On Dec. 1, the Multi-Purpose Sports Complex was transformed into a mini-market as more than 40 youths demonstrated their business prowess at the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports Business Expo 2023.
Several booth operators offered a wide variety of services in graphic design, cosmetics, tech and more. Others sold prepared products including baked goods, fresh juices, jewellery and art.
To catch the eye of potential customers, the entrepreneurs employed a variety of marketing strategies, ranging from a humansized Island Flavours branded juice cup to a raffle held by 3AL Productions to QR codes linked to more information.
DYAS Director Brenda Lettsome-Tye said vendors included 21 “aspiring youth-preneurs” between the ages of 8 and 17 as well as 21 entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 30.
“Their presentations are stunning, really,” she said. “We have quite a variety. Everything at the youth expo has been done by and for young people.”
Ms. Lettsome-Tye said the department sought various ways to feature young talent, even down to the music played at the expo. Xclusive Sounds, a youth band of vocalists and instrumentalists, performed in the auditorium during the expo, and members noted they are available for booking.
Ms. Lettsome-Tye said patrons were impressed with the quality of the items on display, and she added that the department plans to host the expo again next year as well.
“We’re quite thrilled with the response and quality the young people have brought forward, and we hope that the seminars and today’s experience will really propel them to further refine their businesses,” she said.
Strungé Stevens, owner of House of Art, was offering customisable resin keepsakes that she said are designed to “bring your memories to life with art.”
“I started taking an interest in art in school, and I’ve always had a passion for making things with my hands,” she said, explaining how that inspiration evolved into a business after her graduation.
Participants said that interacting with customers at the expo was a gratifying experience that they hope will give their endeavours a boost.
Nine-year-old Tinique Maduro, one of the day’s youngest participants, said she and her best friend, 10-year-old Evlin-Monet “Ema” Leonard, have been wanting to start a business of their own since this summer, and the expo was the perfect opportunity to go for it.
She explained that their business, Sips & Sweets, has a strong charitable focus. Each of their flavoured lemonades is named after the non-profit organisation that will receive part of the proceeds from the sale.
“Many people don’t really donate to other places these days,” Ms. Maduro said of why they wanted to include donations in their business model.
She added that they had lots of fun at the expo and hope to keep the business going.
In the two days before the expo, the entrepreneurs had the opportunity to participate in seminars on business planning, building a brand and protecting a business.
DYAS Senior Programme Manager Shaunice Leonard said they also learned about the importance of money management. A lawyer from Harneys, she added, advised them on contracts and more.
At the end of the day, the DYAS recognised the best booths for their contributions, awarding prizes including cash, professional headshots, and an offer to sponsor their trade licence.
The awards went to High Society Templates for the best promotional booth and for most innovative; Krissential Beauty for best business pitch; Sips & Sweets for top aspiring youth-preneur (ages 9-13); and J Qrochet Designs for top aspiring youth-preneur (ages 14-17).
J’Quelah Callwood, owner of J Qrochet Designs, said she’s been crocheting since she got a kit for Christmas at about 9 years old, and she’s enjoyed incorporating the craft into her broader fashion brand this year. She noted that her business can be found on Instagram, and she takes custom orders.
“It was nice to see a lot of young people, including my friends, being showcased,” she said of the expo.