November 18, 2016

WINC Acceleration Programme

At the beginning of this year, I entered into WINC Acceleration Program - new peer mentorship-based initiative to support high-potential women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean.

The goal of the eight-month intensive Acceleration Program was to provide participants with a wide range of support services aimed at improving competitiveness and boosting our growth. This included peer-learning, personal development, one-to-one mentoring/coaching, technical workshops, and motivational sessions by entrepreneur role models.



The new initiative was part of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Program in the Caribbean (EPIC), funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by the World Bank Group and its infoDev program for entrepreneurship. It was delivered by certified facilitators in 12 Caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago. 

Women entrepreneurs in these countries were eligible for selection provided that they:

-  have a company that has been in business for several years
-  have demonstrated significant business growth
-  have realistic plans for future growth

Luckily, my start up Island Sitters met this criteria, and after an intense application process, I was selected to participate along with 15 other female entrepreneurs in Barbados. 



I entered in to this programme with high hopes as I was facing many obstacles that were hindering growth in my business; ranging from payment system limitations in Barbados, to operations and mentorship. After 10 months, I am still facing many of these challenges and I now realise that perhaps I was relying too heavily on the programme and not my own problem solving skills to come up with the right solutions. However, I benefitted from this  experience in so many unexpected ways.

Entrepreneurship in Barbados is no bed of roses - in fact, it's often really challenging and downright annoying because of the roadblocks we face in this developing island. From rigid, overbearing banking systems, sexist and outdated attitudes towards women, to a lack of professionalism and accountability in many areas, it's pretty tough getting things done. Running your own business is a challenge no matter where you are, but there are certain things that business owners have to deal with in a developing region such as the Caribbean that are unfathomable in other countries.  

On the other hand, it is programmes such as WINC that reinforce the belief that Barbados is like a village; and it just as it takes a village to raise a child, it seems to take a village to run a successful business. The relationships you form become your support system, and I'm really grateful to have met such an inspiring group of women this year who lifted me up and taught me a lot about myself.



From sharing experiences to offering advice, this group of business professionals gave me a sense of perspective, and often a greater sense of relief. Women entrepreneurs tend to be really hard on ourselves, and it's really comforting to know that others often go through the same things. In Barbados people are not very open and honest about failing, especially in business - as a society we tend to focus on successes and we often do not talk about the details of what people go through on the road to success. This group was very different; we discussed debt, relationships, betrayal and other juicy, scary stuff.

Their shared experiences and knowledge helped me see things in a different light, and offered insight in to many areas of business that I have overlooked. As the youngest participant in this group, I also felt like I was meeting with a group of big sisters who were candid, honest and nurturing. 

One of the greatest aspects of the WINC programme was connecting with my mentor, Barbara. We were paired by the programme facilitator, based on my business goals and Barbara's business experience. From the moment we met I felt at ease, and we had many enjoyable mentoring sessions. I have tried to attract a nice mentor who understands me for some time now, and I was so lucky to have someone who not only let me be myself, but also understood my business and the steps I needed to take to help it grow.

Our programme culminated with a graduation ceremony on Wednesday, during Global Entrepreneurship Week and Women's Entrepreneurship Day. As we stood on that stage, I looked across the stage at the women who I have gotten to know over the course of the year, and felt very lucky to be a part of such an empowering network.



If you're a female entrepreneur who is looking to grow and scale your business, I encourage you to apply. Even if you're not sure, you can reach out to our Facilitator Donna Every, who can answer any questions you may have! 

The WINC programme is now accepting applications for their 2017 programme. To apply, contact info@donnaevery.com

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November 17, 2016

Dive with my Dad

A few weeks ago my Dad and I went diving together off of the South coast of Barbados.
My Dad recently moved back to Barbados from Brazil and he was itching to get in the water as often as possible to make up for lost time. We checked out a bar between 60 - 80ft.
We were both there to shoot - my Dad was hunting lionfish with his speargun, while I was having fun shooting with my GoPro...


