By Meegan Scott
TORONTO, Canada – The face of the young entrepreneur has changed.
Therefore, any serious effort to increase the rate of formation and growth of high impact Caribbean immigrant businesses; or to improve the entrepreneurial experience of the Caribbean immigrant entrepreneur must respond to existing and preempted changes.
Today many individuals in their mid-forties and even those in their sixties have had to find and to turn to their entrepreneur within to solve problems or to make a living.
Many are not lucky to be entrepreneurs of opportunity; in fact, a considerable number are entrepreneurs of circumstances.
Those entrepreneurs often have an urgent responsibility to care for potential as well as youth entrepreneurs in addition to providing for themselves. The potential and existing youth entrepreneurs─ are their children. They must feed them, they must provide shelter, health care, entertainment, education, hope, and inspiration for them.
At the same time retirement for those older young-entrepreneurs is just around the corner and those entrepreneurs must accelerate the growth of their businesses and increase their earnings to meet the cost of health care, shelter, and entertainment during retirement. Excluding those groups from financial, knowledge and market support will result in serious social and economic pressures on our community in just over a decade if not before.
If they fail, today’s youth entrepreneur could face a high financial and emotional burden of care for their parents in a couple of years. They may find that their best efforts and winning ideas never come to fruition because their parents are not able to help them to build capacity and execute to match or exceed the pace of change. In fact, studies have shown that young entrepreneurs whose parents were entrepreneurs start their entrepreneurial journey with advantages related to pace of growth and success.
Many older young-entrepreneurs are immigrants in North America, the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere in the world—they must also be recognized, celebrated, inspired, and supported to succeed despite the constraint of size and resources.
Those older young-entrepreneurs are sometimes challenged by even greater difficulty in accessing financing for operating and growing their businesses. Some come to the world of entrepreneurship near-drowning in debt—be it from student loans, mortgages or from years of being underemployed or unemployed. Perhaps their financial challenge is the result of the financial burden they carried or carries in caring for their families. Which might include the thirty-something budding youth entrepreneur.
Many English-speaking Caribbean immigrant entrepreneurs know only too well the struggles touched on in this piece. It is for that reason that a Community of Practice (CoP) for Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneurs that also provides market meeting opportunities for the immigrant entrepreneurs in all the Caribbean’s diasporic markets is urgent.
Most immigrant groups who have created a stronger entrepreneurial foothold in their host country and other Diasporic markets came from societies where they had significant experience as successful or high performing entrepreneurs. And all have leveraged their communities within the host country to support their businesses. So, what is holding back the Caribbean immigrant community? What is keeping the community largely within a small segment of the small and micro-enterprise sector?
I’d say failure to grow and understand our own culture of entrepreneurship; and failure to adopt deliberate strategies for supporting and benefitting from community businesses.
But you may know of other challenges, and I would be delighted to hear your take on the matter. As much as I would love to share the opportunities presented by a CoP for Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneurs.
Trust, consistency in delivering quality solutions and customer service are other issues which handicap the growth of Caribbean Immigrant businesses.
The failure to seize opportunities to publish about their trade or expertise is another missed opportunity (Publishing is not limited to writing a book).
To the older young-entrepreneur
I encourage new and serial entrepreneurs looking for success to stay on course. Join an organization or seek support from experts who can help you on the path to being focused for and to achieve growth. Grow and hold your grit!
Be real! Be true! Know what it means to be focused for growth.
To those who want to see or are mandated to deliver improved social and economic outcomes for Caribbean immigrants; increased levels of growth and success of Caribbean immigrant businesses; and to entrepreneurs let us remember that “young entrepreneur”, should not be defined by age. But that it should be defined by journey on the path to business success, ability, commitment, passion, experience, grit, and pursuit.
Let us also focus on where we fall short compared to other immigrant groups, and what actions we must take to bridge those gaps. Failure to delight customers who are of our community; failure to be deliberate in creating and serving markets within our communities; failure to trust, promote, refer, and support community businesses and professionals are among the shackles that hold us back.
Achieving the change, we want to see is dependent on the urgency with which we act to create community markets that support our businesses; and business support networks that will accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial experience and trust within our community. We must also understand that individuals and organizations that are committed to such a cause should need no permission based on piety, fame, fortune, or noble birth to make their contribution. Our future lies in deliberate and united “right actions”.
(Meegan Scott is a Jamaica-born Strategic Management Consultant in Toronto.)