The Journey from Mind to Market - The VYBZING Pitch Competition

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There were just over 60 young emerging entrepreneurs who rose with the sun at the Jamaica Pegasus for day three of the VYBZING Youth Forum. The 11 teams had worked until late in the night to refine their business pitch presentations which would be delivered before the judges in a few hours. The teams had been advised about the parameters for the judging process. Specifically: Duration - Each Pitch presentation should be a maximum of four minutes. Presentation structure - Five slides should be included in each presentation as follows: logo/website landing page value proposition - 30 word idea business model canvas finance information demo/visuals of product A Q & A session from the judges after each presentation. Judging criteria - The four categories of 25% weight each Originality of idea Fluidity of presentation Relevance of the idea to the stated problem Suitability of the budget Prize categories 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Most marketable product/service Most socially focused product/service The morning was spent doing timed pitch rehearsals in front of the workshop Facilitators and getting last minute feedback to finally refine their presentations. Feedback ranged from notes on presentation style format and language, content of their presentation deck, to defining the financial data and value propositions for each business. Facilitator David Thorpe commented that he was quite pleased with the work that the teams had done overnight. “They are a very smart group of young people. Even though none took up the offer to reach out for help while they worked overnight, I was quite pleased with what they had done," he said. He further revealed that he recognized that some teams had two particular challenges - putting together and speaking about the financial aspects of their proposals, and their confidence. “They need to be able to present with confidence," said Thorpe. “Venture capitalists want confident people behind their business investments." The Honourable Floyd Green, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information came by to view the teams doing their pitch rehearsals. He was delighted by what he saw. “I hope you see this is an excellent opportunity. It is not about what you are going to be judged upon or who comes out the winner. It' about what you learn," he said. “Hopefully all of you will leave here and will go out to form some business. We need more entrepreneurs. We need more people who are going into business." The Minister encouraged them to reach out to his office for help with their business ventures. “I hope when you are finished here you will touch base with me because you want to know how the Ministry can help you on the idea you have." He gave the workshop participants some advice on preparing their elevator pitches and about networking in order to create and take advantage of opportunities to share their business ideas with influencers who can help them develop their enterprises. After lunch, it was time for the real deal. Each of the teams had worked hard for 2 days leading up to this seminal moment in the workshop - pitching their business propositions to a panel of judges in a real world simulation. The Judges were Dr. Kadamawe Knife, UWI Lecturer; Shamoy Hajare, Youth Empowerment Office at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and Founder of Jamaica School of Social Entrepreneurship and Dr. Andrea Barrett, Lecturer at the Joan Duncan School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership at the University of Technology, Jamaica. As each team delivered their presentations, the judges were unrelenting in challenging them with questions, forcing the young entrepreneurs to think on their feet and demonstrate that they had carefully thought through all aspects of their propositions. As the judges took the time to deliberate on the presentations, the group was entertained by popular Jamaican singer G-Whizz whose song “Life" was very relevant as its words say that with hard work and perseverance “life soon sort out." Soon, Dr. Knife came forward to speak on behalf of the Judges and deliver the results. He prefaced his comments by commending the teams for their work in developing a business model in 2 days. He thanked the participants and the Caribbean Development Bank for facilitating the process. Winners 1st Place - JahMi - for the focus on a critical imperative for the region - education - and using animation as a platform for education 2nd Place - iSpeek - for creating a platform for Caribbean youth and for creating a business that can integrate the region 3rd Place - a tie - Trash to Treasure and Waterloop Social Enterprise - Trash to Treasure - for addressing the waste management problem. Most Marketable - Agri Connect - a very useful idea that brings together supply and demand - while there is no shortage of food in Jamaica, it is not reaching those who need it and Agri Connect could do a good job of getting food to those who need it. For his final exhortation, Professor Cardinale Warde encouraged the participants saying, “Don't let these projects die. Keep the fire burning. Your job is to go out into your community and bring these projects to life." He also thanked the Facilitators, Jeremy Stephen, Chris Harper, David Thorpe and Ayanna Sammuels. He revealed that the process had been a bold experiment for them. “It' a learning experience for you and a teaching experience for us," he said. “"You all did really, really well. We expect you to go back to your communities, to follow the advice we gave you to build a successful enterprise." The participants were effusive in their expressions of gratitude to the CDB, the Facilitators, the Judges, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and all who contributed to delivering an amazing learning experience for them. In her closing comments, CDB' Yvette Lemonias Seale, Vice-President (Corporate Services) and Bank Secretary commended the participants for what they had achieved. “How pleased I am at what has transpired here over the past three days. I am completely blown away. While I expected to be inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm, I was also humbled by your courage. In the face of the challenging questions from the judges, you were tenacious and didn't back down," she said. “This augers well for the future of our countries. You are a credit to your institutions, your country and the region. This is but just a first step of many. Never give up. You are our future and the region needs you. Jamaica needs you." She concluded by encouraging the participants to use their ideas and creativity to give back to their communities. Everyone who was involved in any aspect of the three days of VYBZING 2016 Jamaica Youth Forum left feeling inspired and motivated. Everyone looks forward to the 60 plus participants taking the knowledge and information gained to transform their lives to become change makers for their communities, their country and the region. To view more photos and for live updates visit the VYBZING Facebook page.

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