When Yohance Rivas and his classmates set out on a field trip to Port of Spain on November 12, he had no idea it would turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The form six students of Pleasantville Secondary School, along with other participants from Palo Seco Secondary School, Naparima Boys' College and Asja Girls' College (Barrackpore) were selected to attend a workshop on technology and entrepreneurship.
The event, TecYOUth, was held by Youth Business TT (YBTT) and the Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT) in celebration of global entrepreneurship week (GEW), at TSTT’s hospitality suite, Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
Rivas, 17, was offered an internship by Oliver Sabga, CEO of Term Finance Holdings Ltd, a completely web-based credit business.
Last month, Sabga emerged victorious in the Chamber of Industry and Commerce's champion of business competition in the bmobile business technology category, with his business model Term Finance.
Term Finance, which was launched in 2015, has since blossomed and expanded into four regional markets – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia. The business offers financial and lending services that are managed online. Its base of operations is in TT.
Rivas said he was inspired by Sabga’s testimony of persistence and determination to make his business idea a success.
"I would like to become a businessman one day and I always find stories like Mr Sabga’s to be continued motivation for me to achieve my goal," he said.
Unsure of what he would like to venture into, Rivas said he just knows that one day he will be a successful entrepreneur.
Being his own boss and developing new and unique ways of running a business are some key attractions for him.
"I consider an entrepreneur to be an inventor. And business, even if it is something that is already on the market, can be reinvented and can be offered in a new and better way," Rivas said.
He expressed his excitement about the internship but said he is uncertain as yet what it will entail. He added that he will use the opportunity to broaden his knowledge, especially in leadership.
"This is a good opportunity to put into practice all that I have learnt in class. Of course I will make mistakes and I look forward to it because it is here, I will be able to learn."
The details of the internship are still being worked out, but Sabga said he is willing to accommodate Rivas to ensure he absorbs the maximum amount of knowledge.
"He started asking questions that led into another, and it was there I realised he was not just looking to network. He was really interested in my business model and had a genuine thirst for knowledge.I was impressed by his desire to understand how we are using technology to match up against some of the big competitors."
Sabga said taking risks is a big part of owning a business and it is not an easy walk in the park. A constant hunger for knowledge is vital, he added.
"Once you have a concept and you have a potential business at hand, you have to develop the skills and take the necessary steps to manage stakeholders, processes and protocols."
Sabga shared his experience and encouraged the students never to give up, despite the obstacles and challenges that lay ahead.
Likening the difficulties of entrepreneurship to the story of David and Goliath, he said, "Tech-entrepreneurs must be brave, relentless and must be able to protect their reputation."
Rivas is doing business studies at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level and is set to graduate in 2021, after which he intends to study entrepreneurship at the tertiary level.
Noting the competitive landscape in the world of work, he said venturing into developing and owning a business is one thing, but technology is critical for survival in an environment that is highly competitive.
"Everyone has a mission to be advanced and better than the rest. The use of technology is important today.
"Social media especially, is the go-to medium to promote and advertise anything. Using this effectively can bring added benefits to any organisation."
Referencing the presentation by TSTT’s senior manager of enterprise operations Darryl Duke at the workshop, Rivas said he appreciated that time was spent on showing the impacts of social media and technology integration in the day-to-day operations of businesses.
Duke demonstrated the benefits of social media platforms such as cloud storage, artificial intelligence, app development and statistics for effective business operations.
"Entrepreneurship is one avenue that can take our country forward. It is not about what the country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country by utilising the tools that we have," he said.
Rivas's classmates who participated in the workshop said they were very excited to attend the event and learn about the uses of technology in businesses. They agreed that entrepreneurship studies should be introduced at an earlier stage of academics to allow for better decisions to be made in choosing career paths.
Michael Huggins, 18, said, "It would give students a head start, because not everyone may be academically inclined."
Head of the school’s business department Joyce Jumrattie said she is extremely proud of Rivas's success, and by extension, all the students who participated in the workshop.
She said entrepreneurship should be encouraged more, since changes in lifestyles and habits are opening avenues for new kinds of businesses, and welcomed the idea of entrepreneurship studies to be introduced at an early stage in the secondary school curriculum.
This year’s GEW discussions surrounded the themes of education, ecosystems, inclusion and policy. GEW is observed in over 170 countries from November 18-24, annually. It is geared towards highlighting current and leading topics in entrepreneurship.