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November 16, 2016

10 Best Coffee & WiFi Spots in Barbados


Barbados is relatively new to the coffee/cafe scene, and has only been serving specialty coffees for a few very short years. Fortunately though, thanks to a constant flow of expats and visitors from around the world and the perseverance of some avid coffee enthusiasts, Barbados is now well on it’s way to providing stellar coffee to the island masses. This list will give you an insight into the islands’ expanding coffee scene and provide with some of the best spots to get your caffeine & WiFi fix (because the two tend to go hand in hand...) in Barbados. This list is also quite useful for groups and individuals who need free meeting locations.

Cafe La Suite
1. Cafe La Suite
Location: Limegrove, Holetown, St.James
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: Yes
An extension of the Un Dimanche a Paris boutique in Limegrove, this café is equally as chic as the store. Prices are steep, but the coffee is delicious. 

2. Italia Coffee House 
Locations: Grantley Adams International Airport, Sheraton Mall, Quayside Centre (Rockley), City of Bridgetown Building (Lower Broad Street, Bridgetown), Colonnade Mall (Bridgetown) and Sunset Crest.
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: All except Quayside Centre have airconditioning
Italia Coffee House, formerly known as Italia D'oro, is often seen as the pioneer of the coffee movement in Barbados as it was one of the first coffee shops to open its doors to this then relatively uninformed island. I have very fond memories of trying my first frappuccino (they call it a frescante) at aged 14. Quality is consistent and the locations are  all very convenient.


Artsplash Cafe
3. Artsplash Cafe
Location: Hastings Main Road, Christ Church
Air-conditioned: No
Free WiFi: Yes
ArtSplash is a community art centre, cafe, gallery and play park with a very 'granola', laid back vibe. They have a weekly farmer’s market and a huge play park in the back for children. The front gallery is very breezy and every item on their menu is delicious.

4. Coffee Barbados
Location: George Washington House, The Garrison Savannah, Christ Church
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: No
Family run business, tucked away on the grounds of the historical George Washington House.  Find a spot on the terrace, sit back and enjoy the eclectic playlist in the background. Their extensive lunch menu is locally sourced, fresh and great for vegetarians.

Coffee Bean
5. Coffee Bean
Locations: Warrens (located inside of Orange Mall), Hastings (next door to Amaryliss Resort), Peronne Village (behind Big B/Massy Supermarket) , Upstairs in Pages Cave Shepherd in Bridgetown.
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: Yes
Great service, wifi and a nice space to work in with a selection of interesting coffee blends and alternatives (Chai frappe anyone?). All Coffee Bean locations also offer a great lunch menu which pleases both locals and expats alike, but be prepared to queue during lunch hour and [locals] to be interrupted by lots of people you know #smallislandproblems

6. Relish
Locations: Simpson Motors (Warrens) and Limegrove, Holetown, St.James
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: Yes
Yummy food at a steep price, great service and a nice atmosphere in the Limegrove location. Lots of international treats and snacks for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diets.

Marriott Hotel Lobby
7. Marriott Hotel Lobby
Location: Marriott Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: Yes
The first of its kind in Barbados; a café combining good coffee with an office environment, this co-working space maintains a relaxed silence allowing freelancers to work away from home at ease. The colourful office-like interior has all of the essentials to facilitate hard work; fast wifi, nice communal spaces and a good coffee; a true hidden gem!

Open Kitchen
8. Open Kitchen
Location: Archer's Hall Showroom, Millhouse, St.Thomas
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: Yes
Open Kitchen has become quite the spot recently and it's a central location for lunch meetings and coffee dates. Set amongst an upmarket furniture showroom, this cafe has a bit of everything; from daily lunch specials and a great selection of coffees and sweet treats to some of the best pizza on the island.


