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Connect and Sign

JOAN RAMPERSAD Thursday, July 6 2017

A number of entrepreneurs benefitted from the “Connect and Sign” business forum, held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last Friday.

Sandrine Rattan, coordinator of the event, said the event was to provide a platform for existing and potential entrepreneurs to connect directly with stakeholders who are in the business of entrepreneurial development.

She said at the forum: “This is not an expo. It is a forum opened to young people interested in business plan development, interested in obtaining a loan, interested in mentorship, network expansion, investment, legal support, business accounts and interested in different kinds of demands.” Stakeholders such as Amcham (American Chamber), UWI Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Auxesis Business Services, First Link Business Services, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (Nedco), The Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) and host YBTT (Youth Business of Trinidad and Tobago) the host of Connect and Sign 2017, were all on hand to provide the support for which entrepreneurs were looking.

Rattan said, “It’s the first of its kind (forum)being held in Trinidad, and an event where things are happening in real time.” The event was open to everyone in, or interested in business.

At the UTT booth, Inshan Meahjohn, Assistant Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialisation, UTT told Business Day his team comprised representative of UTT’s Student Recruitment Services - Knowledge TT, which is an online free portal for training and its Ustart incubator programme to help people start businesses and accelerate businesses.

He said: “UTT is quite unique in that the university offers 56 academic programmes, and those programmes are in many diverse areas such as maritime, aviation, engineering, fashion and agriculture. He surmised: “What that means is that our students come out with very unique marketable skills.” He also said: “Many times we produce a work force graduate, and what UTT has the ability to work with are a whole host of mentors within the university.

We have a physical space of 5,000 square feet in Frederick Settlement, Eteck Park in Caroni, a physical incubator, and a virtual incubator for people who don’t need the physical services. We will also be providing very shortly, loan funding as well at the university.

So we are providing a 360 degrees (of) service including the physical location, the mentorship and traffic.” The UTT incubator is designed for staff and students and alumni, and currently they are producing in the incubator, the support of 50 companies, some of which are looking at exporting in the agri processing industry.” He added that UTT is producing companies, because they were properly and academically trained, properly integrated into the programmes and then they handle them in the incubator side to form a business.

Meahjohn explained: “We get a student from day one, and that student is mentored by his lecturers. We get to understand if he has the ability to take risks, can he work with other students? Can he handle failure before he even gets to the point of the characteristics of entrepreneurship? “We have entrepreneurial courses that are embedded but the university’s focus is really technical skills.” He also said, even if there is a service that UTT does not provide, they work with the other stakeholders in which to do so.

Anil Seepaul, Centre Coordinator - ETIIC, the training arm of Nedco (National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited) stated that ETTIC provides training services as well as business advisory services.

“Anyone can just walk in to any of the branches in Barataria, San Fernando or Chaguanas and get advice on their business, how to keep better records, or advice on how to launch a new product, or advice on how to tender for a contract. We have training courses specific to those areas. In addition, you can speak with a business advisor as well.” And as if that is not all Seepaul said there is also a conference room that you can rent, to meet with anyone if the need arises.

Nedco will fund all business with the exception of primary agriculture business, that is crop cultivation, animal husbandry and all agro related products.

However, if one chooses to go into agro processing, Nedco will fund that.

Manager - Business Development, Auxesis Business Services, Jason Charles said: “We actually help small businesses grow and we have persons who are interested in getting into business grow into developing their business. We are essentially a firm that deals with convenience.” Seepaul stated that ETTIC allows the entrepreneur to concentrate on their core competencies.

He said: “We are about convenience so if you are a baker we allow you to concentrate on baking while we handle all the operational aspects of the business like administrative, accounting, legal, business planning, registration services, graphic designing, trademarking services.” He also said the good thing about them is that they don’t have standard pricing. What they do is meet with the person, have initial consultations with the person and develop... depending on what stage you are, we are about helping people as well.
The cost for a new entrepreneur will be far different from someone who is in an energy industry company.

“We price according to the entrepreneur’s needs,” he said adding that they are about training as well, and offer idea generation.
He said sometimes you have decisions that need to be made, so they play a devil’s advocate, so that the entrepreneur can get an objective opinion to help them guide their decisions for their businesses.

Stacy Charles, Liaison Officer, Business Incubator, UWI Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, the first commercial business incubator in the TT said their entrepreneurs are given access to training and resources at the ALJ GSB, and are currently in partnership with YBTT to maintain a formal relationship with all the incubators in TT.
“It is actually free to get into the business booster programme and you don’t have to be a student at ALJ or have an MBA.

What the selection committee basically looks for is creativity and innovation through your business plan which you will have to submit for entry,” said Charles.
Charles also said UWI-ALJ GSB Business Booster, also known as Biz Booster is the first CBI in TT. “We are a virtual incubator but our entrepreneurs are given access to training and various resources at the UWI ALJ GSB.

We are currently on our third cohort incubator and recently took BizBooster to Tobago.”




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