"The creative sectors in TT will be the driver of the economy."
This point was made by business adviser Fazad Mohammed, of the National Entrepreneurship Development Co Ltd (Nedco), in his address to graduates of the inaugural Fashion Co Ltd (FashionTT) Entrepreneurial Development Programme, last Saturday, at Export House, Charlotte Street, Port of Spain.
A collaboration between FashionTT and Nedco, the programme – which ran from January to July – focused on enhancing the business skills of emerging fashion designers. Participants were offered training in business plan development, record keeping, costing and pricing, customer service, marketing, and tax management, to name a few areas.
Reflecting on the initiative, Mohammed said, "This programme is very passionate to my heart." He noted that his goal for the creative industry is to see it develop into a worldwide brand and encouraged the 64 graduates to help actualise this vision.
In assuring the graduating designers they were on the right path, he said, "Many of you, I predict, will develop a global brand and that is our goal, we want to brand TT. When you have a skill set you have to share, we want to show the world that in TT we have talent galore."
Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, in her address, lauded the graduates for their new-found skills.
"Attaining core business skills and tools position, you one step closer to becoming competitive at the national level and this lays the foundation to further develop your products to compete regionally and globally," she said.
The minister underscored that the programme was aligned with the goals and initiatives of Government's Vision 2030 drive to develop globally competitiveness businesses.
"The indigenous fashion industry is well positioned to be an active player in international trade. The Government is therefore committed to creating an improved environment for international trade, in which we want you designers to participate."
Noting that the global fashion industry was valued at US$2.4 trillion in 2016, Gopee-Scoon said, "In this global and digital age, you ought not to be limited to our local market and you, as fashion entrepreneurs, must strive continuously to expand your horizons."
Nedco's chief entrepreneurial development officer Karen Carraballo, who provided mentorship to the participants, said, "Our role was to examine and identify gaps in each designer's business model, structure and operations, and recommend solutions for a more sustainable business. I am pleased to state that this cohort did very well and showed real development."
She added, "We are on board to bring the business aspect to fashion and it truly was an honour to be able to work with the designers. You have a significant role to play in the diversification and growth of our national economy."
Sharing his experience, designer Kiran Knights said, "It (the programme) has been an amazing thing for my brand. I have learnt a lot."
He shared that one of his designs was worn recently by local rapper Chromatics to a US event where the design was noticed and complimented by producer Jermaine Dupri. This was not only an inspiring moment for Knights but he used it to encourage his fellow graduates, as he said, "Keep going forward with your brand and it will reach (an international audience). TT is very creative and we are very talented."