Business

Donna Every visits Belize to promote learning tool for entrepreneurs

By Adele Ramos
Freelance Reporter

Half of the people who are jobless in Belize are youth between the ages of 14 and 24, and a quarter of those who are underemployed – working under 35 hours a week – belong to the same age group. Altogether, they amount to over 15,000 persons who are either not gainfully or fully employed. The unemployment rate for Belizeans in that age group is actually about twice the national average.

So what opportunities exist for these youth to become productively engaged? In recent years, the population of entrepreneurs in Belize has been growing. A Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey on Belize determined that Belize’s overall national entrepreneurial activity quadrupled from 7.1% in 2014 to 28.8% in 2016. That’s substantial. So how do youth prepare themselves to become entrepreneurs? That question is answered in a recently released book and accompanying video series called The ABCs of Entrepreneurship. It’s a dramatized learning tool that anyone can understand and following the steps outlined by author Donna Every — a former auditor and accountant who decided back in 1998 to start own business — it is very possible to turn an entrepreneurial dream into a success story!

The biggest challenge in entrepreneurship, she said, is self. “You have to be self motivated and you have to be willing to persevere. Unfortunately, a lot of our women … they like instant results. They think that when they start, things are going to happen … and also knowing how to manage that money even before it starts to flow, not to go buy yourself a 100-dollar suit or 200-dollar dress shoes with the money.’’

Every, whose first book was a novel called The Price of Freedom, intends to spread the word all around the Caribbean; and Belize was her first stop. She was here just a few days ago on a mission to share with Belizean youth and educators about how they can utilize the novel learning tool, which is available in an online video series as well as in hardcopy in her book. The Barbadian national launched the learning tool in her home country last November, and Dr. Danalyn Myvett, president of the Belize Centre for Training and Development and World Ambassador Belize: Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, invited Every to Belize to share her work. Every is Ambassador for Barbados in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day program, and that is how she and Myvett initially crossed paths. Their relationship demonstrates how women across the Caribbean can support each other’s success.

Every’s first visit to Belize was in 2015, when she attended a related women’s entrepreneurship event held by Myvett. It was at that time that she first introduced her book to Belizeans, but since then, she has, with the help of Brian King of Crossmedia Inc., turned that text into a dramatic video series that has garnered greater attention, especially from the youth. The book was created under the Donna Every brand and the video through her company, Arise Consulting Inc.

Last Thursday, Every appeared on Open Your Eyes on Channel 5 and later that day, she met with representatives of the University of the West Indies Open Campus in Belize, as well as the Belize Association of Principals to discuss The ABCs of Entrepreneurship and the use of it as a teaching tool to equip the next generation of entrepreneurs in our region with the practical guidance that they need. There may also be an opportunity for the content to be certified for use by UWI’s Open Campus, which would position it across 42 Open Campus locations.

“My whole thing is for it to be a teaching tool,” Every told us, adding that the idea is “to supplement what’s there and get the young people to engage their interest.” She added that at the end of the series, they need to be able to start a business.
The 10-video series with content no longer than 15 minutes per session is set in a learning platform that includes quizzes. It can be used by people within schools and universities as well as individuals who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

A fictional story starring Kimberley St. Hill as Tessa, the narrative is embedded with principles that are vital to creating a viable business: clarifying the business idea, conducting market research and making a business plan, and then – if the venture is deemed to be feasible – launching off with the idea. In Tessa’s case, she was fortunate to have her fiancé as her mentor and one of her financiers. The story mixes in a vibrant romance story that has served to captivate young people into watching long enough for them to also absorb the core business principles underpinning it.

Tessa had graduated with an honors university degree in business management and could not find a job. Every explained that the feelings of rejection and failure erupted during her futile job search and with Joshua’s encouragement, she started to explore the idea of starting her own business. The first idea did not fly, as she realized that high import levies would have resulted in the need to price her product above what her prospective customers were willing to pay. Thankfully, prior market research, which Joshua urged her to do, led her to discover, even before she ventured into her business, that it would have been a failure. Together, they came up with a new idea that was far more feasible – tapping the knowledge and technology industries with Caribelle – an online magazine through which she planned on promoting the beauty of the Caribbean.

So, Every explained, rejection and failure are built into the story so that when people watch the videos or read the book, they realize that the first business might not necessarily be the one.
The series, which is apt for use in the classroom, comes with a facilitator’s manual for educators as well. Every said, after chatting with the principals, that they all know that teachers need tools and this is something readymade to give them.

Myvett, who strongly supports the production, said: “We have anchored ourselves on the position that women in the Caribbean have very strong business skills and it is time for us to display these skills.”

“The mindset of us in Belize is so entrenched in ‘go get a job,’ and so the next generation is where they need to work hard to see where they will create jobs,” Myvett added.
She noted that the University of Belize has launched an entrepreneurship course. Lecturers with whom they met last week said that what they see is answering questions they had yet to find answers for. They see that the content is relevant for the Caribbean, business is often taught using materials designed for developed countries.

“This spoke to the heart and to our reality, and each step of the way it was [said that] ‘this is timely…’”
According to Every, Jamaica is next in line for her outreach on The ABCs of entrepreneurship.

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