Keisha Shakespeare-Blackmore, Staff Reporter
Yaneek Page, managing director of Future Services International, has been making her mark in the world of business.
Recently, she was chosen to represent Jamaica at the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) held in Washington, DC in the United States (US) of America. The IVLP is the US Department of State's premier professional-exchange programme which includes current emerging leaders in government, politics, education, the arts, business and other key fields.
She made such an impression that after she returned home she received an invitation from the US State Department to attend the Pathways to Prosperity Conference, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, an event hosted by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
She said they (and other representatives) were advised that Secretary Clinton was "proud of the work that we are doing to build our communities and countries and wanted to meet with us personally".
"Interestingly, her office was very excited about Future Services' business model and noted that they would like to see it replicated throughout the Caribbean," said Page.
Page said that during the IVLP she had the opportunity of visiting Washington, DC; Cleveland, Ohio; Jacksonville and Green Grove Springs, Florida; San Josť and San Francisco, California. She connected with over 300 persons and participated in more than 16 information-sharing meetings with federal agencies, companies, schools, private-sector and non-profit organisations, and individuals involved in fostering entrepreneurship and small-business development.
She said the experience was amazing. "I travelled across the United States to places I had never been before, learning about small-business and entrepreneurship development." She noted that being in the US as a guest of the State Department was a unique experience for her and they were treated very well by their hosts. She added that the schedule was very hectic but was great because she connected with hundreds of business people and organisations and gained an incredible amount of knowledge in the weeks there.
"It was also a great opportunity to create meaningful bonds with emerging business leaders in other countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Namibia, Liberia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Egypyt, Iraq, Madagascar, Belarus, Sri Lanka and many others."
But for her, the most gratifying highlight of the trip was acknowledging that Jamaica has a very strong brand in the US, and which should not be taken for granted. Unlike most other countries on the tour, everyone knew about Jamaica, its culture, food, accent etc, and most people said they would love to visit some day.
Page told Flair that there is an organisation called US Market Access Centre that can help Jamaican technology companies break into the US market. And last year they raised over $83 million dollars in venture-capital funding for foreign companies which are now thriving in the US. She said she also learnt that if you want to open a business in the US or partner with US companies, one of the most important prerequisites is understanding and adapting to US culture. That is one of the main reasons businesses fail to break into the US market.
She noted that the US recognises that most small business start at home, and have passed laws that promote home-based businesses. We urgently need that in Jamaica to support the growth of new businesses. She added that she now has many great business ideas and made numerous business contacts that she will be sharing with the public via an upcoming lecture at the University of Technology.
As it relates to her Santo Domingo trip, she said meeting Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was awesome.
"She really cares about women's issues, especially economic empowerment. Her office is now trying to create the first-ever network of women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
One benefit, Page noted, would be opportunity sharing and information exchange for women in business and aspiring female entrepreneurs. Additionally, the US has pledged organisational, financial and technical support for the development of women entrepreneurs in the Americas because they have found that where women are in business, the family and entire community benefits significantly. In fact, large Fortune 500 companies in the US and elsewhere have committed to giving more contracts and business to women entrepreneurs in an effort to strengthen communities where they operate and ensure their continued success.
Page was also nominated for the National Commercial Bank (NCB) Nation Builders awards.
"We have a great team at Future Services and we have been making a positive impact in the lives of many Jamaicans. Our mission is to help people get justice and financial compensation when they have been wronged or injured." She added that they have helped hundreds of poor people get millions of dollars for injuries at work or in serious car accidents, assault by security guards, wrongful dismissal, contaminated food, and many more.
"Being a woman in business has many challenges, so I'm grateful to NCB for their recognition."
For the future, Page is working with TV producer Angela Thame on a new series called The Innovators. It's a reality show that teaches Jamaicans how to make more money, be more successful and achieve a brighter financial future. It will air in January 2012 on TVJ. She said she will also be partnering with her husband, Kevin to launch pepper spray made in Jamaica from local scotch bonnet peppers.