The concept of entrepreneurship has become a buzzword over the last decade.  Being entrepreneurial is often referred to as a mindset, a spirit, an attitude or an approach to thinking that actively seeks out change rather than waiting to adapt to change.  Many people also see it as a career choice with young people increasingly growing up with the mantra ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’ or openly declaring ‘I’m an entrepreneur’ in response to what they do for a living.  One embodiment of this phenomenon is Heneka Watkis-Porter a passionate and self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur, who is driven by success” from one of Jamaica’s smallest parishes St. Mary.

On hearing Heneka’s story, it is not hard to see that she epitomises the characteristics of entrepreneurship.  Hailing from St. Mary in Jamaica, she had an urge, from an early age, to go in to business, selling apples on the street and then later researching online sample business plans to run all kinds of businesses.  After being exposed to the clothing and textile industry during her high school years, as well as her experience in distribution as a procurement officer, she was able to establish her first business Patwa Apparel in 2007.  With a maxim to “take brand Jamaica to the world”, Patwa Apparel produces a clothing line that merges Jamaican fashion and style with the authentic Jamaican language Patois/Patwa.

Heneka was first introduced to the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in 2010 when looking for funds to help grow her business. Since then, Heneka has leveraged every opportunity made available by the Agency to the extent that she now sees Caribbean Export as part of her “business family”.  Heneka is just one of the 3389 female business people that the Agency has supported over the past five years during the implementation of the 10th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme.  A programme focussed on supporting CARIFORUM businesses to develop and grow their exports, the Agency has delivered some 260 programme-based activities thus far that have been designed specifically to support regional businesses in their endeavours to export products and services.  Heneka has ensured that she has capitalised on what was on offer by participating in training and capacity building workshops such as ProNET business management, export marketing, the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS) proposal writing, and by also participating in a European Study Tour, which helped to inform the direction of the Patwa clothing line.

Taking the time to invest in building her professional skills used to run a business should be commended, as Heneka has been able to successfully apply for grants to support her company with intellectual property registration in 27 European countries, the United States and Jamaica; and develop marketing and promotional materials for her growing clothing business that showcased at Dominican Moda in 2013.  “Caribbean Export has had arguably the best impact on my business.  The marketing, technical and financial support has been tremendous” commented Heneka.

With her thirst for business and all things Jamaican, Heneka diversified her business in 2013 with 10 Fyah Side  a line of sauces and condiments She also published a book in 2014 titled ‘15 Hints to Entrepreneurial Success: Lessons from a Caribbean Business Woman’.  Heneka continues to expand her portfolio of products and services, and recognises the value behind exporting Jamaican culture to the world.  In re-positioning her company to become the ‘go-to’ company to commemorate and celebrate Jamaican heritage worldwide, she hopes to become internationally recognised as a source for local media and content.

With her sights set on consolidation and growth for 2016, being innovative will be central to remaining relevant in the industries within which her business operates.   Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to “get out there to trade shows and events networking purposefully, and stay connected with those you meet.  Don’t be afraid to take advantage of opportunities that are within your grasp”.

In the next edition we will meet another young entrepreneur looking to transform his local healthcare industry with a new application.

Caribbean Export

I am from the Caribbean and I love working with Deidre Brathwaite.