Hectic yet reflective! The pilot GFAR-YPARD Young Agripreneur Project (YAP) is coming to an end and in these posts, the six young agripreneurs are pondering on their professional and personal journeys over the past twelve months. In April 2016, they all gathered in Johannesburg, where they thrilled the audiences at GCARD3 with their enthusiasm, drive and energy in describing their YAP projects. Now they are looking back at what the past year has brought them, what challenges they had to deal with, and what the mentoring, coaching and training that came along with the seed funding through YAP, has meant for them as business people and as individuals. They are also wondering what the future holds for them. It is inspiring to read how motivated they are, and how a small project has made a major difference in the lives not only of these selected agripreneurs but in the communities where they live and work.
Here is the final YAP blog post from Kellyann Allicott (Barbados) about her project, ‘From Farm to Face: The Journey to Natural Skincare’
Where did the time go?
It seems like yesterday when I first walked into the room filled with my fellow bright-eyed YAPers at GCARD3. It was a pivotal moment, the first day of a training that would prepare us for our new business ventures. For me, it marked the official commencement of my project ‘From Farm to Face’.
The journey has really been rewarding. I have forged meaningful friendships, reinvented myself and the business strategy of the project, and I feel that I have truly learnt something new during the past year. I’d like to use this last blogpost to sum up the main lessons learned in the twelve past months.
When you put a bunch of crazy out-of-the-box thinkers together in one room…
…something good is bound to happen
That was the notion I walked away with after meeting with Josine “the mad scientist”, Lillian “the quiet storm”, Nikki “the passionate one” and Jony “the cool businessman”. It was extremely inspiring to meet a group of people who are all zealous about making the world better than what it was before. Although our projects tackle different aspects of agriculture and are implemented in different regions of the world, there was a similarity in our way of thinking which resonated throughout. I think it is our devotion to our cause; our desire to demonstrate that youth are indeed interested in agriculture and have innovative ideas that can have a positive impact on the sector.
The wonderful results each of these projects has produced is a strong indication that something good is indeed happening. For my part, I have been able to showcase that providing sustainable clean skincare while working with local farmers is a win-win situation, both for the local community we are a part of and for the environment. The project has plenty of potential to grow further and to have a positive impact also beyond its current reach.
A building with a solid foundation never tumbles
They say that to build anything of value, you must start with a good foundation. The rate at which a structure is built may vary; some parts are added faster than others, but if the foundation is solid, the building will stand tall and be visible for all to see.
The foundation of my project was laid during the GCARD3, through the training offered by the wonderful Daisy Ouya, Michelle Kovacevic and AWARD. The structure was further enhanced through the consistent interaction with Michelle Kovacevic and Bill Downing, as well as with my mentor David Thomas. I count these people as wonderful blessings; they provided me with the guidance and emotional support you need when you take on a new entrepreneurial challenge. It truly makes the journey much easier. There are a lot of obstacles standing in your way, deterring the building process or even forcing you to make changes to the initial design, but with support of the kind I enjoyed, half the work is done.
For example, at the very start of the project, I found myself in panic mode because the equipment I had ordered was taking longer than expected to arrive. I had to postpone my initial starting date and I felt like I had failed even before I began. Talking to my mentors during this process, as well asto my YAP colleagues, gave me the support that I needed to carry on in spite of the difficulties. Their support and advice led me to focus on what I could work on while waiting for the equipment to arrive. I decided to devote the time and energy to branding and, although it completely changed the order in which I had originally planned to do things, I was able to launch the product at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016.
It is possible to navigate on the highway with obstacles and changing road signs
When you are cruising on the entrepreneurial highway, it seems that something that wasn’t there before always pops up. It reminds me of playing Pacman; as you move on to the next level, the time available to you seems shorter, while the obstacles are more difficult to overcome.In addition, what you thought were friendly faces turn on you when you least expect it and make your trials even more complicated.
In the first phase of my project, as I was putting together the pieces of what would form the foundation of my business, it felt like I was a part of a Pacman game. There were many obstacles to overcome. One such obstacle was the fact that young agriculturists, eager to get into farming, often lacked the land and financing they needed to get started. From Farm to Face aims to encourage other young agripreneurs who see agriculture as a viable career path and help them make their dreams a reality, so we had to do something. We dealt with the challenge by focusing more on building relationships with a group of selected young agripreneurs, and, maximising the output of the space available to them, we allowed them to get a kick-start on their careers and projects.
Although the production of essential oils, one of our objectives, had to be pushed back because of the insufficient quantities of herbs, we could still produce hydrosols with the yields provided by these young farmers. I think it’s important to focus on the positive achievements, and this part of the project had a particularly positive side effect: we found ways to increase the yields of the very limited amount of land young farmers usually have at their disposal.
Collaboration is key to foster success
Alone we can do so little;
together we can do so much
This is another great lesson I have learnt while working on this project. Nurturing the right type of connections can increase your outcome tenfold. We are looking to work with cooperatives that assist young farmers and thereby contribute to youth empowerment.The idea is to tailor our project in a way that enables us to work closely with such cooperatives.This part of the project is in its initial stages but I truly believe it is the right direction to take.
We have also started cooperating with Why Farm, an educational program andthe brainchild of Alpha Sennon, whose vision is to foster the next generation of farmers and agripreneurs who can develop bold, out-of-the-box innovations that help solve the greatest challenge facing our collective future: food security. The cooperation will give us the opportunity to present youth in Barbados with a new style of agriculture, helping them see this sector in a new light.
Taking part in YAP has been a truly transformative experience at so many levels. In addition to my personal experiences, I have gained an entirely new appreciation for the agricultural industry and how important it is. The security strategy of any country needs to have a strong agricultural component to it if it is to be viable. So many other industries depend on a strong agricultural sector and if a country does not have a solid agricultural foundation, implications are felt in all areas of life. Health and environment are but two examples. Hopefully projects such as YAP, and the businesses that have been allowed to flourish because of YAP, are building blocks on which we can construct a sustainable future.
I truly would like to thank the FAO Caribbean Regional Office, YPARD and GFAR for affording me this opportunity to make my project a reality.This truly would not be possible without the wonderful assistance I’ve received from these institutions. I would also like to give a special thank you to the wonderful editing team at GFAR who helped me make the best of my YAP blog posts over the year.