In the last few decades, women in the Caribbean have made impressive strides to break through the glass ceiling and become successful entrepreneurs. The access to a growing number of networks of peers, mentors, and angel investors has provided women across the region with the tools and resources necessary to launch and grow new businesses.
Danielle Terrelonge’s story is an inspiring example of tenacity, hard work, and passion. Born and raised in Jamaica, Danielle started her career in marketing working for an investment house and a big manufacturer. One day, she decided it was time to realize her own entrepreneurial ambition and follow the same advice she had been giving to her clients for years: “Get up, get out there, and do it!”
Seven years later, thanks to her tenacity and an investment from the infoDev-supported angel group ‘First Angels Jamaica,’ Danielle’s media agency DRT Communications is expanding across the Caribbean, creating jobs and supporting other local businesses.
Here is what she has learned along her journey, as an entrepreneur, and as a woman.
Q) What’s the core business of your agency and what differentiates your service?
We are the only technology-driven media monitoring service in the Caribbean that can monitor regional and international media, including broadcast (TV & Radio), print, online and social media. We ensure that our clients are aware of what’s happening with their brands and their industries. As for the PR side of our business, what sets us apart is our enthusiasm for what our clients do. If we aren’t equally excited about what they are doing, well then we won’t take the job.
Q) What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
When I started my career in corporate marketing and communications, I loved my job and I had great bosses, but, deep in my heart, I always wanted something more, my own ‘space’ to innovate, grow, and try new ideas. It wasn’t an easy transition though. Financially, it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I’d never change the journey. Seven years later, through ups and downs, I’m still standing. I have a team of six talented people and my company is growing. There are no limits to what people can accomplish with passion, hard work, and determination.
Q) You and your team work very closely with small and medium businesses across the region. How easy is it to be an entrepreneur in the Caribbean?
The Caribbean is a melting pot, a great combination of different traditions and cultures that often combine in unexpected ways to create innovative ideas and new opportunities of growth. It’s a region filled with entrepreneurs who are developing new services and products for their local communities, as well as innovative solutions that can be scaled and exported to other regions of the world. Despite this widespread entrepreneurial spirit, however, there are many challenges for local businesses. The most important is probably the lack of access to capital – especially for women entrepreneurs. Other issues, like poor training, lack of exposure to foreign markets, and inadequate regulations and tax incentives, make launching or growing a small business even more difficult.
Q) Do you think it’s harder for a woman to run a business?
Yes, especially when it comes to access to credit and investment. There are statistics that highlight how women get higher interest rates, while men get three times more opportunities for venture capital or angel investment.
Q) Does that discourage you?
Oh no, if anything, it makes me push harder to succeed as a woman and as an entrepreneur. It also means that we – as women – should discuss more often about our challenges. We need to know that we are not alone and we can help each other out. When we become successful, we need to turn around and show the way forward to other women coming up behind us.
Q) Speaking of access to finance, a major investor group in the Caribbean, ‘First Angels Jamaica,’ just invested in your company, making you the first woman in the network to receive angel financing. How does it feel?
It was one of those life-changing moments for me. I always describe it as a combination of three ‘WOW moments.’ First of all, ‘WOW, it was all worth it;” after years of sacrifices, sweat and tears, my vision and the work of my team was all validated in one phone call. Secondly, “WOW, now I have the capital that I need to make it happen;” the financing gave us the capital we needed to expand our activity and take our business to the next level. And finally, “WOW, now I have the people I need to make it happen;” the greatest value that an investee can get from an angel investment is the support and mentoring from the investors themselves. Good business advice is as equally important as the capital!
Q) What advice would you give to women who want to start a business?
I always say “Anyone can have a great idea, but can you ride the ride?” Being an entrepreneur is one of the greatest decisions someone can make, but it is also one of the toughest. Be ready to put everything you have and then another 100% on top of that. Be passionate about what you want to achieve. Be so clearly defined on your vision that nothing can shake you, not even when there’s no money in the account. And last but not least, stay true to your skill set; after that outsource. If you aren’t a marketer, hire a marketing consultant. Same thing for accounting and IT. Small business owners feel constrained and pressured because they feel the need to do everything. Stay true to what you are good at, the rest will come.
For more information on First Angels Jamaica, please visit www.firstangelsja.com. First Angels Jamaica is supported by the infoDev’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) – a seven-year program funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to build an enabling ecosystem for high-growth and sustainable enterprises in the Caribbean.