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By Latrishka Thomas

Teaching entrepreneurship to the next generation is increasingly important given the current economic climate, and through one programme, young people in Antigua and Barbuda have been learning crucial skills.

To mark International Youth Day which is being celebrated across the world today, Observer spoke to Franz DeFreitas, the founder of a youth development programme called ‘Youth Leed’.

A few weeks ago, DeFreitas launched an entrepreneurship initiative dubbed ‘Youthpreneur’, which is equipping 72 youngsters with new tools to promote business development.

He told Observer about the method used to teach entrepreneurship to young people.

“The number one skill that every individual in life must have is the ability to sell and, sadly, our education system does not equip us with selling skills,” he remarked. “As kids, we are born sellers. So you are born and you cry and everybody pays attention to you; that is a selling tool.”

Youthpreneur “sought to teach children how to sell by giving them products and throwing them out into water so they can have some failures because failure is critical to learning,” DeFreitas said.

He explained that the children – who were between the ages of eight and 17 – sold between $50 to $500 worth of products per week and were given a commission “based on the effort, because in real life you get compensated based on work and effort that you put in”.

But no good business starts out without its challenges, so the youngsters were also taught how to navigate through difficult situations.

“They had to deal with failure; they had to deal with rejection; they had to deal with exhaustion as they carried the products around in bags, and these are all skills that are important for us all to develop,” DeFreitas explained.

The non-academically based tactics employed in Youthpreneur proved a hit with the children.

Thirteen-year-old Justin Simon told Observer that he feels empowered to continue what he has already started.

“It taught me how to start my own business. I was moved. I am going to go around in the neighbourhood and sell more stuff,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Yovella Josiah shared similar sentiments. In addition, she said, “I learned body posture is good when you are talking to people and that people can see how nervous you are when you are doing different things. I learned how to count money better and negotiate with people.”

Yovella’s mother, Yolanda Josiah, said that despite her daughter’s initial hesitation to join the programme, it was of great benefit.

“I am seeing a difference in her as she goes out to speak to persons concerning her business,” Yolanda said.

In addition, she said that her once very shy daughter now exudes more self-confidence.

Furthermore, “when it comes to getting herself together for a particular time, that has improved a lot… learning to deal with money is something she has learned as well and I am really happy,” Josiah said. 

“I wish I had that chance when I was younger,” she added.

‘Youthpreneur’ was a 10-week summer programme which took place in 11 villages to maintain small groupings amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Five of the 72 children who participated were able to sell $1,000 worth of products.

The products were provided by Anjo Wholesale, Frank B Armstrong, Food Brokerage Services and Mega Distributors.

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