As Social Reporter, Jeanine Eugene’s article introduced us to the first session of the Caribbean-Pacific AgriForum Week being the “AgriBusiness Success Stories”, the twenty or so, participants who sat through these sessions, would all have all walked out of the session with being inspired in three most distinct ways:
- That the world is truly full of passionate people that want to add value and make a positive difference in the world;
- To Consider opportunities rather than the problems;
- And that there is a hidden potential and opportunity in nearly everywhere you turn.
You just have to look long and hard and sure enough, that “light-bulb” moment will eventually strike. And when it does, one just has to take that step of faith. Otherwise, it will all end up just being another of the “what-ifs” stories.
Listening to the four successful entrepreneurs, also known as “agripreneurs”, representing the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions share their stories of success, one can identify the common thread of strengths and weaknesses that nearly all who want to develop their own “start-up” activity must face and usually taking the first step is considered a risk.
Breaking the norm
For the majority of us, It has been programmed into our childhood, that we are all to follow the “life-routine” of being born, gaining a formal education, finding a job, keeping it, make heaps of money and success, then retire, help the needy and then die.
But often we hear amazing stories of those who choose to break this norm.
A successful fishing company in Seychelles, whose owner, Andre Keith chose to be a fisherman over the popular career of a pilot raised a few eyebrows from his family members and friends; Ian Jones deciding to forego an executive managerial role and luxuries in Australia to settle in a tiny, foreign, remote island in the Pacific to learn more about coconuts and vanillas, one would think absurd; Bhisnoepersad Gopal from Suriname, who used to borrow tools from his friends at the age of 12, then taught himself marketing skills while being a market vendor to later becoming a major supplier of food crops to organisations and individuals; and Ronald Ramjattan of Baron Foods Ltd, the biggest producer and exporter of Caribbean condiments, grew up watching his grandmother mix and match spices and food to create lavishing delicacies.
These men had something in common, and it was to do something extraordinary out of the ordinary. It was to see the opportunity of a solution and work towards achieving it and it was to also be able to provide more opportunities for those within their communities, especially those that couldn’t live up to the “norm”.
Double the risks
An agripreneur, compared to an entrepreneur seems to be a double-risk taker. Becoming an entrepreneur is one that only risk takers tend to dive into but an entrepreneur in agribusiness is twice the risk. Though Agriculture serves the entire population of the world, in one way or another, as such that “everybody eats” – it lacks professional attractiveness as opposed to mining, engineering, accounting or medical professions. Coming up with a brilliant idea for an agri-startup is one thing, but finding the support required in terms of financing, labour, markets and government support continue to be of a great hindrance. But our successful agripreneurs have shown that it is possible, and it will only be possible, if one is determined and persistent to not give up and to sit down and weigh out all possibilities available.
Common thread of success
“If you chose to remain just a planter – you wouldn’t be here today. It’s to do with innovation.” Bhisnoepersad Gopal, from Gopex Limited stated.
The success of these agri-preneurs is a result of their innovative and creative methods of promoting their ‘start-ups’ in overcoming the challenges to create a sustainable win-win solution for all.
Photo credit: Carole Cholai
Blogpost by Carole Cholai, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.