My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race

Friday, May 6, 2016

How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race

“I graduate about 200 young persons per year in the course that I teach at the University of the West Indies, and most of them are looking to start their own business because they have recognized that there are not a lot of jobs waiting for them”

CEO of JBDC (Jamaica Business Development Corporation) Valerie Veira, speaking on Wednesday May 4th 2016 during The Gleaner's Growth Forum

It looks like CEOs in Jamaica are getting younger and younger. Take a look at this picture of CEO of Izzy's Treats, Izzy Chin on Smile Jamaica's Twitter feed who's only 9 y-o.

So it's not surprising to hear the CEO of the JBDC (Jamaica Business Developement Corporation) Valerie Veira state that more young people are starting their own business as reported in the article “Rise In Young CEOs – SMEs Increase As Youth Shun Regular 9-5 Jobs”, published Thursday May 5, 2016 by Anastasia Cunningham, The Jamaica Gleaner

The CEO of JBDC (Jamaica Business Development Corporation) Valerie Veira was speaking on Wednesday May 4th 2016 during The Gleaner's Growth Forum held at the media house's Kingston office. Good to point out that the JBDC is celebrating their 15th anniversary. A part of that celebration includes a 9th annual Small Business Expo to be hosted on Thursday, May 12th 2016, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew where youth entrepreneurship will on display.

So why is this happening

CEO at 9-y-o is the new trend in Jamaica – NCB Tailoring lands towards Entrepreneurial Millennials

CEO of Izzy's Treats, Izzy Chin is a developing trend in Jamaica, as I suspect more tiny tots in Jamaica already have companies registered by their name with parents acting as proxy Board Members on their behalf. It’s a good move, as they’ll be millionaires by age 16, able to do whatever they choose with the rest of their lives.  

After all, job opportunities are hard to come by in Jamaica with only work in the service sector, mainly tourism and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) as argued in my blog article entitled “How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - LMIS Website, Education, Entrepreneurial grants, Jobs in Call Centers and Tourism”. 

Even NCB (National Commercial Bank) is seeing this shift towards entrepreneurship, with Senior General Manager of NCB, Audrey Tugwell Henry, using her daughter views on work as an example of the shift in thinking among Millennials, quote: “In fact, my daughter, a young adult, said to me, 'I would not be caught dead in a cubicle'. From what I am seeing, young persons are not looking for a 9-5. Yes, companies are still getting job applications, but when you look at the unemployment rate for young persons, you can understand why they are going the self-employed route”.

Marketing Director of a custom-order button-making company, Button It Jamaica, Demola Cunningham pretty much confirms this thinking, as Millennials like her to face problems with companies not liking their Mark Zuckerberg-eqsue thinking, quote: “We also believe in a vision that only our demographic understands and supports as we really find that most companies don't welcome young, fresh, and innovative ideas. Well, only until a competitor uses that idea and reaps rewards from it. Then they'll smack their head and say, 'We should have done that and given it a chance. Why didn't we?”

To this end, the NCB is making loan program for such entrepreneurs.

So aside from the lack of job opportunities, what other reasons are there for young people to start businesses?

Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Entrepreneurs - Call Centers a fertile ground for Start-Up

Currently the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is offering education and entrepreneurial grants to Millennials (ages 18 to 28) to access funding to pursue higher education or establish small businesses. The groups being targeted are mainly:

1.      High school students in Grade 11 (Form 5) and Grade 12 (Form 6)
2.      Tertiary students (UWI, UTECH peeps!)

To qualify for the educational grants, you have to be a true volunteer:

1.      30 hours of volunteer service at a golden age home
2.      30 hours of volunteer service at a children’s home
3.      30 hours of volunteer service at an infirmary

The Entrepreneurial grants are, surprisingly being tackled by these young people and are being offered by the JBDC. In fact, some of the 10,000 company registered at the Companies Offices of Jamaica may mainly have been started by Millennials as explained in my blog article entitled “Why 10000 firms registered in 2015 at Companies Office of Jamaica heralds Recession in 2016”. 

