Jean-Claude Walters-Dunn and Trae-Ana Wilkins, conceptualisers of Z-Link, have won the inaugural staging of the Optimist International Caribbean District’s (OICD) Entrepreneurial Mindset Business Pitch Competition. The duo impressed the trio of judges and walked away with US$1,500.00 seed capital for their first-place finish.
Z-Link, a service marketplace that connects businesses directly to Caribbean influencers and creatives, is designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing and promotional projects through automation and smart technology.
Walters-Dunn and Wilkins’ participation in the competition was made possible through the Optimist Club of Harbour View. The Entrepreneurial Mindset Pitch Competition was staged as a hybrid event on Saturday, August 21, with some participants, in person at the McCauley Hall, Convent of Mercy Academy ”Alpha”, Kingston, and others presenting online via Zoom.
Dr Marcia Forbes, chief judge, business owner and lecturer, expressed the judge’s delight at the impressive performances of the seven presentations and noted that the panel of judges was unanimous in selecting the top two contestants. She acknowledged the tenacity of presenters, especially those who presented virtually and faced connectivity issues.
Dr Forbes was complemented by Cadine Davis, a financial director, and Kimberly Manradge, a manager in innovation, research and development.
Second place was awarded to Deshawn Jackson and Daniel McKenzie, principals of DragonFly, a courier service company, sponsored by the Optimist Club of North St Andrew. Dorian Stewart, sponsored by the Optimist Club of St Ann’s Bay, copped third place with his self-care product line, Naturally Exotic. Prizes of US$1,000.00 and US$500.00 were awarded to the first and second runners-up, respectively.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset Pitch Competition is the Caribbean Optimists’ Flagship Programme under current governor, Dr Winsome Halliman, businesswoman and lecturer in entrepreneurship. Halliman said the programme was designed to introduce young people to the world of business and entrepreneurship with a primary objective of contributing towards the creation of enterprising cultures among youth. She said that she hoped the seed capital that the winners would receive would provide a solid foundation towards self-employment and shaping their own future.
Main sponsors JN Small Business Loans and Croskery Capital, through representatives, were on hand to present awards and to encourage the young entrepreneurs. Richard Johnson, team lead, Marketing & Promotions, JN Small Business Loans and Mark Croskery, chief executive officer of Croskery Capital, both commended the youngsters for their work, underscoring that their participation was indicative of their ability to get things done and reflects in a main way, the backbone of economic development — those individuals who are visionary and create opportunities for others.
Walters-Dunn and Wilkins, Z-Link, were ecstatic in their praise of the contest, noting that it allowed networking opportunities; access to influential mentors and sponsors but noted importantly, that the seed capital will fast-track the development of the platform to benefit creatives across the Caribbean.
The other winners echoed similar sentiments while commending the Optimist International Caribbean District for its bold move in creating such a space for young entrepreneurs. Others sponsors of the contest were Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Ltd, Alliance Investment Management, NPS Group Ltd, Burger King, Island Grill and Carimed Limited.