launches ‘Ultimate Carnival Calendar’

Launch of Playground.TT: Playground.TT CEO and founder Elise Jones speaking at the tech tourism site's launch in St James on January 3. PHOTO COURTESY ATIBA CUDJOE.
Launch of Playground.TT: Playground.TT CEO and founder Elise Jones speaking at the tech tourism site's launch in St James on January 3. PHOTO COURTESY ATIBA CUDJOE.

Many feters and self-proclaimed Carnival babies already know about the interactive Ultimate Carnival Calendar, launched late last month by tech tourism site

What very few people know, however, is that the site's founder and CEO Elise Jones sees it as an important part of her dream of opening a computer coding school in TT.

This self-described woman-in-tech entrepreneur said the idea for a school and later on an interactive site about events across TT, came about after she relocated last year from Atlanta, Georgia to Trinidad.

"When I first came here I was looking to do some grassroots projects, helping people but you have to connect with them first. You have to introduce yourself. After discussing it with my team we decided to go after the low-hanging fruit and adapt my party bus and activities business, Playground Atlanta, to the local market."

Jones was speaking with Business Day at Playground.TT's launch party in St James two weeks ago.

Reflecting on how her first company inspired her to start another one thousands of miles away, Jones said, "Since its establishment in 2012, Playground Atlanta has partnered with all of the major clubs in Atlanta. We offer exclusive packages to the hottest nightspots in the city. It also specialises in a range of events, from birthday parties to family reunions and VIP experiences for bachelor/bachelorette parties."

Although she considered opening a similar business in TT, Jones saw a need for online access to the latest and most detailed information possible on events across the country.

"The key to making this site successful, and (thus) profitable enough to help fund my school, was designing it to be accurate, comprehensive and super user-friendly. Take our calendar for example. You can search a number of categories, from an event name to a band, particular location or even cost. Plus you can use your credit card to buy tickets from our site."

Promoters can list their events for free and thanks to Playground.TT's card processing facility, pay lower card processing fees than they would at other sites.

Asked why a computer coding school, Jones said having computer science skills provides someone with the opportunity to own their own business.

This, she noted, is "one way in which people from socially and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds can improve their lives and stop being reliant on a job that someone else hired them to do.

Launch of Playground.TT: Playground.TT CEO and founder Elise Jones (centre) and co-founder Andrew O'Brien (right) listen as Bessguide's head of partnerships Adrian Imbert (left) makes a point during the launch of tech tourism site in St James on January 3. PHOTO COURTESY ATIBA CUDJOE.

"I started as a graphic designer and then, because I wanted things to look a certain and move a certain way, I learned how to code. I eventually opened my own business, but I still maintain a consultancy with companies, especially governmental agencies in the US."

One such consultancy is with the Georgia Department of Corrections.

"I do everything with their website and I developed a programme for inmates to learn how to code. These are men with no GEDs (General Equivalency Diploma), no proper education. So I designed a coding program for people who are socially, economically disadvantaged, to help them become entrepreneurs and not someone's worker bee."

This inspired Jones to open a school in TT because she saw the potential in people and the need for new job skills.

"My dream is that students at my school will get paid for their work on projects sent their way through Playground.TT, so that by the time they graduate, they'll be fully equipped to run their own businesses."

In terms of how the site is meant to attract advertisers and therefore become profitable enough for Jones to open the school, she told Business Day, all ads "must meet certain requirements – users have to be offered an experience when they click on an ad.

"For example, let's say we put together an advertising campaign for a beverage company. When you click on that banner ad, it geo-locates where you are and on the map will pop up all the stores closest to you that sell brand X beverage. This does several things. It drives business to your partners and keeps users connected to your event while allowing advertisers to more accurately measure their return on investment in dollars."

Business Day also spoke with two of the guests at Playground.TT's launch, co-founder of the local site Andrew O'Brien and Bessguide's head of partnerships Adrian Imbert. Both agreed that, once the site is kept updated, it can become the number one choice for people looking for information about what to do in TT.

O'Brien especially liked that "you can check every event and it does indeed provide detailed information (such as) its exact location on a map and if there's parking. So it is fully integrated and they're doing a good job."

Imbert meanwhile highlighted "the amalgamation of events across the country. That's been lacking, in the sense that you'd hear about some fetes from your friends or a Facebook event (whereas) this site gives you a centralised location from which you can find everything you're looking for. Basically a one-stop shop.

"I agree with Andrew. Once it picks up traction, once it remains relevant, Playground.TT can certainly be successful."


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