CASTRIES – In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and the U.S. Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean are excited to announce their support to grow Startup Huddle St. Lucia and launch Startup Huddles across six Eastern Caribbean countries. These “Huddles” will support local entrepreneurs in honing their pitch skills and discovering solutions to the challenges they face. Key local entrepreneurs serve as StartUp Huddle organizers in their respective countries: Michelle Samuel (Saint Lucia), Elijah James (Antigua & Barbuda), Cardelle Ferguson (Barbados), Avena Prince (Dominica), Tamara Prosper (Grenada), Janeel Boon (St. Kitts & Nevis), and Jeneille Lewis (St. Vincent & the Grenadines). Six of these organizers are also alumni of the U.S. government flagship entrepreneurship exchange program, the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).
An experiential learning opportunity, Startup Huddle offers a unique program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs. The Startup Huddle format is consistent in each location: on a given morning, one or two early-stage startup founders give a six-minute presentation of their companies to a diverse audience of peers, mentors, educators and advisers. Each presentation is followed by a 20-minute question and answer session.
The scaling of the program to six other Eastern Caribbean islands was thanks to the leadership and hard work of Michelle and her team. Michelle was the first to launch Startup Huddle in the Eastern Caribbean in 2018 and was even promoted to a Startup Huddle Ambassador earlier this year, an honorable role with the responsibilities of supporting and onboarding new Huddle organizers across the globe. A couple of months prior to GEW 2020, she reached out to the U.S. Embassy to let them know how impactful the program had been in St. Lucia, and compelled them to invest in supporting its scale to neighboring economies.
“I’m so excited to see this initiative expand throughout the region,” said Michelle Samuel. Samuel participated in the U.S.-funded YLAI program, where she spent several weeks in the United States networking with other young people throughout the region and developing ideas to launch when she returned home. She then started SLUDTERA, and organization to help other entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a thriving business.
“None of this would have been possible without support from both the U.S. Embassy and GEN, and I’m happy that more entrepreneurs across the region will get to access this similar experience,” she added. And building a community takes a community. Many other individuals played an important role in making Startup Huddle St. Lucia such a success over the past two years: Kennedy Austin, Samuel Lubin, Josia Billy, Justine Charles, Ronetta Billy, Michealla Charles-Noel, and Trudy Popo-Leonce. Members who are still with us; Anita James, Shadia Adonis, Isaiah Lorde, Lisa Yarde. Without their hard work, the chapter would have never become a shining model for other chapters to follow.
For the first Huddle supported by the U.S. Embassy, the organizers will select local speakers from successful startups in their own countries to share best practices with all participants. Some organizers are hosting their huddle virtually, while others are holding in-person gatherings where COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced. In Saint Lucia, Michelle has selected Dawna Hyacinth, founder of Ecocreationz, the only eco-textile company on the island that aims to reduce textile waste by transforming it from unusable garbage to wearable fashion.
The culture surrounding Startup Huddle is that of a supportive, neutral space, welcoming entrepreneurs to be open and honest about their businesses and the challenges they face. Each event is organized by local entrepreneurs and community builders who volunteer their time to secure a venue, vet and select presenters and publicize the event.
As opposed to a traditional “pitch” environment, Startup Huddle was not created to be critical of entrepreneurs, but rather for the presenters to learn from shared experiences and find ways to support one another as a community.
Startup Huddle is an educational experience for both the audience and the presenters. Presenters are given resources and support to prepare for their presentation and surveyed after their presentation to see what they’ve learned.
To get involved in Startup Huddle Saint Lucia, please visit sludtera.wordpress.com for more details.