THE young man we are featuring today decided to take the road not taken and accept failure as an option on his journey to success. Confused? Let me explain.
Twenty-six-year-old Randy Lafontaine from the community of Choiseul has had a passion for entrepreneurship from a very young age. He was driven to becoming his own boss and was determined to stop at nothing to achieve that.
At 19, he started a business which would have a short lifespan due to it being shut down by the government. While that would be an experience that would deter many from continuing that journey, Randy accepted that failure, learned from it and moved on.
After a few years of hustling, learning, improving and observing, Randy opened his now successful business, St. Lucia Travel and Tours, in 2016. He says that he refuses to limit himself by the structured methods others claim are the way to obtaining success and does what it takes.
Randy’s business provides private airport transfers and taxi services for cruise ships as well as stay-over visitors. He uses social media as one of his main sources for marketing and his skills as an accomplished photographer to obtain rave reviews about his company.
It might seem like someone at his age might not have it together enough to run a successful business, but Randy is determined to prove the statistics wrong. In 2018, Randy’s hard work was thrown into the spotlight at the St. Lucia Business Awards where he was presented with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
A remarkable young man, he is. But let’s hear what he has to say about it all.
RRD: Tell us a little more about your business.
Randy: In what seemed to be a saturated industry, St. Lucia Travel and Tours has risen majestically over the past year, establishing itself as a unique alternative in the market. I built the company into a premier travel and tours company, which continues to captivate locals and visitors alike.
Having been established in 2016, we offer tours and transport services to the island’svisitors, differentiating ourselves by an incredible focus on customer service and professionalism. I love to ensure that every client’s first experience on the island is a fantastic one.
The uniqueness of our services led to me being named the Most Outstanding Youth of the Year at the National Youth Awards in 2017. I also received the award for outstanding entrepreneurship when I was named a winner of the OECS 30 under 30, an initiative by the OECS which recognized the thirty best young entrepreneurs in the sub-region.
The greatest acknowledgement of the progress and success of St. Lucia Travel and Tours came during the prestigious Saint Lucia Business Awards, where I was named the Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The award, which was received in front of some of the biggest names in corporate Saint Lucia, propelled me into the thinking of many of the elite, and the positive feedback in the aftermath is proof of this. We continue to find ways to innovate, and hope to be at the forefront of the industry in the coming year.
RRD: Is that your first time starting your own business and what has the experience been like for you?
Randy: I started my first business when I was about 19 years old which was shut down by the government within the first few months of operation. It’s been a really challenging and exciting journey. Seeing how happy my clients are with the services we offer at St. Lucia Travel and Tours is beyond rewarding for me.
RRD: How did the idea of your business come about?
Randy: I started doing taxi on my off days while being employed and realized that something was missing. I saw it as an opportunity to take a service that has been around for a while and make it better. I used my network, photography skills and love for my island to create a unique experience for my clients, locals and visitors alike.
RRD: What difficulties did you encounter in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome them?
Randy: One of my challenges was getting certified as a tour operator. It was also challenging at first getting clients to find and use my services. I’ve managed to tweak and update my services over the year which is what makes us unique. A high percentage of reservations also come from referrals.
RRD: With all the competition in that market, how do you stay ahead?
Randy: I don’t focus on what anyone else is doing.
RRD: Who or what inspires you?
Randy: Being able to inspire the youth inspires me. I’m hoping to inspire young people to start their own businesses through my entrepreneurial journey. Many people go to school and expect to get a good job afterwards, but the sad reality is that the employment rate is high and will continue to rise.
RRD: I think everyone is a little anxious to know what you were like growing up. Tell us more about that.
Randy: I grew up in the countryside (LaHaut, Laborie) and then moved to Piaye when I was 11 years old. I was an average student but always managed to pass all my subjects at school, although I didn’t study much. I’ve been a hustler from my early days — always have something to sell.
RRD: What is your favourite type of music? Name two of your favourite songs.
Randy: My favourite type of music is anything with a positive message. My two favourite songs are DJ Khaled’s “Grateful” featuring Sizzla and Dre Island’s “We Pray” featuring Popcaan.
RRD: If you were to win a million dollars, how would you spend it?
Randy: I would start an entrepreneurship programme to assist young people who aspire to own a business. Not just financial assistance but, most importantly, to provide knowledge and advice from my own personal experience as well as my team members’ experiences. I’d also use some of that money to grow my current business and fund some of my other business ideas. Of course, I’d buy some land to build my home as well.
RRD: Finally, what advice would you give to young people who want to be self-employed?
Randy: Start now. As little as it may be, do something every day towards achieving your goals. Even if your first idea fails, don’t give up. Fail better each time until you succeed. Put God first. Live positive.
RRD: It’s not wrong to say that Randy definitely has courage and stepped out of his comfort zone in order to achieve his goals. Now that’s impressive.
Today, I leave you to ponder on this: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”