UWI student entrepreneurs win National Business Model Competition
The 2018 Winners of the National Business Model Competition and students of the University of the West Indies, Kevonne Martin, VP of Marketing and Operations, Queritel and Shani Bennett, CEO and Founder, Queritel with Development Bank of Jamaica's Managing Director Milverton Reynolds.
University of West Indies (UWI) student owners of a market research company emerged winners of the National Business Model Competition, earning $2 million and an all-expense paid trip to represent Jamaica at the International Business Model Competition.
Queritel, a market research business was conceptualised by Shani Bennett and Kevonne Martin beat out five other teams from tertiary institutions across the island.
“Originally the idea for Queritel was Research Aid Plus, which came up after realising that students on campus needed research work done and they needed help with this so they came to us. After working with this idea for a year and pitching it, we realised that it made more sense to apply to entrepreneurs who would be more willing to pay for this service. So, we changed to Queritel and since then, we have had over 120 customers and made over US$6,000 in revenue and it has been amazing. Winning this competition is another form of validation for us and we are so happy for it,” said Martin, the Vice President of Marketing and Operations, Queritel.
Other winners of the competition included 2nd place winner Eco-Structures, another business conceptualised by UWI students that uses plastic bottles to partially substitute for the aggregates used to reinforce cement for construction; and 3rd place winner Pneulyfe from Northern Caribbean University, providers of an all-natural tonic aimed at treating pneumonia and its triggers.
This is the first time that UWI is winning the NBMC. Since inception, the Mandeville-based Northern Caribbean University (NCU) has won the competition four times.
The UWI teams were overjoyed at being awarded first and second, and had high praises and commendation for the team of their coordinators, mentors and advisors who have worked with them tirelessly since October last year.
“Full credit and commendation must go to our coordinators Ashli Rose Davis and Dawn Morgan of the Mona School of Business & Management. We cannot thank them enough,” said Martin.
The high calibre of business models from all participating teams impressed not only the judges, but the coordinators from the Development Bank of Jamaica.
“The businesses today have the capacity to scale locally, regionally and internationally. We see Jamaica as being the entrepreneurial and innovation hub of the Caribbean and it starts here. Over the years, the NBMC has seen the involvement of approximately 1600 students and 60 teams. Of this number, at least 30 companies have come out of the NBMC and are still active, some to the point of attracting the attention of angel investors. Our wish is for the continued growth of the competition with new universities joining next year and for more of corporate Jamaica coming on board as sponsors, mentors, stakeholders, etc.,” said Audrey Richards, Project Coordinator, Jamaica Venture Capital Programme, Development Bank of Jamaica.
The DBJ through its Jamaica Venture Capital Programme (JVCP) and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) provide project management, technical support and leadership support for the National Business Model Competition. Both entities intend to continue as they have seen the benefits of the NBMC for the students and for Jamaica.
“Through the NBMC, students are provided with a platform to promote innovation and use of technology and so this is very near and dear to the heart of the PSOJ. It is recognised that without innovation we die. This competition provides the unique opportunity for students to put entrepreneurial principles into practice with an integrative learning experience. It provides for relationship building among budding entrepreneurs and private sector mentors and financiers. It provides the potential for entrepreneurs to support economic growth and job creation in Jamaica. It also provides students at the tertiary level with an opportunity to create their own employment and development of human capital,” remarked Jennifer McDonald, CEO, PSOJ.
Since 2014, Jamaica has hosted the National Business Model Competition. Each year, as part of the prizes awarded, the winner is sent to the International Business Model Competition (IBMC) held in the USA to compete against up to 5000 participants from 42 universities world-wide. Jamaica has performed well at the IBMC – always in the top as follows: 2014 – Herboo Enterprise placed 8th, 2015 – JarGro Enterprise reached the semi-finals, 2016 – Guardana Inc. placed 6th and received honorary mention, and in 2017 – Natsima Nutraceuticals placed 4th.