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    October 19

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Answering the call for blood

Natasha Beckles,

Added 28 April 2013

py042813reddonor

It is not every day that young Barbadian entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to regional and international investors and business support organizations. But last Thursday and Friday five individuals and groups had this coveted opportunity as they along with 15 of their regional counterparts participated in the inaugural Caribbean Innovation Challenge (CIC) hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. Textbook rental business Book Line which was featured in last week’s Positive Youth was named Best Social Entrepreneur. They were the only local entrant to grab one of the six awards. During the CIC finals and expo at Hilton Barbados, the SUNDAY SUN caught up with the other four entrants who discussed their businesses and their experiences in the intensive training programme and competition. Twenty-six-year-old Samora Reid and 25-year-old Joshua Clarke decided to start Red Donor – a crowdsourcing platform for blood donations – because of personal experiences. In Joshua’s case, his father was suffering from diverticulitis, which resulted in a serious case of internal haemorrhaging. “He basically needed a large amount of blood rather rapidly,” Joshua said. “In desperation you start calling people. I probably called 40 or 50 people and only 20 were willing or able at that time or knew they were able to donate. “Then a further 10 or 15 were weeded out because while they were willing, one had the flu . . . , one had a tattoo within the last six months [and] one had high blood pressure,” he said, explaining that this excluded them from being able to donate. Joshua and Samora want to educate the public, especially the youth, about blood donation in order to prevent other families from experiencing similar challenges. “We hear about diabetes all the time, we hear about AIDS, but we don’t hear about the constant need for blood unless someone is actually in an emergency situation,” Joshua said. Samora, who is a freelance web developer, said the CIC inspired him to become more “entrepreneurial”. “When you start something like this you start seeing the opportunities and the problems you can solve. This is my way of using technology to help solve some of the region’s challenges,” he said. The contacts made during over the two day period would make it easier to enter new markets, Joshua said. Meanwhile, Dale Trotman, 24, has conceptualized Med Regis, a medical registry system which he hopes to have implemented in Barbados within the next year or two before taking it regionally and internationally. The programme will store an individual’s medical history including past and present medications, procedures and test results. “[Currently] if you were in a car accident or some other emergency, when you go to the hospital the doctor wouldn’t have any information on you or limited information. “This means he has to go and conduct a series of tests and this in my opinion wastes time and it also increases your bill,” Dale said. He suggested that his idea would help the local health care sector to improve on any inefficiencies which exist in emergency situations. On the lighter side, 27-year-old Shanika Burnett seeks to promote Caribbean elegance and sophistication through the creation of “wearable art”. Each piece of clothing is made from natural fibres and individually hand-dyed. “That has been something that made Shakad really stand apart from any other brand because even if another designer attempts the style they could never get the colours, they could never get the patterns exactly the same,” she explained of the business which was registered in 2009. Shanika has created a niche market for Caribbean-inspired wedding dresses which are becoming a hit with both younger Barbadian brides and visitors who come to the Caribbean to get married. The young businesswoman said the CIC was “gruelling” at some points. “I think that it was good in the sense that I’ve seen my growth,” she added. “Through the webinars and the boot camps that we listened to online we were able to develop our business plans and get them to a stage where you feel more confident about it. “We also met a lot of other very talented and very innovative young people . . . ,” she said. Kellyann Allicott, also 27, of Ibis Bath and Body was similarly appreciative of the opportunity to network with other business people from across the region. Her business, which manufactures soaps from natural ingredients, began officially in 2009. “It started out as a part-time hobby while I was working but although the market was not really open for making natural bath and body products, I realized the potential of the business based on how the economy was going. “People responded to natural products and changing from the conventional way of treating their skin with products that they don’t know what’s in them to finding out what goes into making something that they use.” Kellyann plans to market her products more aggressively to Barbadians as the tourist market has its peaks and valleys. “My idea is also to pitch it to local consumers who are interested in natural bath and body products and can realize that things made here locally are just as good as, or even better than, international products. She also plans to begin making creams, lotions and hair products. Kellyann said the CIC was “another step for the region to realize that we have to come together to make an impact on the world because as individual islands it doesn’t work”. “We realize it in cricket because we have a West Indies team and it’s time we time we realize we need to come together in terms of business and other areas as well,” she said.

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