Graham Hall Nature Sanctuary
9. Graham Hall Nature Sanctuary
Location: Oistins, Christ Church
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: No
The little cafe is almost hidden away, the staff is very friendly and the coffee is good enough to get you through an afternoon of work. However, the real gem is outside; there are tables with umbrellas positioned right on the edge of the pond, and there's WiFi outside. Perfect spot for a meeting in the early morning or late afternoon when it's a bit cooler.


Surfer's Cafe
10. Surfer's Cafe, Oistins
Location: Oistins, Christ Church
Free WiFi: Yes
Air-conditioned: No, make sure to ask for a spot on the water (There's also a cool area in the back)
Cute, locally run cafe right on the water, with a very beachy, surfer vibe. Great for meeting a friend and shooting the breeze.

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If you have any further suggestions, please let me know. I'm always keen to try out new places and to support local businesses.



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November 7, 2016

ASPIRE Foundation launches Charity Incubator & Certification Programme



The ASPIRE Foundation has just launched their 12 month Charity Incubator Programme!

The ASPIRE Foundation is a growing community of professionals, entrepreneurs, Third Sector leaders and creatives dedicated to helping social purpose organisations fulfil their potential.

The Charity Incubator Programme is open to any charity, non-profit or social enterprise in Barbados. This programme connects 5-8 high impact organisations annually with business support, seed funding and certification over a 12 month period. 

The average life of charities and non-profits in Barbados is less than 5 years due to challenges of administration and funding. The vision of the ASPIRE Foundation is to end this cycle, by providing access to sustainability tools—like the Charity Incubator Programme—so that these organisations have a fair chance to thrive and truly empower our communities.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on December 30th, 2016.

You can find out more about the programme here: http://aspirebarbados.org/

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November 3, 2016

IDB Barbados Civil Society Forum



I had the privilege of attending a really cool, FREE Forum yesterday, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank. The IDB Barbados Civil Society Forum was a workshop for NGO leaders to network and gain knowledge to strengthen their institutional capacity. The Forum focused on innovative strategies to raise funds for the sustainable management of nonprofit organizations.
Unfortunately I could only make it to the second half of the Forum, but I made it in time for Shaun Ingrahams' presentation on the amazing work of the One Eleuthera Foundation in The Bahamas (Be sure to check them out!).
Some of the key points highlighted in the discussion following his presentation included:
  • The importance of Charity PR & Communications in raising funds and telling the story of your organisation
  • Understanding millennials and developing fundraising strategies that suit their needs and interests
  • Focussing on international fundraising
  • The more independence civil society can have, the more we can hold government accountable




My only concern about this event was that out of approximately 80 attendees, FOUR were under the age of 40 years old. If we're talking about the future of the charity/non-profit/Third Sector/Civil Society in Barbados, shouldn't more young people be a part of that conversation?
Here are some suggestions:
  • The IDB needs to make a point to target more young civil society leaders
  • Young people need to share this information amongst their networks when it's made available to them, and stress the importance of them attending a FREE event!

It was a really great event and I hope to be able to attend more in the future, with more of my peers by my side.

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November 1, 2016

Global Entrepreneurship Week Barbados

Global Entrepreneurship Week is an annual, global event, celebrated from November 14th – 20th, 2016. This year, the theme is “Building Sustainable Businesses; Strengthening the S.P.I.N.E.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators.Thousands of events and competitions in 160 countries inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activity while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors. Powered by the Kauffman Foundation, the initiative is supported by dozens of world leaders and a network of more than 15,000 partner organizations. 
Here in Barbados, GEW has grown substantially over the last few years.  You can find a list of 2016 events taking place in Barbados here.

On November 14th, I'll be attending the Entrepreneurs' Roundtable Discussion - Barriers to Moving Forward, hosted by the Barbados Youth Business Trust, which will be a discussion focussed on addressing challenges that entrepreneurs face in Barbados. Should make for a lively discussion!

