Tuesday 29 September, 2020

Entrepreneur sisters outshine tech startups for US grant funding

Sisters Jenelle Hills (left) and Shenelle Hills-Fifeare presented with a US $5000 grant to assist with business development.

Sisters Jenelle Hills (left) and Shenelle Hills-Fifeare presented with a US $5000 grant to assist with business development.

Sisters Jenelle Hills and Shenelle Hills-Fife recently walked away with US $5000 in LINK-Caribbean’s 5-5-5 competition, which will go toward support for their business development.

LoopTT previously featured the two in a Young People in Business feature for their all-natural hair and skin care product line De Jeunesse, which at the time was being produced on a small scale with little resources.

The sisters, who hail from Moruga, say they were surprised at the win but extremely grateful as they will now be able to purchase new equipment and boost product marketing, which has been largely non-existent.

Hosted by LINK-Caribbean, a company based in Barbados which helps start-up businesses raise money in the Caribbean, thereby improving access to much needed capital, the 5-5-5 competition is tight one with just five entrepreneurs pitching their business to five investors. One lucky entrepreneur/business venture walks away with US $5000.

LINK-Caribbean also offers Angel Investing to start-ups and in some cases, more mature companies. High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) invest their personal time, money and expertise (including sharing their professional networks) into early stage businesses, with the aim of getting these ventures to grow and realise a financial return on their investment over the long-term.

De Jeunesse was one of five companies which pitched their business in front of five investors at the Hyatt Hotel on November 10, the first time the competition was held.

Hills-Fife tells LoopTT she was absolutely shocked that that they were selected over the other entrepreneurs – all tech startups.

“We were really excited and glad, and definitely surprised, because we were thinking all these tech companies are going to have really amazing ideas. To have two sisters from Moruga who started off with pots and pans to make their products and now to just keep moving from one thing to the next, that was really amazing. Trust me – we were honestly surprised.”

“We basically had to pitch our business, what it is about, pitch why we need the US $5000 and what we plan to do with it.”

“The next step for me and my sister is to take the grant and invest it in terms of getting equipment and implementing some marketing strategies to get our customers to get to know us. We expect to triple our production capacity, and this is what we presented to the judges.”

Giving an update on the business, Hills-Fife says distribution has grown significantly from their previous direct order system.

“We are distributing in all five Excellent Stores locations across the country, Starlite’s Diego Martin, Maraval and South Park locations, Liv Green TT on Ariapita Avenue, and KRT Drugs in Chaguanas.

We are also partnering with Tabanca Box. They have an online platform to target international customers in America. So, if you’re missing home you have a box filled with local goodies like pepper sauce, amchar, even a doubles print t-shirt.”

“We are partnering with Click Smart an online grocery shopping experience, where groceries are delivered to your home. You go online, order what you want and they deliver directly to you.”

Pitch events will take place in Grenada, St Lucia and Bahamas early next year.

We wish these girls all the best in their future endeavours!

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