Since he was a teenager, John Paul Anderson has been an entrepreneur, starting a magazine at the age of 16. That journey as an entrepreneur has helped him to work with several multinational companies, develop websites and help businesses to keep ahead of the curve even during the pandemic.
Now, at 25, with multiple businesses and an e-book to his name, Anderson, who was born in Jamaica, is showing that the next generation of entrepreneurs is ready to take its place in the business world.
The next generation
"Now is the right time and the right opportunity to include the next generation in this wave of new ideas, technical development and innovation," Anderson told Business Day in an interview. "We have the energy and the passion."
Anderson said his experiences as an entrepreneur – owning six businesses, from a cookie-dough shop to social-media marketing and web-page development – has taken him to many places, but as he continues to move upward, he is seeing fewer and fewer people from his generation, which has the ideas and energy to take businesses and economies on the whole to the next level
“A lot of what I did was supposed to challenge the climate of business,” he said. “I believe I have a responsibility to influence people to do the same. A lot of people may not know that what I have been experiencing as an entrepreneur can happen and is happening for many, and it could happen for anyone.”
Anderson created the Caribbean Tech Talent Pool to deal with that issue. He said the talent pool, which is basically a WhatsApp group that connects talent to businesses, teaches both the younger generation of tech-savvy independent contractors and businesses looking to advance how each other works, through connecting one to the other.
“I am trying to build a talent pool that could be recruited as they are, without having to change them.”
His other venture to encourage the younger generation of businessmen and entrepreneurs comes in his book. You Deserve Success reinforces the idea that everyone should be ok with being successful.
“People have said to me 'Why are you dressed so nice?' or 'Why are you working so hard?' and I would say, 'Why not?'”
He said the book focuses on three areas that break down the mindset for success.
“I started with exploring how to accept who you are and how to get real with current realities of your life, sort of an internal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.
"Then I broke down how not to be afraid to put yourself out there – to be a star.”
“Finally I looked at moving on. I talk about how to move to the next idea, which is constantly going to change.
“Success is like a ladder – it keeps taking you upward.”
Turning pain points to profits
Anderson had a huge dream of being an entrepreneur from day one, he said. But his business ventures have always come out of a need or a desire to address a certain pain point that he either experienced himself or had observed.
“I feel the world around me and I do recognise when I am having a challenge, and I ask myself, 'What do I have in my own toolkit?' And if I don’t have it, I find an opportunity to develop it.”
He said growing up in Jamaica, he always read the paper. When his family moved to Trinidad, Anderson went to school at St Mary's College. As a student, he started his magazine, Teen Link, out of what he saw as a need for a platform for people his age.
“My goal was to have a central point for teenagers to relate, have a voice and see themselves in TT. I realised that had not existed in any real way at the time and I took up that platform.”
He said the idea came from other magazines, one a Jamaican magazine called Youth Link, and another TT-based one, Teen Vibe. He said a friend of his who developed the local magazine mentored him on building it.
He also began developing websites around that age, doing his first for the mother of one of his friends who sold drapery. He said he did a course on sales online and through that course he learned to build websites.
“At the time it was definitely ahead of its time. It was colourful and bright. But looking back, I have definitely grown.”
From developing websites he saw a need to learn computer graphics and did internships at technology companies after school. His colleagues also taught him to use Illustrator and Photoshop.
“But I wanted to make an app, because I felt people didn’t really take me seriously as a developer for my age. So I created an app called Invoicer, which came out of another pain point of (not) being able to manage my own invoices. I listed that app on flipper.com and someone bought it from me.”
That same need to address pain points was what prompted Anderson to open Dou, a cookie-dough shop on Picton Street, Port of Spain.
“I was trying to expand from being a web developer to being an 'actual entrepreneur,' as I like to call it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this in any lane.
"I also wanted to bring something new to TT, because at the time I was pretty bored with the food selection... Edible cookie dough was not very popular, and neither were crazy, novelty desserts.
"Kids loved it. We had busloads of kids coming from all over to buy the dough.”
He braved the challenges of opening a brick-and-mortar store, including rent and building and production costs. He used revenue that he earned from his web development business to pay the rent and refurbish the building to suit his needs. He said it took him five months to finally open the shop, adding that his experience in promoting businesses online helped greatly in garnering interest and popularity for the company.
“From day one I knew I had to get the attention on the internet to flood the story. The modern-day philosophy is. 'Sure, face-to-face is great, but also the attention is going to come from online.'
"So even if I were in a mall I always thought that if I only depended on the traffic in the mall, I would have no control over the flow of foot traffic. It would just be what the mall does on the day. So with social media I was able to control how many people are going to come to that business.
“ When we opened it was all worth it, both culturally speaking – the impact we made was great; and we made a little revenue as well.”
His web development business, Hublab, also turned major profit, through working with companies like Bed Bath and Beyond and a shoestore, Aldo. He described it as a one-stop shop where new things could happen and experiments could take place.
He said during the pandemic, when it was thought no one would want to buy items online, he helped local branches of Bed Bath and Beyond make over $120,000 in revenue in the first two days of launching a virtual shopping website.
He said where website creation and online shopping is concerned, people want simplicity.
“I believe in elegant, powerful, simple drives, where the focus should be on the product and the ability of the customer to customise it and just click and acquire it. Everything else is a plus.”
You deserve success
Anderson said his focus is now encouraging people, especially from his generation, to believe they deserve success.
“Success should be normalised. It is that mindset of success that pushed me to start a magazine at 16. It was that mindset that caused me to think that I deserve to be a businessman and it led me to learning about website development and marketing.”
He said people deserve to feel successful because of their efforts, and if they do not feel that way they deserve a framework that would help them to get to the point where they feel they are a success. That has always been his vision.
“My peers should be able to say that they are successful because they finished university or because they are in the field of their choice.
“I started with a big vision and now it’s come full circle. A lot of people were sceptical, and a lot of people have worked with me to make my vision a reality.
"My experiences as a young entrepreneur have evolved for me to want to go beyond every other 16-year-old like me and focus on my Caribbean community. I want to teach them how their ideas can impact them and sustain and uplift their way of life.”