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Managing Director of Republic Bank (EC) Limited Michelle Palmer-Keizer officially hands over the title sponsorship cheque to Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Director General Dr Didacus Jules. (Photo: OECS)

OECS, Republic Bank launch inaugural business model competition

Managing Director of Republic Bank (EC) Limited Michelle Palmer-Keizer officially hands over the title sponsorship cheque to Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Director General Dr Didacus Jules. (Photo: OECS)

…announce Eastern Caribbean’s top-30 entrepreneurs

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and Republic Bank Group on Friday, July 10, 2020, virtually launched the Sustainable Development Movement (SDM) Business Model Competition with the grand reveal of the top 30 entrepreneurs selected to participate in the programme.

The entrepreneurs were selected from a cohort of 170 applicants from across the region.

‘Ideas matter’

During the virtual launch, Dr Didacus Jules, director general of the OECS, highlighted the value of the Business Model Competition as an integral part of the Sustainable Development Movement, and stressed the importance of ideas and innovative thinking as Caribbean entrepreneurs position themselves as major players in the development of the region.

Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Dr Didacus Jules (File photo)

“Ideas matter because an idea is a seed that can grow change in our world. The genius of an idea ultimately lies not in its conception but in its execution and in the legacy that it leaves. We anticipate that the Sustainable Development Movement will create that legacy,” Jules stated

“The Sustainable Development Movement 2020 is a different answer to an old complex challenge. Resources are scarce but the problem is not money — but imagination. If you deeply desire and desperately need something you will find the road to your aspiration. A key answer to the challenge, therefore, is the mind shift. Changing our perspective from the subordination of our limitations to the appreciation of our possibilities,” the director general added.

“Ideas matter because an idea is a seed that can grow change in our world. The genius of an idea ultimately lies not in its conception but in its execution and in the legacy that it leaves.”

— Dr Didacus Jules, director general, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

The OECS Republic Bank Business Model Competition forms part of the OECS Commission’s Sustainable Development Movement (SDM) Conference — a two-day event that should draw over 3,000 delegates from across the Caribbean and internationally to meet and exchange thoughts, best practices, untold stories and strategies concerning sustainable growth and development on September 23-24, 2020 in Saint Lucia.

Exploring opportunities

At the same time, the 30 high-growth potential entrepreneurs from the Eastern Caribbean will benefit from capacity building and networking opportunities by integrating into a virtual network of business development support.

The 30 entrepreneurs will also compete for sectional prizes of up to US$20,000.00 and have the opportunity of pitching their business ideas to a panel of investors led by Daymond John, co-host of ABC’s Shark Tank, and president of the Shark Group. 

Daymond John on the set of ABC’s Shark Tank, a television show on which he bids with other multimillionaires to invest in start-ups. (Photo: Getty Images)

In welcoming the opportunity to support the Business Model Competition, Michelle Palmer Keizer, managing director of Republic Bank (EC) Limited, underscored the bank’s commitment to small businesses.

“[Investment in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises] was a priority for us when times were better and it is more so now in these times of challenge and opportunity,” she said.

Problem vs product

Also speaking during two-hour launch, Paul Ahlstrom, managing director and co-founder of Alta Ventures and Alta Growth Capital, delivered the keynote address. 

Paul Ahlstrom, managing director and co-founder of Alta Ventures and Alta Growth Capital, speaking at Private Equity, Infrastructure, SME’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation conference hosted by the Development Bank of Jamaica. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

He offered real-life experiences and advice from his over 30 year career as a venture-backed entrepreneur and as an investor while imploring participants to “create a compelling story” and “fall in love with the problem, not [the] product”. 

“If you fall in love with the problem, that creates a compass for you to go create a great product. If you fall in love with [the] product, you are blinded to feedback and you can’t see the world clearly,” he further clarified

Throughout his career, Ahlstrom has raised over US$1 billion and directly invested over US$500 million in more than 125 start-up companies.