Scotiabank to award $1.5M to start-ups in latest business plan contest

From left are Executive Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Richard Rambarran, Vice-President of the GCCI Nicholas Boyer; ActionCOACH Guyana head and member of GCCI Vishnu Doerga, Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani, the Master Class Institute’s head Rosh Khan and last year’s winner and runner-up, Denisha Victor and Davindra Laltoo, respectively, who were at the launch yesterday.

Scotiabank yesterday launched its fifth annual Vision Achiever Programme Business Plan Competition, which will see a total of $1.5 million going to the winning entrants.

The launch was held at the Waterloo Street office of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), where Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani explained that the prize money has been doubled as part of the bank’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Last year saw $750,000 being awarded to the successful entrants, with winner Denisha Victor of KoKo receiving $500,000, and runners-up Davindra Laltoo and Omesh Balmacoon, of Guyana Premier, receiving $250,000.

“…We wanted to do something big and we are doubling the prize money so the winner gets $1 million in a startup business account and the runner up gets $500,000. It’s an opportunity for young people but it doesn’t say that an older persons can’t participate. What we’ve found over the years is that we tend to attract the youth population,” Cipriani explained.

Also present at the launch were GCCI Vice-President Nicholas Boyer, ActionCOACH Guyana’s Vishnu Doerga and the Master Class Institute’s Rosh Khan, who have partnered with the bank to assist with training the contestants.

Boyer said that the Chamber was once again excited to participate in this year’s competition.

“We really want to encourage a lot of young entrepreneurs to take advantage of the programme. Just the chance of being able to a pitch for your business will help you to strategise and think about the long term process,” Boyer said.

Doerga also explained that the training that will be conducted with the participants is invaluable and will last a lifetime.

“So, you will be walking away with a mini practical MBA at the end of all of this. The knowledge that you will have gained will last you for a lifetime,” he said, while noting that the opportunity will present avenues for young entrepreneurs to better themselves and their businesses.

Khan also echoed his sentiments and explained that sometimes small businesses usually do not have access to “a boat load of cash” or financing options and they usually have to make “everything count.”

“As a startup, the truth is the success of your business is dependent on the sales you make and you could have a great plan and idea but you need to be able to get in front of people in an effective way using innovative media. We will be talking about digital and social media marketing and things like guerilla marketing but ethical guerilla marketing,” he said.

Nothing to lose

After winning last year’s competition, Victor said she is encouraging all young entrepreneurs to take up the opportunity since they have nothing to lose.

“Entering the competition was a last minute decision… it was the day before. I was a little nervous but I have no regrets. It has been amazing, being able to network with other businesses and sharing experiences in a classroom setting has really helped me to realise that I am not the only one who’s having things that they are struggling with,” she said.

Laltoo added that the 60-second video pitch for his business, which he had to do for the competition, drastically changed his business’ growth. He said that while they started with one person and a small social media following, they have been able to garner over 50,000 likes on their Facebook page and are currently working on their website.

They have also made significant progress in moving from a rented property to owning their own and Laltoo pointed out that they are soon expected to form a partnership with a Canadian investor.

“Today, we have blossomed so much and it is all because of Scotiabank and ActionCOACH,” he said.

The competition is open to Guyanese residents, 18 years and over, who are interested in starting a business or have an existing small business that they want to grow.

Persons interested in taking part in the competition will have to do a one-minute video pitch of their business idea, which is to be submitted to jennifer.cipriani@scotiabank.com via WeTransfer (wetransfer.com) by April 25th. The participants must include their name, the name and description of their business, what problem the product or service is addressing, the financial viability of the business and why persons should vote for the idea.

The videos will then be uploaded to Scotiabank’s Facebook page by April 30th, for public voting via likes, reactions and positive comments.

Cipriani explained that the purchasing of likes and reactions will lead to disqualification and the entrants must promote their videos in an ethical manner. The public voting will end at 9 pm on May 11th and the top three pitches will then go through to the finals along with two wildcards that will be identified by the judges.

The five finalists will then be required to attend business training by ActionCOACH Guyana from June to August and will then have to use Scotiabank’s Business Plan Writer tool to prepare a business plan during their ActionCOACH Guyana sessions, which can be accessed at the website guyana.scotiabank.com.

The five finalists will then have to pitch their idea on television in front of a panel of judges and their score along with one for the business plan will be used to calculate the winner.

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