EIGHTEEN MONTHS ago, Marienelly Diaz and her team from Facebook came to Trinidad at the invitation of the government to train local business owners and entrepreneurs.
“We trained 300 business owners as well as 26 trainers, who were asked to own the content we provided,” Diaz said.
After the last session, as the Facebook team packed up to go, the room did not empty.
“That’s it?” an attendee asked.
Diaz, programs manager for Latin America at Facebook, was surprised.
“We were ready to leave when they pulled us back and asked how they could keep in touch,” Diaz said.
She had encountered enthusiasm for the training before, but nothing quite like this and the team created their first project-specific page for a training encounter.
“Trinidad and Tobago is lively,” Diaz said. “It was amazing how much they were interested in learning.”
“We realised that there was an ecosystem that makes use of Facebook and Instagram, and it’s easier to build in an environment like that.”
“TT entrepreneurs know how to use FB and Instagram, what we can add is how to do more.”
“All the participants are active on Facebook and there has been strong feedback from the participants and trainers.”
So it isn’t surprising that on her return visit, the Facebook Boost your Business team was able to cherry-pick success stories from their first session to reinforce a day of training at the Caribbean Telecommunication Union’s symposium at the Hyatt Regency last week.
Facebook reports in a statement that 400 attendees came for the day of free training.
They heard, along with strategies for using the popular social medium, the experiences of Aruna Maharaj of Madame Maharaj, a local cosmetology training school and Nigel Jordan and Cheryl Ann Baptiste of Twigs, who blend a local herbal tea as part of their natural beverages line.
Maharaj took over a business founded by her grandparents in the 1950s and focused her efforts on the cosmetology school, building the business using Facebook and Instagram. She now averages 200 new users per month and half of her clients arrive from those services.
Jordan and Baptiste were sharing infusions and tea made from local plants and crops with friends and family and decided to build a business out of it. Twigs is now seeing 100 new users per month and 60 per cent of their customers coming from the Facebook and Instagram axis.
“There are around 50,000 small businesses in TT and they hire 200,000 workers, generating 30 per cent of the GDP, Diaz said.
“The health of the economy will continue to depend on the growth and incubation of small businesses and the scorecard will depend on how well we can usher them into the digital age,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, at the start of the day of training.
Diaz joined Facebook in September 2017 and her trip to Trinidad came soon afterward. The Boost your Business project has been hosted in Latin America since 2015 and has been hosted in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and TT.
“Digital transformation is a challenge that surpasses every enterprise and institution,” Diaz said.
“Technology is creating opportunities. What we are hoping is that this programme makes those opportunities available to more people and that these programmes will enable growth and capabilities.”
“Our challenge is to keep sustaining the group of trainers. We cannot train all the people we would like to and while we can do some of that remotely, we hope that they will be able to continue to develop.”
Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there