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Image credit: Eco-naire Trifinity Solutions

Samantha Sheoprashad: Eco-naire

Samantha Sheoprashad: Eco-naire

How the struggle for employment led to innovation

Image above: Samantha Sheoprashad

To finish her university degree, Queen’s Young Leader Samantha Sheoprashad from Guyana had to create her own employment. In this piece for Leading Change she explains how this experience has led her to support entrepreneurs through her own innovation – Eco-naire.

Almost a year out of university – with all the accolades and titles I had achieved – I still couldn't find job. I didn't complain. I kept looking for opportunities. But as young person I struggled to understand how, with all my potential, I wasn't able to sustain myself.

Unemployment in Guyana

According to a report from the Borgen Project, roughly 43% of Guyana’s population lives below the poverty line. The youth unemployment rate is estimated at around 40%.

The Caribbean Development Bank has revealed a number of causes and consequences of youth unemployment, including:

  • the state of the economy
  • the structure of the labour market
  • the lack of relevant skills and experience
  • jobseekers not knowing about vacancies
  • constrained opportunities due to health status or disability, location,
  • stigma and discrimination due to age, ethnicity, criminal record, gender, motherhood, poverty, area of residence, disability
  • a reactive approach to gaining employment due to negative experiences of employment.

How it started

It all started in my hometown – Enterprise.

After returning from Boston Massachusetts after the Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program in 2016, my mind was stimulated by a whole deal of creative ideas.

I looked at the world, then my country and my community. I thought to myself how can I work with young people? But the word “entrepreneurship” and understanding it might be difficult. I spoke to a few of my colleagues who all advised me not to introduce this topic to children at a small age.

I imagined my village becoming a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. That is why I went directly back there to begin the work with some amazing young people who I know one day will take the lead.

Workshop with children at summer camp

Workshop with children at summer camp

We held a summer camp with the Enterprise Youth Development Group through the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports in summer 2016.

I asked the campers – kids between the ages of four to 18 what they thought  entrepreneurship is. Well of course everyone looked at me with a question mark.

So we had the campers choose something they would love to do.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem

Everyone took what they loved and turned it into a business. And then we drew what we call an “entrepreneurial ecosystem”.

It was laced with vast potential and the creativity of what represents an imprint of our future.

Just as every person’s handwriting is completely their own, when you write your dreams the law of attraction is aligning your vision through neuro-programming.

When you write out your plans and affirmations, you are calling those thoughts up from your mind in order to write them. More surprisingly, when you write them you are also re-imprinting them in your brain via both your hand and your eyes.

Challenges and struggles

After so many challenges, and waiting for funding after applying for more than two years, I decided to collaborate with my partner Narendra Nauth, a software developer.

We invested our masters funding because we thought a community educational development was way more important than getting a masters right now. We decided to invest in ourselves and in ideas. And bit by bit, we watch it grow.

Girl with sign saying "I am entrepreneur"

Today we have an app called Eco-naire developed with Trifinity Solutions, to help young people learn how to start and sustain a business.

I also won the Institute of Caribbean Studies Pitch Competition in Washington DC in June 2018. And later that month we won a grant finally to execute the first stage on of the Ecosystem platform.

I took the advice of my coach, Dr Shelly Cameroon who is a coach, consultant and author, widely recognised for her research on success and leadership published in The Journal of American Academy of Business.

She told me to become the investor you have been waiting for. She believes that my job isn't to find the job but create the job for myself and many others around me.

But hey! Why is my innovation is so special?

This innovation will focus on unemployed youth living in poverty, youth at risk, single mothers and young people.

Eco-naire is a digital entrepreneurial ecosystem that works to:

  • reduce poverty
  • improve the mindsets of people
  • and teach young people to create their own job opportunities.

It utilises the public-private sector network to:

  • provide entrepreneurs with training
  • connect them with mentors
  • create jobs
  • and help entrepreneurs find venture capitalist opportunities to grow their business.

In this way we can sustainability create more entrepreneurs who will grow our economy, solve problems and create jobs for people across Guyana and around the world.

I see these entrepreneurs as the ones who will drive progress and prosperity in every sector and industry in all nations globally. They are the oxygen to our economies.