First time for everything

November 27, 2013

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of incredible 'firsts' for me - I launched my first start-up, I won my first business pitch, I'm taking my first trip for the year, I'm going to experience my first Thanksgiving, my first Chanukah, as well as my first bite of the Big Apple. On, and as my friends so subtly pointed out to me, I just posted my first 'Couples' photo with J on social media (#lame). It's also the first time that I've had ZERO chance to sit down and blog about my upcoming travels, even though I had a million and one questions to ask everyone; like what to do for Thanksgiving, tips for a Chanukah newbie and of course, New York! 


November 25, 2013

Island Sitters won the Automotive Art Entrepreneurship Competition over the weekend!

2 and a half months ago, we entered Island Sitters in to the competition because we saw it as a great opportunity to push ourselves and the Island Sitters concept even further. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in to our entry, and we really gave it our all when it came to pitching our idea. Thankfully, the judges shared our vision for what this company can offer Barbados and the region. What started with a simple, straightforward ‘side business’ has now developed into a full-time start up thanks to the competition.

Sheena and I were really nervous when we attended the prize giving ceremony at Champers Restaurant. The team at Automotive Art decided to countdown the top 5 prize winners, so we nearly passed out when we realized that our name hadn’t been called yet after the Top 3….then 2…then 1!!! It was a very special moment for both of us and I’m sure our expressions were priceless.

What followed was a whirlwind of photos and congratulations from everyone involved, the press and sponsors. We were both giddy with excitement, almost forgetting to let our families know the great news! We were so grateful for the kind words, feedback and encouragement from all of the judges who attended the ceremony as well.

Island Sitters would like to thank Automotive Art, Signia Insurance and Chefette for this amazing opportunity. We are now able to move ahead much faster than we would have ever thought because of this competition, and we will always be incredibly grateful for everything they’ve done for us. We’d also like to say a huge THANK YOU to our amazing support team; our family, friends and boyfriends for giving us the encouragement and support that we needed to build this business.

No man is an island and Island Sitters is here because of all of you. Thank you.

Now the real work begins…

How I became an entrepreneur without even realizing it...

November 22, 2013
I had every intention of blogging my little heart out about Global Entrepreneurship Week since Monday but then, our new business got in the way of things. Funny that. I also didn't realise that the finals of a competition I entered coincided with #GEW so I'll dedicate this post to the last few months of my life..

2 and a half months ago, my friend Sheena and I entered our Island Sitters agency in to the Automotive Art Entrepreneurship competition. We saw it as a great opportunity to push ourselves and the Island Sitters concept even further, working side by side with the competition deadlines...not realizing that this would require sacrificing our every single breathing moment to this competition and our business. We were pushed a lot further than we had anticipated and in hindsight, I'm so grateful for it. What started with a simple, straightforward 'side business' has now developed into a full-time start up thanks to the competition.

The competition was advertised in September, and the first phase required a 2 page concept paper. From there, our entry was narrowed down to the Top 10 from over 75 entries.

Phase 2 included a 15 page business plan, outlining things we didn't even know existed. Neither Sheena nor I had ever taken business course, far less started something ourselves. So we batted our eyelashes at our amazing boyfriends and family members, asking for help wherever possible. We couldn't have done any of this without our support team! We also attended the workshops which were organised by Automotive Art and the UWI Business School and they were so incredibly helpful. I also had a chance to meet some of the other contestants (sussing out the competition) and talk about their experiences so far. 

When we heard that we made it to the Top 5 we nearly peed ourselves. Not only out of excitement, but genuine fear; the final round included a detailed financial forecast and a 20 minute business pitch - Dragon's Den style! Cue more hours and late nights and weekends sat around Sheena's dining table trying to figure out Excel, sipping way too much coffee and tea. This, coupled with the actual running of Island Sitters as well, put quite a bit on our plates.

It was on one of these late nights, after declining yet another social event, that Sheena and I turned to each other and said "Wait, We're entrepreneurs now." It wasn't a very grand moment, it was more of a harsh dose of reality: THIS is what they're talking about when people tell you it's not going to be easy. It's fucking hard work and sucks sometimes. But we kinda laughed about it and continued with our graphs and pitch deck.

We amped things up in the final week, tweaking our presentation and doing practice pitches on many  occasions. THANK YOU again to everyone who endured these, you don't understand how much it meant to us. Our presentation was ripped apart and put back together piece-by-piece thanks our significant others. Those boys knew how to get the best out of us and we love them for it.

Pitch day came and went, but not without a fair share of of stress and anxiety. We finally did our thing in front of 5, ahem, male business execs. I was shocked to see that a competition of this magnitude wouldn't even have ONE female judge. Hopefully they will next year...

Needless to say, it was the fastest 20 minutes of my life.  Sheena and I rocked it as a team because we had practised SO much and we know our business inside out. We may have cracked a few awkward jokes here and there, AND I forgot a few chunks of my pitch but nobody noticed...We've been eating, breathing and sleeping Island Sitters for the last few months and we covered all of our bases. We received great feedback from the judges, who are all successful businessmen. I was really proud of both of us after walking out of that conference room! We were giddy with happiness and relief and treated ourselves to an afternoon swim and a yummy dinner with some of our favourite people that night.

Tonight we'll be attending the prize giving ceremony and networking with all those involved in the competition. We don't know where Island Sitters placed out of the Top 5 finalists and it's freaking me out, not going to lie. We're both pretty competitive and gave this competition our all, not to mention feeling like we've just completed our second Master's degree.

Fingers crossed peeps, it's going to be an epic night.

Global Entrepreneurship Week in Barbados

November 15, 2013

Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off on Monday! It's the world's largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It's really exciting to see that young entrepreneurs and start ups are being taken a little more seriously here in Barbados, with more opportunities and funding available recently. Starting your own company is a huge feat (Correction - an ENORMOUS feat) and entrepreneurs can use all of the help they can get, especially during uncertain times like these. GEW Barbados still has a long way to go with their media outreach, especially if they're trying to get engage young people in these things. I had to search high and low for the following information, which is a pity because I know a lot of people would have loved to have been more involved in the process. I have high hopes for these organisers next year though :) Here's a list of some of the events that are taking place in Barbados next week, from workshops to networking and everything in between, thanks to the Barbados Youth Business Trust, TrepFest and the Barbados Small Business Association. If you know of any other events going on, please feel free to comment below! (Click on the links for more info):

Young entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of the Stock Exchange to the growth of their business.

Forum for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs who would learn how to ride out the recession with practical tips to remain in the game. 

An event geared to provide advise and support to female entrepreneurs - WOOP WOOP!

Paul Altman, one of the most successful business men in Barbados, will speak to entrepreneurs business mentors and the partners about increasing business success through networking. 

Experienced lecturer Tara Wilkinson-McClean will provide young entrepreneurs with information on how to improve their marketing through the use of social media. 

This workshop is based on the book 'Lean Analytics' written by Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz and is one in the series of books on the Lean Startup approach to business.

TrepFest is a 3-day series featuring three events: a Lean Analytics Workshop, a networking mixer and treppinOut:Unconference. The festival is launched by a series of Lean Startup Meetups hosted in association with Foo Café Barbados. Check them out on Facebook for more info!

I'll be Tweeting from all of the events I attend, so join in on the conversation @Skiptomalouuu using the #GEWBim2013