July 3, 2012
UWI team cops first prize in business plan competition

A group of five University of the West Indies (UWI) students that created an innovative way for other students to access cheaper text books has won first prize in the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank-sponsored business plan competition{{more}} coordinated by UWI’s Student Entrepreneurial Empowerment Development (SEED) project.

“Bookline,” which was set up by Kevin Bishop, Rochelle Waldrond, Chenika Moore, Ivan Cox and volunteer Akeila Trotman to rent text books to tertiary students, received high praise. SEED coordinator Ayanna Young Marshall said the decision to declare the group winners was unanimous.

An elated Waldrond said “Bookline” was born because of the high cost of text books, some of which are only used once. The business also allows other students to place their books into its rental pool and so earn income for themselves. “It makes sense to own your own business, since finding a job can be difficult,” Waldrond noted. The winners thanked CIBC FirstCaribbean for its commitment to the competition. “We’re very much appreciative, because without the bank we wouldn’t have the capital investment to grow the business,” Waldrond added.

Craig Harewood, one of the first SEED participants, was first runner-up with “Planet’s Delicacies Nursery”, a plant nursery targeting niche markets. Second runner-up was Josiah Kirton with “Introspective Recordings,” which produces promos, while third runner-up was Jason Hope and his Bajan Art Inc., which seeks to connect art to a wider audience. Troy Wiltshire was fourth runner-up with Group Buy Barbados, an online platform to facilitate trade between groups, matching supply with demand.

At the awards ceremony recently, at UWI’s 3W’s Pavilion, Director of Corporate Communications, CIBC FirstCaribbean Debra King expressed pride at the bank’s involvement in the competition. She said the SEED programme continued its commitment to fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship, this time at the tertiary level. “As the region’s economies struggle to find their feet in the face of one of the deepest crises ever to face the world economy, programmes like SEED will offer our young people a viable alternative of being able to develop their own businesses.”

UWI Cave Hill Deputy Principal Professor Eudine Barriteau said the SEED business plan competition encapsulated the essence of the innovative and entrepreneurial graduate UWI aims to produce. “An interesting and exciting model is being created for student entrepreneurship at Cave Hill.” She also thanked CIBC FirstCaribbean for its sponsorship of the business plan competition for the past two years.

Last year’s winner Shamkoe Pile announced that she was able to use her winnings to invest in equipment, training and expansion of services for “Skai Multimedia”, which successfully produced “Honey Jam Barbados”, now being broadcast in Barbados. Pile advised the finalists to open a business account to separate personal cash from business income.

Pile also implored corporate Barbados to invest in young entrepreneurs. “We’re not asking for handouts or to be spoon-fed; just for respect and an equal playing field”.

CIBC FirstCaribbean has made a commitment through several memoranda of understanding with regional entities to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among young people in the region to combat youth poverty and unemployment. The bank has contributed US $45,000 to the SEED programme over a three-year period.