Aspiring youth entrepreneurs are encouraged to follow their passion and purpose in life as they climb the ladder of success.
This is according to nine panellists who spoke at the Ministry of Sport and Community Development's Youth in Business symposium at Movie Towne, Port of Spain on September 22.
The panellists– whose expertise range from marketing to media, graphic design and culinary arts – advised young entrepreneurs and business students to incorporate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as they seek to build their personal and professional brand.
As many as 12 schools from Port of Spain and its environs were invited to the symposium, as well as graduates from the East Port of Spain Community Youth Lead Programme.
The young business minds were reminded about the keys of marketing and given advice on starting their businesses from inception with the p's of the marketing mix – product, price, promotion and people – all in focus
The panel discussion and question and answer segment lasted for roughly two hours.
The young audience was given tips on how to improve their image through platforms such as TikTok and LinkedIn, as well as the new phenomenon, ChatGPT.
The latter was seen as a game-changer by the panel, as it allows its users to make informed decisions based on data received from interaction with the app.
"AI is important. It helps me as I'm a graphic designer and I use AI for graphics," said panellist Joel Bayley, the managing director of AsYouLikeIt Events Company Ltd (AYLI).
"I use AI sometimes for captions when I'm putting things on social media. And just generally for looking at trends and whatnot. I think Chat GPT and any AI are important. As with anything else, you have to know how to use it. You have to learn how to steer the conversation with it so you can get what you need to get. Don't be afraid to do your research separately and back it up."
One entrepreneur in the audience said he used feedback from ChatGPT to help him kickstart two businesses. It all started by simply asking the app one question, he said.
The panel acknowledged AI's rise in popularity, but they also reminded their audience about the importance of the human aspect in business.
Aside from the p's of the marketing mix, both passion and purpose were seen as integral to helping an individual achieve his/her goals in life – and in business.
They reminded the young business enthusiasts that everyone's path to success and interpretation of success was different.
"The most important thing for me is to fulfil my purpose and my destiny," said Aboud, who is the owner and executive chef at Aioli Marketplace and Restaurant. "And that is driven by a goal which was set by me. Success for me is measured by my happiness."
Bayley said aspiring entrepreneurs should always find time for the things they love – even if it's in the form of a hobby.
"It may take time to find what your passion is, but whenever you do so, make sure you are still finding time for it," Bayley told Newsday. "Whether it's a hobby or not, just make sure at some point in life you are doing the things you love. Eventually, hopefully, it will turn into a money-making thing."
Bayley recognised his own passion for designing and events management during his 11-year tenure as a teacher at Bishop Anstey High School (East).
Another panellist, Rob Wyatt, said he sold hockey sticks as a side hustle during his regular nine-to-five job before he eventually started a sports equipment company and a sports management agency.
"You have to get up every day and you have to be committed. There will be a lot of people who say you can't do it," Wyatt said. "Those who stay committed and driven will elevate, even if it's bit by bit. Before you know it, they are close to the top," he said.
The panellists were asked for their opinion on the TT job market and the difficulty of landing a desirable job without extensive experience.
Bayley says he understands the job market for persons who have just left secondary or tertiary schooling is a difficult one.
He said persistence and making connections with the right persons or organisations can go a long way.
"Trying to interact and getting in contact with persons who are in the fields you want to get into is important," Bayley said. "See if you can find as many people who are in your desired field as possible. Not everybody is going to respond. But eventually, somebody is going to respond to you.
Gabrielle Agostini, the chief operating officer (COO) of CGA Ltd recalled her own struggles in the job market. She said she was rejected by over 200 brands over the years before she was finally given the opportunity at a start-up company she knew very little about.
"Everything doesn't have to happen overnight," Agostini told the audience. "Plan it out bit by bit. You have a lot to live for. You'll figure it out so don't stress now."
Sixth Form Government entrepreneurship teacher Cindy Raphael said the panel discussion was a healthy one and she thanked the MSCD for the initiative.
"The textbook definition of being an entrepreneur is easy. It's actually a lot more challenging. And it's not as straightforward," Raphael told Newsday. "And doing research, as well as following your passion, in whatever business venture you're interested in, will be a good venture to go into."
Four of Raphael's lower six students attended the symposium. She said they were equipped with a wealth of knowledge for the future.
"There are rewards outside of working a nine-to-five. And they could actually move themselves from one position in life to something else that's rewarding and profitable.
She said the student got to see that success has many rewards and each entrepreneur has a different success story.