Mighty Gully now ready for the world
Last Friday, a proud group of budding entrepreneurs graduated from the United States Agency For International Development (USAID) programme at the Old Harbour New Testament Church, which saw two groups teaming up for a short while with the Mighty Gully Sculptors.
Ian McKnight, chief of party with USAID Comet II, expressed pride in the graduands, stating that he literally saw the group going through a transformation.
"Phenomenal" is how he described working with them.
McKnight said he was introduced to the group by the Social Development Commission and the police.
"They told me they had a group of people with raw talent who needed help, and we were able to come in and provide that assistance. So what was just a casual group has now morphed into a set serious about marketing its products out there," he told Rural Xpress.
Now that the training has ended, McKnight said they are fully equipped to start their own businesses.
"Some will start as sculptor, some will do the ceramics others the papier m‚chÈ. We hope that they would do some niche marketing, particularly where the ceramics are concerned," he shared.
McKnight said he was cognisant of the many challenges that would be facing them and noted that they would have to work hard to get their products out there.
He said they were already off to a good start if the rave reviews the group enjoyed at the recently held Ackee Festival in Linstead was anything to go by as they also attracted the attention of the international media present at the event.
"They were one of the leading community groups," he shared, adding that the investment for the training programme was approximately US$16,000 ($2,070,000).
Acknowledging that it was not a quick fix and that it would take some time for things to settle since they were in competition with other imported ceramic products, McKnight said he was helping them to develop unique marketing plans that would take them to higher heights.
"They are a group of skilled and certified people being unleashed into society. The HEART certification allows them to work for themselves or for others, so these youngsters who might have been otherwise lost in society are brought into a programme that enhanced their skills and qualifications," he said.
Addressing their cry for an extension of the programme, McKnight said regretfully, it had to end there.
"Our work on this piece of project was to identify youngsters and train them."
The USAID has also legally registered Mighty Gully Sculptors as an organisation, enabling it to now compete on the international market.
"Before that, they could not do so. They are a now a registered entity in the society, so that alone gives them a qualification, and we will also help them with a business plan. We are helping them to develop their thrust to market. And as a civil society entity, we have given them the kind of training that is going to help them to be firm on their feet," said McKnight.