Part of the qualification process involves potential entrepreneurs being required to do rigorous training and then create a business plan. Lack of a credible business plan is the main reason why some 20% of applicants fail to get loans as pointed out in my blog article entitled “20% of Jamaican MSME's Fail to get Bank Loans - Why MSME's need Business Plans, Marketing Plans and Market Research”.

However, many of these Millennials show an incredible appetite for risk, especially as opportunities are lacking an unemployment is so high, many are opting to migrate to the US of A Canada and UK as noted in my blog article entitled “How Respect Jamaica and UNICEF Survey suggest Mass Exodus of High School Leavers in 2016”.

After all, if you’re unemployed, what other options do you have and what is there to lose in starting a business? For that reason, many are opting to sit down and carefully plan their business ideas before approaching the JBDC for a loan.

Most of their ideas show surprising sophistication and proper planning for Millennials, which is quite a surprise Deputy Chief executive officer of JBDC, Harold Davis, quote: “They are not coming in to do a thing or asking how much they can get. You can see that they have thought it through. The business plan is clear in their minds, and perhaps six out of 10 of those business ideas are technology driven. Many of them are in what we categorise as high growth potential business”.

Even more surprising is the fact that many of these entrepreneurs are Millennials who work or used to work in the Call Center industry. I know this from personal experience, as when I had worked at Xerox in 2012 and later at ACCENT Marketing in 2013 and encountered young people who were already running their own businesses while moonlighting as Call Center Agents.

Many of them realize that this industry only offer short term employment as JAMPRO President Diane Edwards points out in the article “Inside Call Centres: “No More Jobs For Life' - JAMPRO President Comfortable With Attrition Rates Among Call Centre Employees”, published Monday April 18, 2016 by Andre Poyser and Jovan Johnson, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So starting your own business, especially after such a demeaning work experience such as a Call Center, makes a lot of sense to high school leavers. Having worked in the Call Center scene, they mainly take advantage of Social Media to build their local and international customer base for their products and services to quote manager of Things Jamaican, Janine Taylor, quote: “They are not just thinking Jamaica, they are thinking globally and using social media as a key tool. In fact, just the profile of this demographic makes the potential to succeed much higher”.

So how badly has the entrepreneurship bug bitten Millennials?

Business based on the App Economy - Young CEO with sophisticated, well thought out plans

Things Jamaican, Janine Taylor offers that 30% of entrepreneurs are serious about what they want to do.

They often come with sophisticated ideas, mostly relate to apps or smartphones, quote: “With three out of 10 persons who want to start their own business, I find that they are very serious and very aware of exactly what it is they want to do, the type of business they want to go into. They know that they have a skill that can be converted into money, and they are actually more robust in terms of their approach to business than some of the older persons. In fact, the demographics are showing that they are more likely to succeed or accelerate than the older persons”.

Most of these app tend to be games based on a freemium model, In-app purchase or in-app advertising as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “In-App Purchasing falters as Freemium In-App Advertising Rises”.

Jamaican developers are still not tapping into opportunities to make business apps for Corporate and Enterprise clients. According to a Vision Mobile’s 10,000 Developer Global Study, there is an untapped opportunity for App Developers as explained in my blog article entitled “Vision Mobile’s 10,000 Developer Global Study – Why Developers prefer developing for Android and Apple iOS yet Enterprise makes Steady Money”. 

The result?

CEO's as young as 25 years or younger as in the case of the CEO of Izzy's Treats, Izzy Chin who are blazing a trail by identifying business opportunities that others never knew existed, quote: “So you find now, 25-year-old CEOs earning the same income as businesses that have been around for 20 years because they are tapping into new opportunities and new industries. This demographic is what we call voluntary entrepreneur. For them, it is not about survival or being forced into business. They have deliberately identified a business opportunity that they can earn money from, and, in fact, young entrepreneurship is now a global trend”.

So the next time you hear of another start-up in Jamaica, know that the CEO of that company may be a disgruntled Millennial who's just trying to avoid the cubicle Rat Race.

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