The word ‘entrepreneur’ generally calls to mind an image of a fast-talking, savvy businessman with numbers on the brain and money to burn.
Schoolchildren wielding rubber-bands? …Not so much.
But this rubber-band project was a building block of an innovative activity geared to stimulate students’ entrepreneurial drives.
This was done by students at one of the schools linked to the Trinidad & Tobago Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club (TTEI), which is headed by Ryan John.
As John explained, the rubber-band project demonstrated why students frequently arrived late to school.
Thick rubber-bands of varying colours were sold for $1 each, and along the rubber-band’s surface, information was written to indicate time and distance between places.
The students then used the rubber-bands to indicate on maps their routes to school, demonstrating how difficult it was to be on time.
The end result is a visual and artistic representation that reflects an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to the process of problem-solving.
The students hope to venture out into the surrounding community to expand the project and get others to take part in it, with the hope of gaining an audience of the Ministry of Works and Transport and eventually the Prime Minister.
TTEI – nurturing innovation
The example of the potential to be gleaned from a mere rubber-band was one of the seeds of thought inculcated by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club.
Currently operating through The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST), the Club provides a forum where young people can visit in order to get some information on business practices and to practice entrepreneurship before leaving school.
Ryan John believes that it is essential to begin teaching and encouraging entrepreneurship from a very young age, at least at the Form 3 level.
“By the time they’re finished with CXC, they’ve gone through that ‘brainwashing’ process of ‘you’re going to school to work for somebody, to get a job’,” he said.
“Before that is injected, we need to instill in them that there is a possibility that exists for them to be able to put something of their own out there and live off it.”
John lamented the fact that, at present, as the Club operates through NIHERST, it mainly attracts youths from the Port-of-Spain region.
He would like for the Club to exist in different locations around Trinidad and Tobago, and to liaise with other companies to aid the development of the country.
He acknowledged that some companies have already contributed to promoting innovation, but insisted that most efforts have been separatist to date, which only benefited the company’s interests rather than the country as a whole.
TTEI aims to function as an all-encompassing entity and neutral body that does not focus on any one sector or industry, but takes the entire development of the country into consideration.
“We want it to be a centerpiece for every element that exists for helping youths – we’re connected to Science and Technology, so we can direct members of the Club to where to go for ideas and how to make their ideas feasible, where to go for patenting, and so on,” John said.
Some successes of the Club to date include the hosting of National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (NEDCO) and Business Development Company (BDC) for lectures and discussions on business funding.
Ryan John has also conducted talks on the necessary sacrifices involved in being an entrepreneur, and worked with students in teams towards the development of innovative ideas towards an end product.
John’s next step for the Club is to begin a ‘mobile mentorship’ program, where youths can connect to recognised and established people in their fields of interest and pitch questions and concerns by text-messaging, emailing and the Internet.
Reflective of the high-paced technologically-driven atmosphere of youths, this is ideal for young entrepreneurs, and would also be a more low-maintenance and less time-consuming relationship for the mentor as well.
UTT’s Innovation Centre
TTEI is only one initiative to indicate that innovation is alive and well in Trinidad and Tobago.
Who knows? Perhaps the members of TTEI will be the same youths to develop start-ups businesses under the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) Innovation Centre (TTIC), a business incubator that will provide tenancy and enhanced managerial and financial support for 1-3 years to start-up technology and knowledge-based companies.
Operating virtually since October 2006, the Centre will finally have a place to be physically housed upon the launch of e TecK’s Tamana InTech Park in Wallerfield, north Trinidad.
Like John’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, TTIC aims to be a springboard for young entrepreneurs who need the framework to pursue their entrepreneurial desires and innovative ideas, with the intention of culminating in the successful launch into the world of business.
To find out more about TTIC, click here.
To connect with TTEI on Facebook, click here.