If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit? Why?
I would say the’70s in Jamaica. I think that’s a period where music and cultural space began to take shape. It would have been quite an experience to have existed in that period.
What was childhood like for you?
Childhood was fun; I grew up in the Inner City, Kintyre, Papine (Jamaica). It was one of the most memorable moments of my life just being free, roam around. I’m at the river, camp and playing every sport that I came across. Just experiencing that side of life prepares me for everything that I face today. My childhood experience was a well-rounded one.
What was your thinking like about your own childhood then?
I always embraced it. One of the things that I learnt growing up especially being in an inner-city community is that you have to work twice as hard as the average person who didn’t grow up in such an environment. You have a lot that you’re trying to achieve. One of those is to get out of the community and into something that presents more opportunities for you. I knew that the foundation wasn’t as strong but I had to work hard just to set a foundation trying to achieve what comes after.
Were you A-Student?
I’ve always been up and down. In primary school I was one of the top students. In my class I was at least in top 5. When I went to Jamaica College for the first 3 years I was mediocre academically. In 4th form, I decided to take it more seriously. I graduated as the top student. I always had it in me but never really embraced it, only if it is competitive that’s when I flourished.
What light bulb went off in your head when you decided to do things differently?
It was competition or a challenge. My father instituted a thing when we started travelling. He wouldn’t buy any shoes for my brother and I above the price of our average. If my average was 40, I’d get a pair of $40.00 shoes and the shoes we wanted was up to $90.00 (USD). Of course, we had to get good average to be able to get shoes like Timberland. That started pushing me. In 4th form, I had an accounting teacher (Devon Lawrence). who, like me, loved competition and he understood and figured out how to work with boys in an all boys’ school to get them to perform academically. He instituted a very competitive system. His system was a test every month along with our course work. The person who comes first is the Prime Minister so he gets a special seat at the front and he also gets an orange juice from the person who came in last in the test. The Prime Minister had his cabinet in the front which consisted of students who also got high grades. The Opposition consisted of those who got lower grades. That motivated.
It transcended beyond accounts. It motivated me to be a top student in everything else. In 6th form, I was the first student to get accepted an unconditional acceptance at the University of the West Indies.
How did starting your own business come about?
I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I think it started as early as primary school because my father always used to have business cards and letterheads. His business cards would say ‘business man’. The business name is Rolex after his name Roland. As a boy who looked up to his father, when they asked in school what wanted to be I would say, businessman. It has always been in my mind to become that. It stayed there and even though the primary objective changed early (at one point I wanted to become a Lawyer and an Accountant), the fundamental principle of it all was that I even if I’m a Lawyer I wanted to own my own Law firm, if an Accountant I wanted to own my own Accounting firm. That interest in becoming an entrepreneur continued to exist. I moved from that to getting right into it.
Take us from the genesis to where you are now…
The concept of eMedia started from in college. I was the publications chairperson at the Guild of Students at UWI. I was responsible for the entire publication of content or the student body. It was exciting, I had a decent budget; we had a voice. From wanting to have my business in media because a year before I had started an entertainment and lifestyle website (yaadmedia.com). I got the opportunity at the guild to experience what it is like running your own business with actual money. I never looked back from then. I developed my business plan, got the investment from Chris Williams, COE of Proven. I moved from a small business to getting additional investment from investor support (Sagicor Investment). We raised US$350,000.00 to expand the business in video, original content, etc. Structuring a Board of Directors Chaired by Richard Byles, CEO of Sagicor. It has been quite an experience.
How do we prepare our businesses for investment?
