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$500 boost for young entrepreneur

Mike King

$500 boost for young entrepreneur

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A LITTLE?MAN?with big dreams.
Shakeem Coggins is no ordinary schoolboy. He has visionary business ideas and a drive and determination that sets him apart from most 15-year-olds.
Coggins, a fifth former of St Leonard’s Boys’ School, has impressed all and sundry with his spirit of entrepreneurship which has seen him earn hundreds of dollars from collecting giant African snails over the past three years.
Reverend Whitfield Blenman, who resides in the United States, was so impressed on hearing of Coggins’ exploits on YouTube, that he came all the way from Florida to lend the youngster some advice and present him with a cheque of $500 last Tuesday afternoon.
“He is a boy with a difference; he will go far. He has three special qualities – drive, motivation and determination – that will take him places. I saw him on YouTube and just had to meet him and hear his story,” said Blenman, a former student of St Leonard’s.
Speaking at the Richmond, St Michael school before an audience that included principal Joseph King, Coggins said he was now getting involved in the pig industry and learning fast.
Blenman reminded him of the importance of negotiating skills in the business world.
“Here is my advice to you. You have got good people around you and I respect what you do. It is good to get the practical experience from the guy who is raising the pigs. You know how to feed them, you know when they eat, how to get them serviced, you know the basic stuff but there are some elements you require and what you may need to do is to speak to some people who run busineses.
“If there is a business department in your school, you need to speak to the head of that section . . . . Pick everyone’s brain – you were a snail picker, be a brain picker. Pick people’s brains, ask them the questions you need answers to [and] walk with a notepad.”
Coggins, the recent winner of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation Award, created a niche market for himself with his parents not working by collecting Giant African Snails from the gullies of his community in Hillaby, St Thomas. Those funds allowed him to travel for the first time, making his way to New York in 2012.
He is now painting wrought iron gates in his district, selling plastic bottles from school and winning over detractors.
Coggins, who is scheduled to give a motivational speech today at the Frederick Smith Secondary School, said he planned to stay focused.
“God turned a snail job into a painting job. I have been blessed. You have to give God thanks.”