Women's Entrepreneurship Day falls during this week and I will be attending a breakfast event at the Hilton Hotel called "WE matter: Supporting Each Other" on November 16th. Tickets are Bds$30 (US$15) and I would like to encourage any female entrepreneurs to attend! It will be a great opportunity to network with some very interesting and inspiring business women.

Interestingly, anyone can host an event during GEW and register it on the GEW website (once it fits certain criteria) but this also makes things a bit confusing as not everyone registers their event on the website, so unfortunately the list I shared above does not include all of the events taking place during that time.

Are there any other events taking place during this week that we should know about?Please let me know in the comments below!

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October 28, 2016

Jazz


Happy Halloween!
Did you know that October was #PitBullAwarenessMonth?
6 months ago that wouldn't have mattered to me at all, since I had no affiliation with the breed and didn't really give them much thought. Since adopting Jazz however, that's changed considerably and I'm now much more aware of how this breed is misjudged.
Today I'm sharing the story of our fur baby, Jazz, who's a pitbull/jack russel mix to help raise awareness about this lovable and loyal breed. I never saw myself as the "pitbull type", but the moment I met Jazz I fell in love.



J and I were house hunting and this little ball of love was at one of the houses we viewed. As soon as we walked in, she greeted us with kisses and rolled over on to her back for belly rubs. The house wasn't great, but I (jokingly) asked whether she came as part of the package, to which the landlord responded "Actually, the tenants want to get rid of her...they're down sizing and can't take her." 

I told him I would be in touch, as we were looking for a companion for our labrador, but we couldn't take Jazz until we found a new place. I couldn't get my mind off of this sweet girl and kept thinking about her after that first meeting. She seemed like the perfect, docile companion for our Alpha female labrador, J'ouvert.

A week later we finally found our current home, and I excitedly called the landlord to ask about adopting the pitbull, only to be told that they had already "gotten rid of her" and the landlord had no idea where she was.

Not only that, but he refused to give me the contact information of the tenants so that I could get in touch with them!

I frantically started calling every shelter and vet in Barbados and almost pulling my hair out. 

After 2 days, I finally found her.

She had been given back to the shelter where her previous owners had originally adopted her from, and she was still looking for a home.

I called the shelter and spoke with a volunteer to find out a little bit about her before coming to see her. 

This was our conversation:

"Hi there! I'm calling about a cute pit bull mix who recently came to your shelter. I'd like to hear a little bit about her story and if there is anything I need to know about her before adopting her."

"Oh you mean Princess! Let me tell you a little bit about Princess..." He said.

I spent the next 20 minutes learning of her history of killing two small dogs, and hatred of other dogs. I couldn't believe what this person was telling me over the phone....the dog I met was so gentle and affectionate! but then again, she was a pitbull mix and that was to be expected, right? People had warned me when I told them about this lovely pit mix I had fallen in love with. Shit.

My heart sank as I listened to him explain the circumstances:

"Poor girl is not to be blamed for these killings, as the little dogs had literally been thrown into her territory and she was merely defending herself in both cases. She's a lovely dog. It was poor ownership! She can't be with other dogs right now though. As a 60lb American pit...."

My ears perked up.

"Wait a second. I don't think that this dog is 60lbs. I don't know what kind of pit she is, but she seemed smaller and was super friendly! Are you sure that we're talking about the same dog who lived in a blue house in Fort George?"

The phone went silent.

"oh! You mean Jazz! Sorry about that. Jazz is lovely, such an amazing dog. She hasn't killed anything, she wouldn't hurt a fly. Her owners got rid of her because they were downsizing and couldn't take her to their new house."

I knew it!

With that, I went straight to the shelter to pick her up, and when I saw her it was as though we were old friends being reunited. She immediately hopped on my lap for cuddles.

(I did go and see Princess as well, and she was indeed a beautiful, friendly American Pit Bull who just needed the right home)


My landlord came by recently and saw the dogs in our yard. She pointed at Jazz and said "You gotta be careful with those aggressive ones..." As if on cue, Jazz rolled over on her back for a belly rub, while J'ouvert started barking furiously at my landlord (who she had met before).