My degree is in banking and finance which gave me a lot of information how banks work. I’m running a creative business and a lot of times people think that I went to CARIMAC (at UWI). The most exciting part of the Banking & Finance was the Finance part. When I was approached by Donovan Perkins who at the time was the CEO of Sagicor Investments, I had no idea they wanted to invest. I went to a meeting at their request and we started having a discussion. They were asking me about the business and what were my plans to take it to the next level. Right there, I was caught off caught. One of my first tips to entrepreneurs is to always be ready. I was always working on ‘what’s next for my business so when they asked for me it was a no-brainer, I started outlining all the plans that I have for the business. They liked them and the discussion moved to financing so equity investment is always important. As a young business that is the type of investment that you need – what they call ‘patience capital’. Individuals who are willing to put some funds in your business and allow you the opportunity to explore the ideas and take some bets and deliver on what is needed.
Entrepreneurs should have their financials available; their current performance and what are the projections for the next 3 years and be able to speak to those investors without even looking at them. Know your business and what it is that what you have planned as the driver/captain. You have to be as intimate as possible with the state of your business.
I’ve dealt with quite a few investors. I’ve recently raised some more equity for my business that enabled the expansion into our Creative School. When Sagicor approached me about the investment I was 24 years old (now 31). What impressed them was that I had an Advisory Board and was having Board Meetings. I had my Minutes, Reports and that was very unique for an entrepreneur my age. I really give credit to Chris Williams (CEO Proven Investments) and Sheree Martin (VP at Energy Delivery at JPS). because they were the ones who ensured that those structures were in place. They took me on early, gave me the mentorship, support and guidance to ensure these structures were in place. I had the level of discipline to ensure that we committed to those systems. That was important. Sagicor was impressed by that. They knew right away that they were investing in someone who understood that when people are giving their money, the level of responsibility that is needed to display in the business.
In addition to the Advisory Board, I knew they would want a Board of Directors. Those were stipulations in the agreement. I moved right away to setting up the Board.
What were some considerations for the Board?
It has a lot to do with the type of business that you have and support needed at the time. I was young and needed mentorship at the time. The Board was more than a governance board but a set of people who understood the cycle of the business, the state that we were at the what was needed. For example, Sandra Glasgow who was the CEO of the PSOJ at the time and one of the best in terms of Corporate Governance locally came on the Board. She is big on corporate governance. We knew that we needed someone in Corporate Governance who understand small business and know how to work with young entrepreneurs. Sheree was a shareholder so had a seat on the board based on a number of shares she had at the time. She also understood the business.
Entrepreneurs just have to look at their business and do a gap analysis and put what is needed in place. My board members aren’t paid, they have shares in lieu of fees.
How did you approach these big names to come on board as part of your team?
Be a good Salesman. I’m into the business of selling ideas; selling a vision. That’s what I did with my Shareholders and Directors. I sold them a long-term vision for the business and they bought into it.
How did your Creative School come about and why the need?
The school was an idea developed five years ago. We realized very early that there is a big need for creative talent in Jamaica. Our creative economy is under-served. We need more people who understand entrepreneurship, who are creatives and are able to create the type of content that we need and the type of intellect property that we need in order to contribute to economic growth. It has been hugely neglected by Policy Makers because a lot of those don’t understand. When we look at the British economy in 2016, the Creative Economy contributed 5% of the GDP, the largest contributor and the fastest growing. We’re taking that for granted locally like any other economy, the first way to develop it to have trained people working there.
We created the iCreate Institute which is now an institution fully under the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Our need is to train the future of the creative economy and see the growth in this space.
There is always an excuse as to why we can’t do something; our responsibility is to find ways to get it done. Jamaica needs so much in terms of development. The only way we are going to build our economy and anywhere else in the world is through entrepreneurship. People who are bold enough to create change. My circumstances would have said otherwise but I decided not to listen and push to develop the company we have today and I feel very proud of the work my team has been doing over the last few years.
Just go after what you want to achieve in life as cliché as it may sound.
- Always see yourself as a Salesperson, selling your vision to those you need to work with.
- Entrepreneurs should know their financials available; their current performance and what are the projections when seeking investment. Be very intimate with the state of your business
- We have a responsibility to find ways to get things done.
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