In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and the US Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean announced the launch of Startup Huddles in Saint Lucia and six Eastern Caribbean countries.
These “huddles” will support local entrepreneurs in honing their pitch skills and discovering solutions to the challenges they face.
Key local entrepreneurs serve as StartUp Huddle organizers in their respective countries: Elijah James (Antigua and Barbuda), Michelle Samuel (Saint Lucia), Cardelle Ferguson (Barbados), Avena Prince (Dominica), Tamara Prosper (Grenada), Janeel Boon (St. Kitts & Nevis), and Jeneille Lewis (St Vincent & the Grenadines).
Six of these organizers are also alumni of the US government flagship entrepreneurship exchange program, the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).
An experiential learning opportunity, Startup Huddle offers a unique program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs. The Startup Huddle format is consistent in each location: on a given morning, one or two early-stage startup founders give a six-minute presentation of their companies to a diverse audience of peers, mentors, educators and advisers. Each presentation is followed by a 20-minute question and answer session.
“I’m so excited to see this initiative expand throughout the region,” said James, who has been hosting a similar program called the Business Circle in Antigua and Barbuda since 2018. To date, his Business Circle has trained over 400 people in entrepreneurship and leadership on the island.
In 2017, James participated in the US-funded YLAI program, where he spent several weeks in the United States networking with other young people throughout the region and developing ideas to launch when he returned home. He is now CEO of The Local App, a digital platform where people can advertise their businesses and upcoming events across the region.
“None of this would have been possible without support from both the US Embassy and GEN, and I’m happy that more entrepreneurs across the region will get to access this similar experience,” he added.
For the first huddle, the organisers will select local speakers from successful startups in their own countries to share best practices with all participants. Some organisers are hosting their huddle virtually, while others are holding in-person gatherings where COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.
The culture surrounding Startup Huddle is that of a supportive, neutral space, welcoming entrepreneurs to be open and honest about their businesses and the challenges they face. Each event is organised by local entrepreneurs and community builders who volunteer their time to secure a venue, vet and select presenters and publicize the event.
As opposed to a traditional “pitch” environment, Startup Huddle was not created to be critical of entrepreneurs, but rather for the presenters to learn from shared experiences and find ways to support one another as a community.
Startup Huddle is an educational experience for both the audience and the presenters. Presenters are given resources and support to prepare for their presentation and surveyed after their presentation to see what they’ve learned.
To get involved in Startup Huddle Antigua and Barbuda, please email [email protected] for more details.