Bullish about the mission

Remaining true to its mandate to empower micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES), the Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA) in marking its 15th anniversary will celebrate under the theme ‘Institutionalizing MSME Support and Inclusion towards Sustainable Economic Growth and Social Transformation’.

Established in 2002, the business association had, over the years, laid a foundation in the MSME ecosystem, and has collaborated with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Employers’ Federation, Development Bank of Jamaica, Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, and the Chinese and US embassies to propose and develop policies that facilitate a more encouraging, inclusive, and empowering environment for entrepreneurs to grow and thrive.

“The YEA has never moved away from its mission to empower entrepreneurs to succeed. Whether through our events – our national entrepreneurship week of activities, member accelerator and pitching competitions, international fellowships, networking, training, or mentorship programmes – we have helped many entrepreneurs to advance their enterprise and create wealth for themselves and their families,” said Cordell Williams Graham, president of the YEA.

But, in keeping up with the ever-changing times, the president noted that the association has embraced technology as a tool to improve efficiency and bolster its capacity to create more value for its network.

The non-profit organisation has over 70 active members and a network of 200 entrepreneurs. Some of its most successful alumni members include Yaneek Page of Future Services International Limited, Kimala Bennett of The Limners and Bards Limited, Andrew Pairman of Anbell Group and Intelligent Multimedia Limited, and Fabian Brown of Value Added Services Limited.

While the 15-year mark is cause for celebration, Williams Graham underscored the importance of acknowledging the barriers that still disrupt and stifle the growth in the MSME ecosystem.

According to her, having successfully advocated for entrepreneurship in schools and the use of dormant funds for investment in entrepreneurship, YEA is lobbying for a more institutionalised and inclusive approach to building a resilient and powerful MSME sector.

“For 2021 and beyond, the YEA will continue to lobby for, and work towards building an environment where all players across the ecosystem are working together to embrace MSMEs and entrepreneurship as critical drivers of growth and poverty alleviation, create a safe and secure business environment, incentivise and encourage formal participation in the sector, and reduce the erroneous requirements and hurdles that hinder growth and development of entrepreneurs,” she asserted.

In just a few weeks, the association will be launching its online magazine, in addition to its Young Entrepreneur Success School, an online platform to facilitate self-paced entrepreneurial learning.

The president added that YEA will also be establishing three county branches to facilitate increased awareness and access to opportunities across Jamaica, and expand membership accelerator and pitching programmes to facilitate increased funding and coaching opportunities for start-ups.

“I feel inspired by the vision and work of the past presidents, members and partners in developing the YEA brand – building the structures and honing the relationships that create the legacy and foundation on which we stand today,” Williams Graham expressed.

“While the hurdles may seem insurmountable, together with our partners we remain committed to the task, as we know that without the growth of MSMEs, who represent over 97 per cent of the productive capacity of the nation, our country will not grow, and our future and that of our children cannot be assured.”