator of app Atendify, received the guarantee of a second-round investment that will be added to US$1,000 seed funding given to them at the start of the programme.
According to DIA Lab Project Coordinator Dwayne Gutzmer, this fresh funding will “help them to move to the next level and to unlock that potential that they have and test an idea that they have and also set them up to go after other [opportunities]”
“Thanks to Citi Foundation we’ve been able to give over US$20,000 in seed funding,” he shared during the project update on Wednesday, December 6, at the Citibank Jamaica’s office at Hillcrest Avenue in the Corporate Area.
“Thirty-two innovative projects received funding and now we’re giving back what is now a reinvestment grant, where those persons who would have done well, we try to see if we can give them a little prop, and so that’s also something that the sponsors have been very flexible in allowing us to do,” he continued.
While the project update served as an opportunity for the entrepreneurs to promote their ventures, Gutzmer used the event as an opportunity to disguise the proceedings as a pitch tank competition and afterwards in Oprah Winfrey style announced, “So you get a reinvestment grant, and you get a reinvestment grant.”
The DIA Lab’s Pitch Tank Competition, he explained, helps the start-up businessmen and women to prepare for other funding opportunities and equips them with the knowledge and skills in promoting themselves, their businesses and products. So far, the DIA programme has held three of those competitions.
Launched in 2016, the DIA Lab has served as a platform for both Citi Foundation and The Trust of the Americas to support youth in Latin America and the Caribbean in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation. The regional initiative, which can be found in Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, fosters the creation of low-cost, high-impact innovations that improve livelihoods while solving challenges youth face in their communities.
“One of the things that we try to do is have them in the driver’s seat where they come up with solutions for their own communities. So we have an ‘ideathon’ and what we simply do is look at what are some of the challenges in your community,” Gutzmer shared with Citi Jamaica country officer and corporate bank head Eva Lewis and her staff.
“What we do then is move from problems into solutions: What can you do to fix those particular problems?” he added.
Since the inception of the DIA Lab, some 300 young people have been afforded the opportunity channelling their creative and productive energies into the programme.
For the period 2021-22, 266 young people have completed a 40-hour training curriculum that includes sessions in innovation, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, digital skills, business model canvassing, and artificial intelligence.
“And these days a lot of conversation is coming up about the use of artificial intelligence in what it is that they’re doing, and [so] we just did some work with the Development Bank of Jamaica looking at best practices as it relates to utilising AI in the workplace,” Gutzmer disclosed.
“So the object to support them in their search for better labour and entrepreneurial skills and career paths,” he noted.
Some 622 individuals have also been sensitised about the benefits of the DIA Lab.
Commenting on the project update and the presentation of the entrepreneurs, Citi’s Lewis described them as food for my soul”. She also noted the “professionalism, eloquence and confidence displayed in the presentations,” and as such commended the mentorship and coaching dispensed by Gutzmer and his associate, ILE Project Coordinator Shauna Todd.
“When one considers the number of at-risk youth that can be positively impacted by the DIA Lab, I can think of no better way to invest Citi Foundation’s money. This is a source of inspiration; we are building a community!” Lewis beamed.