Recently launched as a vibrant youth development enterprise—the Youth Economy Agency (YEA) provided tutelage for approximately 100 young Saint Lucians to better establish themselves as entrepreneurs, through an Introduction to Business Planning Training.
According to a YEA spokesperson, the course facilitated by the agency will be held over a four-week period as an intensive practical programme, in which participants will develop a comprehensive business plan for their enterprises and learn how to utilise that plan to effectively operationalise their business.
As part of the course, participants will be guided with regard to preparing a winning operational plan, turning a business opportunity into a profitable venture, implementing a lucrative marketing plan, raising capital and employing robust financial literacy and management practices. From May 2 to June 2 these business owners and aspiring business owners will develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of planning.
Training is underway in two locations – the YEA Office on Chaussee Road in Castries, and the ICT Access Centre on Commercial Street in Vieux Fort. Each location will host two sessions daily. Participants are also receiving support for meals and transportation.
The course facilitators explained what the format of training and application entails: The successful applicant whose business plan gets approved at the end of the programme will qualify for an Angel Fund, which will comprise a financial injection in the amount of EC$5,000.00.
This training is supported by the Republic of China (Taiwan), under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between YEA and the Technical Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) which was signed when the YEA offices were opened on Chaussee Road in Castries, on April, 3. Less than a month later, the first YEA training programme got underway, in keeping with its mandate to empower Saint Lucian entrepreneurs by creating the space for them to turn hobbies into entrepreneurship and skills into business.
Since its launch in early March, YEA has joined the Ministry of Commerce and other related agencies to undertake various outreach exercises.
For the business planning and training component, the Agency processed over 300 applications; while more than 400 applications have received grants and loans, with 22 disbursements to date. More than 400 people have visited the offices, and the YEA website – youtheconomy.lc – has had over 10,000 hits.
Speaking to THE VOICE, YEA’s Chief Operations Officer Khrystal Riviere explained that there is legislation in place to guide the agency and a board was appointed to oversee the affairs of the entity.
“From April 3rd and onwards we have had hundreds of young people coming through our doors, as well as, other people seeking our services,” she said.
Particularly, added Riviere, mothers and other persons on the bread-line come to the agency seeking assistance “and looking for opportunities for their children…as the agency provides financial assistance for young people who are seeking funding for their business ventures, whether it be start-up businesses or businesses that are already in operation.”
The funds are dispensed with to the successful applicants in two formats; Grant funding – where the applicants do not have to pay back, and Loans- repayable at 3%.
The YEA official further explained that grant funding does not make allocation for the building of infrastructure, “but we do support (purchasing of) equipment and material …and while both formats support the proposed ventures, a lot of people choose the grant funding”.
Added Riviere: “We try not to limit young people and their potential to become entrepreneurs and to create business for themselves, and also to create employment for others in their communities.”
Taking a dig into the world of work, she said, in the past schooling and learning were equated as being able to “get a good job …but now in 2023, we are encouraging young people to create the job that you would like for yourself and the Youth Economy Agency is set up for just that, to help you create that.”
Riviere notes that the Business Planning aspect is an important element in the overall training process, since “a lot of young people have an idea without a plan”. She said that within a week of disseminating information about the youth business enterprise, floods of applications were forwarded to the agency for processing.”
Assessing the overall thrust and responses to the YEA initiative, the YEA official asserted: “Obviously, young Saint Lucians are hungry. They are hungry for success and with all of them applying in such a gusto. You could see the look of hope on their faces.
“We hope to be able to fulfill that for them and for us to be able to release them into the world more empowered than when they came into our offices,” Riviere said.