I corrected my landlord and told her that the lab was the one to watch out for.

Jazz is (we think) a mix between a pitbull and jack russell and she has the most loving temperament. She's a complete sop, loves cuddling, walks and attention. 



As I said before, I never saw myself as the 'pitbull type', I always assumed they were aggressive and untrustworthy, but I know realise how silly it is to make broad statements about a particular breed. 

In Barbados, animal welfare is an ongoing issue (especially when it comes to how people perceive dogs as 'property' and not as 'pets' - but that's another issue) and as a proud new pit mom, I feel responsible for correcting false information and changing the perception of these incredible dogs. 

As pit family owners, we are their voice, and they are depending on us to educate the public: not only about the breed in general, but with respect to responsible ownership practices, to dispel the false information out there, and to restore their reputation as a great pet and companion. 

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August 17, 2016

Falling for Saint Lucia

I've fallen hard for the beautiful island of St.Lucia.
I've never been to this neighbouring island that is just over 100 miles away from Barbados (yet worlds apart!)
We spent the day driving from North (Gros Islet) to South (Vieux Fort) and back again - circling the mountains on precariously windy roads, through valleys and fishing villages. Our road trip was constantly interrupted by gasps, wrong turns and quick stops on the side of the road to snap a photo of the views - each one was more amazing than the one before.
The fact that I'm sharing a post on here after months of radio silence is testament to the level of excitement after today!
Today was pure magic and I can't wait to see what else this place has in store for us.
Here are a few snaps of our road trip:




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May 18, 2016

Wednesday's Window to the World: Celebrating 5 years!



Five years ago, I started a series called "Wednesday's Window to the World" on this blog. 

This idea was inspired by a blog I follow dedicated to creating a collection of individual views from individuals around the world. View from Your Window asked followers to email them a snapshot of the view from their windows with a small blurb to accompany it. Sadly, this blog is no longer active.

I decided to try something similar but with people I know personally - I'm so lucky to have interesting friends and family scattered all over the world, from L.A to Hong Kong, Dubai to Argentina. Some are 1000's of feet in the air whilst a couple of them are below the surface. Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with them and follow their adventures. Over the years, Blackberry Messenger (Remember the days?) and WhatsApp have allowed this to be taken even further by allowing us to share photos and snapshots of our lives instantaneously. I love it when I get a photo showing me where someone is at that very second.

Photo credit: Krystal Boyea 

We all get that feeling sometimes when we look out of our window at a grey sky or are just stressed out with work. Or, perhaps it's the opposite, where you are somewhere amazing and would love nothing more than for some of your friends to be there with you. I've had that numerous times during my travels; when everything was ALMOST perfect but the only thing missing was close friends and family to share in the experience with us. A snapshot is that 'wish you were here' gesture. 

Since starting this series on my blog, it got to be a bit too much to manage and I started a Facebook group instead. Friends of mine invited their friends to participate, and it has since blossomed in to active photography group, with people posting photos from across the world. 

Photo credit: Maria Farrelly
Members are to take a photo of their view from a window - be it home, office or even car/public transportation at any point during their day - or somewhere they don't usually go.  TRAVEL photos are encouraged! It can be ANYWHERE in the world, somewhere they're visiting on holiday or for work.

With today's culture of 'oversharing' I quite like the idea that this group sets certain limitations/guidelines on the types of photos you can share. We encourage members to share views from an actual window/opening/door, rather than just a view from where they're standing and this forces some to be a bit more creative with their shots and framing.

I may try to shake things up a bit and start a 'themed' approach to posting, and I'm open to suggestions...black & white, an ocean or mountain view, view on your commute? Please share any ideas that you may have! 

We're celebrating 5 years of sharing experiences, and I hope you can join us!

Photo credit: Angie Rodrigues

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