Smith baking a name for herself
At 19, Abigail Smith is a proud entrepreneur.
The soft-spoken student at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), who has already helped to start three businesses through the Junior Achievement Company of Entrepreneurs (JACE) Programme, is now developing her own company. Along with her 17-year-old sister, Zoe, who attends the Jamaica Theological Seminary, she is developing Pizazz Party Planners.
"Our pilot project from last year has been 'Cupcakes by Pizazz!'," Smith shared. "Now our goal is to eventually become a full-fledged event-planning company, catering to functions, but we started with a product for which there is a demand and which we can supply."
While a student at St Hugh's High School, she attended a Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ) seminar about starting a business and saw the opportunity to offer a product to fellow students. She registered her business in February of 2015.
Pizazz Party Planners is still in its fledgling stage; however, she said the outlook was positive as "we started out at St Hugh's, with mentoring from JN Fund Managers, and were very successful. Now, we are working hard to expand into new markets."
Both sisters have food handler's permits and successfully completed their Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination courses in food and nutrition. And Smith, who has just started the Bachelor of Science in Hospitality & Tourism Management programme at the UTech, said, "We understand best practices and the formulation of a great cupcake."
The young entrepreneur acknowledges the support that she receives from her mom, Claudette Smith, to help the sisters to establish their business. She says, that the practical experience from participating in the JACE school programme over three years gave her the confidence she really needed.
Implemented in partnership with private, public, and international organisations, JACE is an annual programme managed by the JAJ that gives students at the secondary level across the island hands-on learning experiences in operating their own businesses by actually starting one.
Yanique Taylor, director of programmes at the JAJ, said the JACE programme is now being expanded, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, from 45 schools last year, "so that all ninth grade students will be able to participate in the next three years".
"Becoming an entrepreneur isn't for everyone," Taylor said, "however, employers are also looking for workers who have entrepreneurial skills."
That is why the JACE programme focuses on key factors in preparing students for the working world such as critical thinking, communicating effectively, and problem solving. Taylor said that Abigail Smith is just one of many students whose lives have been enhanced by participating in the programme.
"We reached approximately 1,000 students last year and expect that to expand to 10,000," Taylor said. "In addition, rather than being an after-school programme, it will now be taught in class."
Abigail's participation in the JACE programme led her to appreciate the value of listening to good advice, Smith said. That support came from her faculty adviser at St Hugh's, Rosalie Bogle, who helped to keep the team focused, while external advice came from Delories Jones, senior vice-president sales and business development at JN Fund Managers Limited.
"The students needed mostly basic advice about resolving production and marketing challenges," Jones pointed out. "Whatever the size of your business, the same basic operation rules apply, and I try to adapt those principles to the specific challenges they face."
Jones said that JN Fund Managers sponsors eight schools participating in the JACE programme and also funds the acquisition of 100 passports for participants. She said, "The capacity to prove who you are is essential in carrying out financial transactions; therefore, a passport is a valuable tool, as it is recognised both locally and internationally."
The support of, and exposure to, the business world is now standing Smith in good stead. She said, "My sister and I started out well and our focus is now on expansion."
The duo sees itself at the head of a fully functioning event-planning company in another five years, but a lot of hard work will be needed to achieve that objective. And Smith admits that the entrepreneurial life is not an easy one.
"You should only go into a business that is your passion," she stated. "It has to be something that you will wake up at 3:00 o'clock in the morning and say to yourself, 'I am going to do this.'"