Six young men, ranging from ages 15-19, recently graduated from the five-week summer entrepreneurship program, EntrepreNow, which was created to inspire an entrepreneurship mindset among young men in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA).
The EntrepreNow graduation ceremony was held on Friday, Aug. 31, at E’s Garden Teahouse and Things in Garden Street on St. Thomas.
EntrepreNow was designed to assist young men in learning about their personal and professional interests, visualizing their educational future, and setting personal and professional goals. This program also helped these graduates, also known as the “Gentlemen of EntrepreNow,” to learn about public speaking, leadership skills, the basics of preparing and presenting business proposals, and marketing their products and services. This year, the Gentlemen of EntrepreNow also had the opportunity to engage with various community leaders and political representatives in our territory.
“This has truly been a journey for these young men. I consider these young men to be my family,” said Nadine Marchena Kean, director of the Enterprise Zone Commission. “And it is certainly fulfilling to see another group of young men complete this program as a significant step for success in their lives,” she said.
EntrepreNow is the brainchild of the Enterprise Zone Commission (EZC), an entity of the USVIEDA that is responsible for the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods that were once vibrant centers of economic activity in the territory. Established in July 2016, EntrepreNow was created in partnership with the Office of the Territorial Public Defender of the U.S. Virgin Islands; the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Human Services; and the local, non-profit organization Youth Arise Inc., for young men ages 15 through 19.
At the graduation ceremony, the Gentlemen of EntrepreNow: Ja’Haile Clendinen, Makim Archibald, Tasheem Monsanto, Ahyjah Lambertis, Konasha Griffith and Anthony Gerson spoke briefly about their experiences and thanked individuals who supported them during the program. They also received words of encouragement from Wayne L. Biggs Jr., USVIEDA assistant chief executive officer and chief operating officer; Dr. Arlene Smith Christopher of Youth Arise Inc.; and Raheem Smith, enterprise zone specialist.
These graduates also heard a testimonial from a 2017 graduate of EntrepreNow, Claudius Abraham Jr., who is currently enrolled as a civil engineering major at the University of the Virgin Islands.
The Gentlemen of EntrepreNow received certificates of achievement from the USVIEDA and the Office of Virgin Islands Senator Jeanette Millin-Young.
During this five-week program, which began at the end of July 2018, the Gentlemen of EntrepreNow participated in classroom sessions and selected which of the following career tracks they wanted to pursue: oceanography, video game developer, baker, electronics repairs or trucking businesses. They also visited UVI with a tour conducted by Kelani Rivers.
The young men learned about business basics from Darryl Edwards of Straightpath Consulting LLC, and they shadowed local entrepreneurs Taj Siwatu of Buddha Sushi and Jeffrey Richardson of Xquizit Jewelers. They also met with businessmen Reggie Vigilante of OmniSystems Inc., Rashidi Clenance of ViVid Streaming, and Jason Charles of Alpine Securities, who all shared stories about their own challenges and successes during their journey to becoming and being business owners or leaders.
The Gentlemen of EntrepreNow also competed among themselves for having the best business plan during a simulation of the popular business reality television series, “Shark Tank,” which is broadcast on CNBC.
To engage with local community leaders, the six young men visited the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. They also had an opportunity to host their own U.S.V.I. gubernatorial candidate forum at which they prepared for and asked questions of the candidates.
The Gentlemen of EntrepreNow toured Fort Christian on St. Thomas led by Sean Krigger of the USVI State Historic Preservation Office; they toured the V.I. Port Authority (VIPA) Fire Department led by Fire Chief Adrian Kean. Cardow Jewelers and In Search Of LLC donated gifts and transportation services.
To learn more, contact Nadine Marchena Kean, director of the Enterprise Zone Commission, at 714-1700, ext. 256; or send an email to [email protected].