On Saturday evening, ten young Antiguan and Barbudans were awarded JCI Antigua’s Youth Empowerment Program COVID-19 Entrepreneur of the year.
The fourth annual event, due to COVD-19 heath protocols, took a slightly different approach.
The gala took place in a mixed virtual setting with only the awardees and production team at the Office of the Prime Minister while over a thousand viewers and supporters tuned into the live feed on Facebook.
According to Co-Chairpersons of the YEP Committee, Samara Emmanuel and Derrica Watson, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the annual event was a pivotal endeavor for the committee.
“This year, the awards meant so much more because we have all recognized the resilience of our young people across the island. And what better way to recognize them, than to join with the corporate community to award these entrepreneurs,” Emmanuel said.
Watson continued, “The 10 Entrepreneurs awarded that night, the young professionals in Antigua and Barbuda who, despite these unpredictable and unprecedented times, have managed to put their entrepreneurial skills to use during the COVID-19 pandemic, we say to them, continue to blaze a trail that will inspire others to follow.”
The ten awardees were all between the ages of 18 and 40. A 19-year-old was the youngest recipient. According to committee members, however, the highlight of the gala were the stories of trial and triumph told by the awardees.
The awardees included Clara Lewis, the 29-year-old owner of ‘What’s The Scoop?’, a homemade ice cream business launched in June 2020.
“I started my business a few months after losing my job as a chef at a local hotel due to COVID-19. I was running low on funds and having a child to support. Starting a business was always a dream of mine, but I never thought it would have become a reality, especially during a worldwide crisis such as this,” Clara shared.
“I stopped selling Mangoes by mid-May and by faith used my last $100 to buy ingredients needed to make ice cream.”
Eldica Samuel of El’s Bowls & Blends, which opened in July 2020, also received an award. Although employed by the government, Eldicia said she needed to find ways of augmenting her income to help support her family.
The youngest awardee that night was 19-year-old Jakobi Gilgeous who saw the restricted movement of people because of COVID-19 as an opportunity to launch ‘Errands4You’, a delivery and concierge service provider which started on the cusp of the pandemic in January 2020.
Twenty-year-old Javhone Miller, also received the auspicious award as he started his retail business, ‘TopBrands268’ in August 2020. Javhone admitted that running a business has not been easy, but it is quite rewarding.
Mother of two, Kishma Joseph-Dupuis of ‘Kishee’s Treats and Things’ which started in June 2020 went into business after she recognised the importance and sustainability of retailing snacks and household items at an affordable rate.
Brandon Matthews of ‘Bridged Ideas’ graphic design became a financial victim of the pandemic after his place of employment was forced to close for several months due to COVID-19.
Brandon, the COVID-19 Entrepreneur of the year, said this downtime finally gave him the opportunity to create his own business which was launched in August this year.
28-year-old Kesra Pelle of Ray of ‘Sunshine Garlic Butter’ was also a victim of the economic fallout of COVID-19. After losing her job at a hotel, Kesra decided that she would begin to produce garlic butter to fill this void in many local supermarkets due to import issues. Since launching in August 2020, Kesra’s product can now be found in over fifteen retail stores across the island. Kesra also received the COVID-19 Entrepreneur of the year.
Also receiving the award was Tomeka Cole, the 28-year-old owner of ‘ToMeeks Retail Outlet’ which started in May.
Sharieta Charles of ‘Shae Organic Soaps’ shared the most emotional testimonial.
“For several years, particularly throughout my school life, I was scorned and looked at differently because of my skin. I used several products and soaps in an attempt to help to no avail. Thus, in June 2020, although met with several challenges and being unemployed, I decided that I would be the best person to get my skin where I wanted it to be!”
Unlike many of the other home based businesses who were awarded, 29-year-old Tiffany Jacobs-Eugene of ‘Nene Candy Frozen Treats’ opened a physical store when she opened her ice-cream doors in August 2020. This bold move secured her the highly regarded YEP Youth award of COVID-19 Entrepreneur of the year.
The virtual gala was treated to live performances by King Vicious, a past YEP awardee and Renegade Sound.
JCI Antigua 60th president, Andrea Smithen-Henry offered remarks.
Sponsors of the awards included, The Halo Foundation, Happy Kids, President Andrea Smithen-Henry, Delicieux Cafe, JCI Senator Adrian Zachariah, Vice President Calvin H. Thornhill, JC Renata Thomas and JCI Antigua Past Vice President Chinoir Ijeh.