BRIDGETOWN – In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the U.S. Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) launched Startup Huddles in seven Eastern Caribbean countries. These monthly “Huddles” will support local entrepreneurs in honing their pitch skills and developing solutions to business challenges. Local successful entrepreneurs will serve as StartUp Huddle organizers in their respective countries: Elijah James (Antigua & Barbuda), Cardell Fergusson (Barbados), Avena Prince (Dominica), Tamara Prosper (Grenada), Janeel Boon (St. Kitts & Nevis), Michelle Samuel (Saint Lucia), and Jeneille Lewis (St. Vincent & the Grenadines). Six of these organizers are also alumni of the U.S. government flagship entrepreneurship exchange program, the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).
An experiential learning opportunity, Startup Huddles offer a unique program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs. The Startup Huddle format is consistent in each location: one or two early-stage startup founders give a six-minute presentation of their companies to a diverse audience of peers, mentors, educators and advisers. Each presentation is followed by a 20-minute question and answer session.
“I have been so impressed by the incredible innovation and optimism that entrepreneurs across the Caribbean have shown in the midst of COVID-19,” said U.S. Ambassador Linda Taglialatela. “These StartUp Huddles demonstrate our commitment to helping entrepreneurs not only survive but thrive in a new economic landscape.”
For the first huddle, the organizers will select local speakers from successful startups in their own countries to share best practices with all participants. Some organizers are hosting their huddle virtually, while others are holding in-person gatherings where COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.
“I’m so excited to see this initiative expand throughout the region,” said Michelle Samuel, who has been working with GEN on StartUp Saint Lucia since 2018. In 2017, Samuel participated in the U.S.-funded YLAI program, where she spent several weeks in the United States networking with other young people throughout the region to develop new ideas for implementation upon returning to the Caribbean. She then started SLUDTERA, an incubator to help other entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a thriving business. “None of this would have been possible without support from both the U.S. Embassy and GEN, and I’m happy that more entrepreneurs across the region will get to access this similar experience,” she added.
The culture surrounding Startup Huddle is that of a supportive, neutral space, welcoming entrepreneurs to be open and honest about their businesses and the challenges they face. As opposed to a traditional “pitch” environment, Startup Huddle was not created to be critical of entrepreneurs, but rather for the presenters to learn from shared experiences and find ways to support one another as a community.